Exclusive Interview: “Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy” Author Mary SanGiovanni
With Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Mary SanGiovanni isn’t just putting her spin on this sci-fi series, she’s also concluding a loose trilogy that started with David Barnett’s Alien: Colony War and continued in Philippa Ballantine’s Alien: Inferno’s Fall. In the following email interview, SanGiovanni discusses what inspired and influenced her sci-fi horror thriller, as well as how it connects, and disconnects, from the other two books.
To start, what is Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy about, and when and where is it set in relation to both our reality and the movies?
It takes place in 2187, about 8 years after the events of Alien 3. This is a time of political upheaval, due to terrorist bombings of the black goo which are wreaking havoc on multiple colonies and outposts across the galaxy. On a tucked-away moon revolving around a dead planet, the skeleton crew of Seegson Pharmaceuticals Research Lab is making final plans for evacuation, since the moon has been wobbling out of orbit and is destined to crash into its planet. However, when a distress signal comes from the competitor Weland-Yutani bioweapons lab several miles away, the researchers and their military escorts go to the lab to try to help — and of course, they discover that Xenomorphs have been the subject of some very shady research there. The Seegson crew have to find a way off the planet before it crashes, while trying to survive attacks from the escaped Xenomorphs.
Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy is also the third book in a series that includes David Barnett’s Alien: Colony War and Philippa Ballantine’s Alien: Inferno’s Fall. When is Enemy set in relation to the end of Inferno’s?
It’s set about a year after Inferno’s Fall, and even makes reference to what little the characters in Enemy know of the events. It’s one of those books which, while staying in continuity and tying up various loose ends and plot threads of the first two books, the Alien RPG, etc., can stand alone as its own novel. I believe all three books work that way, so new readers can jump in anywhere and long-time readers get some added Easter Eggs.
In my interview with David about Colony War, he mentioned that one of the characters in his story, Cher Hunt, is the sister of Shy Hunt from Alex White’s novel Alien: Into Charybdis [which you can read about here], and that Cher is, “…determined to find out what happened to her sister.” Then, in my interview with Philippa about Fall, she answered the question about connections to Alex’s book by saying, “there may be…but it isn’t a direct follow up or a sequel.” Is there any connection between Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy and Into Charybdis?
Both books established a galaxy of political strife and warring factions, and that framework was important to me when writing Enemy. I felt it was my duty to readers to make sure I was as faithful and accurate to continuity as I could be, and so the politics especially and the history that Phillippa and Alex established, I did my best to continue. However, the characters, being so cut off from the rest of the civilized galaxy, are outliers. Other than my main military protagonist, whom comic book readers might recognize, and an antagonist’s work on prior projects, the characters are not specifically connected to prior books.
So then where did you get the idea for Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy; what inspired it?
I have always loved the franchise; I admire the way it has continually strived to blend horror and action to enhance both. I was honored to be offered a chance to contribute further ideas to the canon. To me, the success of both horror and action stories is all about effectively building tension, and one day it came to me that a theme of the Alien franchise is the idea that even one’s “home” surroundings, one’s places of security and serenity, are not safe in a universe and a government that just doesn’t care about the lives and deaths of individual human beings. And what could exemplify the stress of that better than the ground literally coming apart under your feet? None of these characters have the security of family or a real home, and haven’t for a long time. The moon and each other are the closest they have, and now they’re on a time clock because the forces of gravity and alien infestation are tearing it away from them.
David Barnett, Philippa Ballantine
When you were planning your story, how much info did you get from David and Philippa about their books? Were you able to read finished manuscripts, did you just get notes, were you able to call them at all hours of the night and ask if so-and-so was still alive or if they’d been eaten already…?
I was lucky that David, Alex, Phillipa, and the knowledgeable staffs at Titan and 21st Century were absolutely selfless with their time and available whenever I needed them, to help me fact-check, research, and double-check the references I made to ensure I was keeping within the continuity of the world. I was given extensive notes as well as the manuscripts — I had everything I needed.
Aside from David, Alex, and Phillipa, was Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy influenced by any other authors or stories?
Most of the fiction I write is cosmic horror, and ranges from quiet and a little surreal to thriller, but nearly always focuses on characters and the eeriness of the strange places and situations they find themselves in, as well as how they are affected internally and externally by those circumstances.
I have a number of friends and colleagues who have written more action-oriented books, some of them authors of Alien novels, too. Authors like Tim Lebbon [Alien: Out Of The Shadows, Alien: Invasion], Christopher Golden [Alien: River Of Rain], Weston Ochse [Aliens: Infiltrator, which you can read about here], Jim Moore [Alien: Sea Of Sorrows], Tim Waggoner [Alien: Prototype, which you can read about here], Yvonne Navarro [Aliens: Music Of The Spears], Brian Keene [the short story “Empty Nest” in the anthology Aliens: Bug Hunt], and Maurice Broaddus [the short story “Night Doctors” in the anthology Aliens Vs. Predators: Ultimate Prey], who do action well and many of whom also excel at the seamless blending of genres, were an inspiration.
Further, two writers I know, Wes Southard and Mike Lombardo, who I dedicated the book to, are ardent fans of the franchise, and I discussed with them what they liked, what the strengths of the Alien movies, books, and games were, and what they had never seen but would like to. That was a big influence, as well.
What about non-literary influences; was Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Aside from the Alien stuff, of course.
Not really; I did play some of Dead Space to see how others handled horror-thriller mixes, but mostly, I went with my gut.
Speaking of which, the Alien movies, games, novels, and comics have all been sci-fi space opera stories, but with other genres mixed in as well. Alien is a sci-fi horror story, Aliens is a military sci-fi one, and so on. How do you describe Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy, genre-wise?
I would describe it as a horror thriller. It has a lot of creepy dark places, events, and revelations meant to evoke horror, but there are a lot of action scenes as well. In fact, if I may say so myself, I enjoyed the hell out of writing the final “big boss” battle.
As we’ve been discussing, Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy is the third and final novel of this series. There have been people waiting for it to come out so they can read all three books back-to-back. Do you think this is a good idea, or should I, I mean they spread them out for some reason?
Story-wise, I think that these books can be read either way; it’s a little like the Marvel franchise, where each of the main superheroes also has a series of movies which can be watched, for the most part, without having seen the others, but which give so much richer an experience if you’ve seen all the movies in the franchise and can put all the little pieces together. These books are like that; you can reach each one as its own contribution to the Alien world and enjoy the adventures, or read them together and see a sinister political conspiracy unfolding, spinning out of control, and ultimately beginning to be uncovered by forces who will fight to make things better.
Earlier I asked if Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around and ask you if you think Enemy, and the other two books in this series, could work as a movie series, show, or game?
Well, I did write the book with the ides in mind that I am contributing content to an ongoing story, and that it might, in time, have a part to play in future installments of that story. I think the urgency of the book itself would lend itself to a movie or video game format, where survival and uncovering the secrets that others are bound and determined to keep would keep audiences interested.
Enemy is also connected to the Alien RPG game; in fact, a supplement based on an event in the book is included with the novel.
And if someone wanted to adapt Colony War, Inferno’s Fall, and Enemy Of My Enemy into a series of movies, who would you want them to cast in the main roles?
I could see [Lady Bird] Saoirse Ronan as Siobhan McCormack. She has the right blend of delicate prettiness and strength and cleverness that I hoped to convey in Siobhan. As Alec Brand, I could see Pedro Pascal [The Last Of Us] or Benjamin Bratt [Law & Order], someone handsome but a little rugged, a little worn down by the things he’s seen. For Camilla, the synth, I have always admired [Game Of Thrones‘] Lena Headley. She is so classy, and can be both warm and icy with equal talent. Dr. Martin Fowler I kind of see as Bradley Cooper [Nightmare Alley], someone who can charm when he needs to. Perhaps the most fun to cast would be Elkins, Compton, McGowan, and Roots. I could see Morris Chestnut [Kick Ass 2], [NCIS’] Cote de Pablo, Ian Somerhalder [Lost], and James McAvoy [X-Men: Days Of Future Past] in those roles.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy?
Just that I wrote it as a fan of the franchise, for the fans, and that I hope people enjoy it.
Finally, if someone enjoys Alien: Enemy Of My Enemy — and they’ve already read Colony War and Inferno’s Fall — what other Alien or Aliens novel would you suggest they read, and once they’ve finished that, which of your original novels would you suggest they check out?
I would recommend Aliens: Vasquez by V. Castro [which you can read about here] because it gets to the heart of the character, the strength of a female in all her complexity, which is the heart of all the Alien stories, and Scott Sigler’s Alien: Phalanx [which you can read about here] because it has a unique premise and does something different and original with the franchise.
As for my own work, if you like Enemy, I would recommend any of my Kathy Ryan novels, in particular, Beyond The Gate. That book is a blend of sci-fi and horror and action, and explores what happens when scientists and soldiers are thrust into another planet in another dimension that appears to be a dead world…but isn’t.