Hi, everyone! If you didn't post a question to me, you may want to skip this whole comment. I tend to ramble.
A general note on canon, which may answer a bunch of questions--bear with me if you know this already, as I'm sure many of you do: it would be all but impossible to create a consistent universe for any franchise, or explain every contradiction therein. The Aliens universe has movies, books, comics, video games, more movies, etc. Editors quit or move on, publishing rights change hands, directors have their own ideas (and since movies are where the big bucks are, they will inevitably win), writers don't have time to read a tenth of everything, and there are ALWAYS financial considerations... it's inevitable, if a movie makes money, more of them get made. If one or more of the sequels tanks financially, or is so badly executed that fans hate it, the mother company--in this case, Fox--is likely to politely ignore it, and focus on the cool franchise aspects for the next project, which is not always successful. This makes canon flexible, as contradictory as that seems. I don't have an inside line to Fox or anything, but have worked in a number of universes (Aliens, AvP, Predator, Star Trek, Resident Evil, etc.) and I find that this is usually the case.
predexo, watching something you felt to be canon getting shot down is rough--it sucks to have one's choices made for them--but thankfully, in this day and age, we get to keep copies of the things we care about. Whether or not someone else says it's legitimate, who cares? That shouldn't change how you feel about the movie/book/whatever. It's your right to enjoy what you enjoy, and if the Man makes bad decisions, it's your right to take your money elsewhere.
- At the moment, Aliens has its own universe, Predator has its own, AvP has its own. That may change, but again, I don't know anything. For this project, I was strictly in the Aliens universe.
- Hicks does mention in passing that there were already some Marines at Hadley's Hope. That is a reference to one of the new novels, I was asked specifically to put it in.
- Would I write a book narrated by Morse? Sure, if asked. Morse is hilarious.
- I didn't know anything about the new Prometheus movie, except that I was asked not to speculate (much) about the alien's origins in this book. Well, I know one thing, but if I spilled, I might be flayed alive.
- For the timeline, I was told to always defer to the movies as canon, and occasionally the movie novelizations for additional detail. So, comics, original works, and games were mostly left out, except for a few references I was specifically asked to put in, to help promote some of the newer projects. I wasn't asked to exclude anything. I'm not actually sure how it finally turned out, as there were several uber fan continuity checkers hired on to look for mistakes.
- Using the actor names for the characters was an Aliens thing, so when I had characters with only a last name listed, I put in the actor's first name. I didn't know if Fox would sign off on it, but they did. My editor, Chris, who was awesome, BTW, also thought it was a good idea.
Xenomorphine, lots of questions! You get your own section. I'll go by number. I would cut and paste the questions, but last time I did something like that I totally messed it up and looked like an idiot. Hopefully you'll remember the questions from context.
1. Let's see... alien shape is based on the host's DNA, you already know that. We didn't discuss age-related morphological changes in this book. As SM mentioned earlier in a comment, this book is a Company report, and while they have plenty of theories, they don't know everything about the aliens...
2. ...Or Hicks! I'm not privy to everything canon--there are so many projects connected to the universe, contradictions occur all of the time--but as I may have said earlier, the editors that work in established universes try to focus on what really works, ignoring stuff that won't support their project. We're always struggling (writers, editors, game makers) to define and make sense of an ever changing universe. Every new movie adds or contradicts. The universe is so big, there's a lot of room to just make up new stuff, which happens plenty.
3. I've been doing Aliens related novelizations since I started writing, 20+ years ago, so nothing surprised me, really, though I had to take my vague assumptions and firm 'em up with some actual science. This was a pretty research-intensive project. I learned some neat stuff, though, mostly about insects.
4. Fox wasn't involved until after I wrote the first draft... I was asked to include some references to the new Titan books and the new game, asked to take out a detail here or there for style's sake, but nothing unexpected. The Fox contact, Josh, was very nice, and super enthusiastic.
5. I did not contact Mr. Giger... again, this is a Weyland-Yutani report, not a definitive encyclopedia on aliens. Plus, I wouldn't have had the nerve!
6. Yes. Writing for big franchise universes is tough-- there's so much that you have to try not to contradict--but Predators are wicked cool. I think if this book does well, Fox is open to doing something similar in the Predator and/or AvP universes, but again, don't quote me. No promises were made!
As a mostly work-for-hire writer, I'll write whatever... Aliens, Xena, My Little Pony. Preference doesn't really play a part, and I'm not at a level where I get to pitch book ideas.
7. Hmm... If I had to do more, probably Resurrection, just for symmetry's sake. I was not a fan of the movie, and of course, the USM ran the experiment, not the Company, so they (WY) were very dismissive of the whole thing. There's less detail there than elsewhere. If I got to pick for fun, I'd do more with the prisoners on Fury 161. Just cuz.
8. No. I've had to write fast (did a novelization once in 21 days; for me, that's fast) and have certainly at times been sloppy, especially at the beginning of my career, but if I couldn't appreciate the source material, understand what makes it magical to some people, then I wouldn't be very good at my job. I know that paint by the numbers writers exist, but I don't know any personally. To write contract work professionally, one must always embrace the inspiration, IMHO. If I can't, I'm at least a decent enough writer to fake it.
Luckily, I'm an Aliens fan.
9. I had some influence over layout, but in a very roundabout way. My editor sent me some of the movie images, then I came up with a general script. He and I went back and forth on that, trying to strike the right tone, trying to give format and opportunity to the artists. The artists made art, and it went back to us, finding or writing text that would fit, captioning things. It was a very interactive experience. So I played a part in the final look, but really, a very small one near the beginning.
10. Once I turn in a final draft, and all of the last minute touches have been made, I have NO IDEA what happens next. Some writers, presumably the smart ones, find out everything they can about when their work comes out and how much and what format; me, I like to write, and not much else. I'm a terrible business person. I'd love to see it on my Kindle, though!
Sorry if I talk too much, everyone. I appreciate your questions, and will check back in sometime this weekend, to see if there are more. If I missed your query, sorry, and please feel free to ask again; I forget stuff. And thank you for inviting me to share!