In a movie full of colorful characters, Aliens‘ bad ass space marine Jenette Vasquez still managed to stand out. It is just too bad we don’t get to know her better. Or rather, it was… Now, fans of this bad ass soldier can get to know her better, and her family, too, in V. Castro’s new novel Aliens: Vasquez (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview about it, Castro discusses the scope of this military sci-fi space opera horror story, as well as how her own heritage informed it.
Aliens: Vasquez is obviously about the character Jenette Vasquez from Aliens. But is about her life before the movie, a “biography” or “autobiography,” what?
She has been a character people have discussed for years, but little is known about her. She dies. Growing up there were so few Latina characters in the media. I clung to her despite the actress [Jenette Goldstein] not being Latina.
I had a piece of fan fiction that was my love letter to the films and the character. Years later, I got to actually create this new narrative about who she was beyond the film. This is a biography of sorts and a family affair because you see how her children develop into the Alien world.
When in relation to both Aliens and the novels, comics, and games does Aliens: Vasquez take place?
There are two timelines. You see Jenette before the film Aliens and you see her children after her death.
Aliens is the first and only time Jenette Vasquez had any interactions with the xenomorphs. Is that why Aliens: Vasquez also explores what happened to her kids, so you could make sure there were aliens in this Aliens novel?
Absolutely. We must have Xenomorph chaos in an Alien book.
However, beyond that we need more Brown female leads in sci-fi and horror. Jenette is an icon, and I hope her daughter will become one as well when it comes to being a bad ass in the genre.
Jennette’s kids, Leticia and Ramón, and her sister Roseanna are not her only relatives, according to Aliens cannon. She has a younger sister named Carmen, who was in the comic book Aliens: Colonial Marines, as well as a nephew, Cutter, who was in the comic book Aliens: Aftermath. Do they appear in Aliens: Vasquez as well?
They are mentioned because it is part of the canon, but I didn’t write the comic and didn’t want to intrude on that storyline. If asked to write more about them then I absolutely would.
So then what inspired the specific plot of Aliens: Vasquez?
I wanted to move away from the stereotypes given to Jenette and make her a fully fleshed out character. Because she dies in the films, I also had to find a way to continue the Vasquez journey. Children seemed to be the natural progression.
Like the Alien movies, the Alien novels have all been science fiction space opera stories, but have incorporated other genres as well, including body horror and military sci-fi. What genres are at work in Aliens: Vasquez?
There is body horror, military sci-fi, a little romance, and a lot of character development because this is about the Vasquez legacy. Personally, I think genre mash-ups are the best.
Aliens: Vasquez is your fifth book after the novellas Hairspray And Switchblades and Goddess Of Filth, the novel Queen Of The Cicadas, and your short story collection Mestiza Blood. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Vasquez but not on anything else you’ve done?
The figure Santa Muerte is a definite influence in this book. I won’t tell you where she is featured because I don’t want to spoil it, but the Aliens franchise is all about trying to escape what seems like certain death. Santa Muerte is the embodiment of death. I thought it would be cool to incorporate this figure next to creatures who cause nothing but chaos.
What about non-literary influences; was Aliens: Vasquez influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Aside from the Alien ones, that is.
No, this book had to have its own identity and have the ability to stand alone. I wanted it to be unique because Vasquez is such a cool character. The only other outside influence was my experience as a Latina because she is also Latina.
Jenette Goldstein, who played Vasquez in the movie, came up earlier. And I would argue that while she didn’t write the movie, she still had a big part in creating that character. In the process of writing Aliens: Vasquez, did you ever get in touch with her, maybe to pick her brain about the character?
I did try to get in contact with her, but no luck. I would love to meet her in person or online.
Now, along with Aliens: Vasquez, you have another novel coming out next year called The Haunting Of Alejandra. What is that book about, and when and where does it take place?
The Haunting Of Alejandra is my version of the tale of La Llorona. I wanted to update the story and her origins by linking her tale with post-natal depression and generational trauma. It spans from the Spanish conquest of Mexico all the way to modern day.
You also, as I mentioned earlier, recently put out a short story collection called Mestiza Blood. We did a deep dive on that book in a previous interview, but real quick, what kind of stories are in Mestiza Blood, and is there anything that connects them, like a common theme?
Mestiza Blood is a blend of urban legend, folklore, and some erotic horror. The common theme is identity. I wanted it to represent the many elements that are part of being Mexican American and a woman. These stories all feature women of color as leads and stories from their perspective.
In the interview we did about Mestiza Blood, you said, “any of the stories in Mestiza Blood would make excellent films.” Do you think Aliens: Vasquez could work as a movie as well?
This would make a fantastic film and I want to write the script for it. It has everything a big action film could want or need, and I think people would flock to see it. We haven’t had an Alien film in quite a few years. Plus, I have created new creatures that would be very cool to see on screen.
If that happened, who should they get to play her?
You would need a few actresses because you get to see Jenette at different stages in her life and her daughter. There are so many talented Latinas out there I don’t even know where to start.
And what role should Jenette Goldstein play?
I would like to see her as a relative in some capacity or even as a character in a marine training scene. She could choose.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Aliens: Vasquez?
Please grab a copy so I can write more in this universe!! I absolutely love it!
Also, there is a Spotify playlist I created with a few songs incorporated in the story and others that inspired me. Just look up V. Castro or Aliens: Vasquez.
I will also be talking more about the book in the Aliens Expanded documentary. It’s an amazing project people can follow on Twitter.
Finally, if someone enjoys Aliens: Vasquez, what sci-fi novel or novella of someone else’s with a totally bad ass lady in the lead would you suggest they read?
Clara Čarija has written other Alien novels. Definitely pick up any of her books. She has an incredible depth of knowledge with Alien canon. Her books should not be missed. [For more on Clara, and the Alien novel she co-wrote with Philippa Ballantine, Alien: Inferno’s Fall, check out this joint interview.]