From personal files to blueprints: Exploring the Alien universe through epistolary paratexts (Forthcoming)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Building upon the concepts of paratextuality, transmedia storytelling, and object- and design-oriented fandom, this chapter investigates the historical evolution and characteristics of intradiegetic paratexts of the Alien franchise. Written in an in-universe style, these ancillary texts imitate scientific reports, engineering manuals, technical drawings, and other similar factual material. Types of intradiegetic paratexts include reference books, informative sections in collectable trading card and roleplaying games, in-universe chapters of video game manuals, and sections of DVD and Bluray special content. They project the world of Alien by describing its scientific, economic, and political inner workings instead of narrating events.

At least since the release of the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual (1995), intradiegetic paratexts were part of the Alien franchise but coinciding with the rise of design-oriented fandom and encyclopedic
reading practices, they became more common in recent years. Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report (2014) tried to establish a comprehensive timeline of events seen in Alien films and depicted in comic books and novels. The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual (2017) presented the military doctrine of the Colonial Marines. Alien Covenant: David's Drawings (2018) explored the mind of the android David while also giving homage to Giger’s art. Alien: The Blueprints (2019) promises to give detailed descriptions of the technological aspects of multiple vehicles and spaceships from the franchise. While most Alien paratexts anchored themselves to the movies, there were also examples which were anchored to video games and comic books, such as Cyberantics (1992), a fictional scientific book “written” by the lead character of the Dark Horse Comics’ Aliens: Hive (1992). Finally, it should be noted, fans of the franchise have also been providing similar encyclopedic content on the history, technology, society, and biology of the Alien universe through wikis, Youtube channels, and other online platforms at least since late 1990s.

At their core intradiegetic paratexts retell the stories of the movies and other Alien media extensions. But they also expand the secondary world of Alien with in-universe explanations and speculations. They reproduce and repurpose material but also differ from each other in their approaches to the same subject matter. In this context this chapter provides a comparative reading of these paratexts by focusing on their contribution to the world building process and their relation to both films and other Alien media.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlien Legacies: The Evolution of the Franchise
EditorsNathan Abrams, Greg Frame
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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