Though inspired by and connected to the Aliens movies, the science fiction space opera horror novel Aliens: Infiltrator (paperback, Kindle, audiobook) is better qualified as a direct prequel to the upcoming video game Aliens: Fireteam (out later this year for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC). But as its writer Weston Ochse explains in the following email interview, it’s also got connections to a certain sitcom.
To start, what is Aliens: Infiltrator about, and how does it connect to both the upcoming video game Aliens: Fireteam and the Alien movies?
Aliens: Infiltrator is the direct prequel to Aliens: Fireteam. As far as the plot: Dr. Timothy Hoenikker arrives on Pala Station, a Weyland-Yutani facility. Lured there by the promise of alien artifacts, he instead finds a warped bureaucracy and staff of misfits testing the effects of Xenomorph bio-materials on living creatures. Unbeknownst to the personnel, however, there is an infiltrator among them whose actions could spell disaster.
Also on staff is Victor Rawlings, a former marine who gathers together other veterans to prepare for the worst. As Pala Station receives a delivery of alien eggs, the experiments spin out of control, and only the former Colonial Marines stand between the humans and certain death.
And is there any connection between Aliens: Infiltrator and the short story “Zero To Hero,” which you wrote for the short story anthology, Aliens: Bug Hunt?
“Zero To Hero” was a stand-alone story, and didn’t have any Xenomorphs, but another crazy alien virus. The novel does take some story elements from Larry Correia’s story, “Episode 22,” though. Mainly, the war memories of Victor Rawlings.
Who came up with the idea for this story, by which I mean both its plot and the idea of writing a prequel to the game?
The idea for a prequel came from Titan Books and 20th Century Studios. Titan Books reached out to me because they’d been wanting to work with me for a while. After a lot of back and forth, I was able to develop a plot I was more than happy to write.
And where did you get the idea for Aliens: Infiltrator?
Funny you should ask. I have more than thirty-five years military experience. One thing about the military is the bureaucracy. Of all the books I’d read and movies I’d seen, I had yet to see an author capture the obscene Napoleonic bureaucracy of a military station. I wanted to capture that and show it: think The Office meets Aliens.
Every Alien story is science fiction and space opera, but the series has also encompassed horror and military sci-fi. How do you describe Aliens: Infiltrator, genre-wise?
Since I saw the first movie when I was fourteen years old, I thought of Aliens as a horror franchise. Sure, it takes place in space, but it evokes horror. I am also a horror author by trade. I have several sci fi novels (Grunt Life, etc.), but even those were dark. Infiltrator is as dark as they come.
As you just mentioned, Aliens: Infiltrator is not your first novel. Are there any writers who had a big influence on it, but not on anything else you’ve written?
Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein have been my literary parents. Bradbury for his sense of wonder and Heinlein for his need for order. Each of them has influenced pretty much everything I have written. If you were to add two more it would be Lin Carter for his sense of the fantastic and Hemingway for his masculine fueled prose.
As we’ve been discussing, Aliens: Infiltrator is the prequel to Aliens: Fireteam. Are you a gamer?
I am. But I have to be careful. If I game too much, I can’t write. I get so addicted to gaming. I recently replayed The Witcher III with the expansions. Just loved the worlds they created.
So, how do you think being a gamer influenced Aliens: Infiltrator?
I was acutely aware that many of the readers would be reading the book because it was a prequel to the game, so I had two things in mind. One, help introduce the new creatures for the game and franchise, which I did. And two, to map out the inside of the station so that those who read it get a head start and know where things are at. I love the mapping of games and knowing where items and monsters are in advance, can’t but help.
Alien: Fireteam is being made by the good people of Cold Iron Studios. How did they influence your story?
I worked with the game team considerably. We wanted to ensure that the Aliens experience was perfect for gamers and readers a like. We spent many emails back and forth as well as Zoom meetings discussing the way forward.
And did your story influence the one they’re telling in Aliens: Fireteam?
I created two creatures that are intrinsic to the game. Both are related to the experiments that took place at Pala Station.
Obviously, the Cold Iron gang are going to make the game so people don’t have to read your book to understand what’s going on. But if someone does read Aliens: Infiltrator before playing Aliens: Fireteam, what do you think they’ll get out of the game that they wouldn’t otherwise?
The game starts the minute the book ends, so the book has all the backstory. It offers gamers another layer of the story for players who want to know all about the world they are inhabiting. The book will not only do that, but provide them with several hints and Easter Eggs.
But on the flipside, there are people who are big Aliens fans but not gamers. Does Aliens: Infiltrator stand up on its own?
Oh yes. The story absolutely stands on its own.
So, if it was up to you, and you could write a prequel novel to any video game, what game would you like to write a prequel novel for and why that?
I would love to go back and write books based on the Ultima series. I know I am dating myself, but remember those, back in the ’80s and ’90s?
They created such a rich environment. I’d love to see them recreated and reborn and I’d volunteer to write the novels for them.
Finally, if someone enjoys Aliens: Infiltrator, which of your other books would you suggest they read next and why that one?
My latest novel is Bone Chase from Simon & Schuster. It’s sort of like of Dan Brown and James Rollins got together to write a novel about how giants really exist and they have been hidden for us for thousands of years. So many people have joined the chase. They are loving it.