In January 2014 Titan Books released Alien – Out of the Shadows, written by Tim Lebbon. It was the first Alien novel for 5 years. In September 2015 Tim Lebbon returned to the world of Alien literacy with Predator – Incursion (don’t let the title fool you, it definitely has Aliens in), the first in an Alien vs. Predator novel trilogy (The Rage Wars), making Tim Lebbon the first author to pen their conflict on the pages of a book since S.D Perry finished AvP – War in 1999 (not counting the film novelization).
AvPGalaxy had the chance to catch up with up Tim following the release of the first Rage Wars novel, Predator – Incursion and ask him some questions about this sortie into the world of Alien vs. Predator.
AvPGalaxy – Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Tim! How have you been since Alien – Out of the Shadows was released?
Tim Lebbon – Good thanks! My thriller The Hunt was released, the film Pay the Ghost (based on my short story) came out, and I raced my second ironman. So all is well.
AvPGalaxy – All three of the previous Alien novels had jumping points for sequels. The Rage Wars follows on from James Moore’s Sea of Sorrows but quickly moves away from it. Why did Predator – Incursion take that path and how did you come to be the one to write the trilogy?
Tim Lebbon – Titan asked me to write the trilogy. I think The Rage War seems like a sort of sequel to Sea of Sorrows, but only because I had to reference the Xenomorphs captured by Weyland-Yutani at the end of that novel. Other than that, The Rage War is really its own story, set a long time after the movies and novels and with a whole new background and set of characters.
AvPGalaxy – Had continuations of any of the three previous novels been talked about at all?
Tim Lebbon – Not really, and this wasn’t really written as a sequel at all. The Rage War is its own story, but it had to take those three previous novels into account.
AvPGalaxy – 20th Century Fox dictated some story elements for the last series of Alien novels you were involved with. Did they have any specific requests for you to include in Predator – Incursion?
Tim Lebbon – Only the basic premise of the story––a military SF story set in a more distant future, when an external entity threatens humanity with weaponised Xenomorphs. Everything else was up to me.
AvPGalaxy – The prologue for Predator – Incursion is set in 2351 which takes place before Alien Resurrection (2380) and before the events of Aliens – Sea of Sorrows (2497) which the prologue seems to reference. Was this a mistake or is there something more going on behind this we don’t know yet?
Tim Lebbon – Curious. Here’s where my memory is tested. Earlier drafts of the final novel had the prologue taking place much later (2428), but it was changed in the edit. It would still have been earlier than Sea of Sorrows. Also, my original draft had the Prologue actually taking place aboard Auriga, but that was changed in subsequent drafts (probably due to the Alien 5 announcement, although I can’t be certain of that … again, my dodgy memory). So … I have to admit to the date discrepancy probably being a mistake rather than a hint of something larger at play. It should have been picked up in the edit and proofing. Mea culpa.
AvPGalaxy – Can you tell us a little more about that original opening on the Auriga? Did it feature Liliya stealing data from Wren and Gedimen instead?
Tim Lebbon – No one was named, but yes, it featured Liliya stealing the research from Auriga and actually being the cause of the Xenomorph escape on that ship. It was a fun scene because it mentioned the Ripley clone – though she was never seen – and fans might have enjoyed a few references to Resurrection. But it works better as it is now.
AvPGalaxy – The Predators in Incursion as called Yautja by the characters but the Predators in the book were not Steve Perry’s culture but your own interpretation of the Predator. Why did you decide to refer them specifically as Yautja instead of Predators?
Tim Lebbon – The reason’s probably more banal than your readers are hoping … I like Yautja more as a name than Predators. Fox/Titan told me that the canon material I had to adhere to included just the movies, ongoing comics and the previous Alien trilogy (me, Golden, Moore), and I haven’t even read Steve Perry’s work. But I’d heard about Yautja, and I thought it’s a much better sounding name. So I’ll admit to taking on that name without anything else that might have gone with it.
AvPGalaxy – The Founders/Rage are a very interesting concept and I’ve wanted to see something like them for a long time. What was the genesis of the Rage?
Tim Lebbon – During my initial conversation with my Titan editor, he proposed the idea of an alien species attacking humanity with weaponised Xenomorphs. But for me, a much more interesting proposition is that humans finally managed to weaponise them … but not W-Y. From that idea grew the Rage, and a 15 page proposal for the trilogy. I also liked the concept of the Founders morphing eventually into the Rage, perhaps a sad, cynical idea, but it made the story feel much more whole and rounded.
AvPGalaxy – Predator – Incursion saw the return of the dog-aliens you first introduced in Alien – Out of the Shadows. Their appearance in Incursion was short but quite significant to the development of the Rage. Will we be seeing them again and do you have a plan for them?
Tim Lebbon – We hear a little more about them in Alien – Invasion, and I do have idea of how they’ll appear once more in the third book. Whether they appear in person, or merely in influence, I can’t say yet.
AvPGalaxy – Did you ever name their species?
Tim Lebbon – Not yet.
AvPGalaxy – Are there more mysteries that the Rage encountered that will show up in the later books?
Tim Lebbon – Maybe. They were out there a long time, and they went a long way.
AvPGalaxy – You made a comment about having to rework some aspects of the book in light of Neill Blomkamp’s Alien sequel. What exactly changed as a result of his announcement?
Tim Lebbon – I can’t really say, as I was given a run-down of the proposed Alien 5 storyline and how it might affect my trilogy. If I revealed anything, they’d have to kill me.
AvPGalaxy – Was there any other material that had to be changed or removed from your initial manuscript?
Tim Lebbon – Nothing major.
AvPGalaxy – Now that the book has come out and people are getting it in their hands has there been anything from that feedback that has made you want to change anything?
Tim Lebbon – There always is. I wish I’d checked final dates properly. I find that I always have more/new ideas about a book after it’s been released, but that’s because nothing’s ever really finished. What’s sometimes frustrating about a trilogy is, when writing book 2, I had a few occasions when I thought ‘It would have been good if I’d signposted this in book one!’ Book 2 still has to go through the editing process, so I still have the chance to tweak and add stuff into that if and when it springs to mind.
AvPGalaxy – I know you’re pretty proud of the trail of bodies you leave behind you in the literary world. I think you racked up quite the body count in Predator – Incursion? How many more casualties can we expect to see in the next 2 books?
Tim Lebbon – Well, in book 2, the Rage War really gets into full swing. Don’t grow too attached to any of the characters…
AvPGalaxy – AvPGalaxy member Guan Thwei 1992 wants to know if the next books will include any other new extra-terrestrial species such as the Acturians which were said to have had a significant contribution to humanities advancements in last Alien novel trilogy.
Tim Lebbon – There are some oblique mentions.
AvPGalaxy – Another of our members, RakaiThwei, asks about the comment that the Founders had been experimenting with multiverses. He wants to know if this was intended to imply that the Aliens/vs/Predator series has a multiverse similar to Marvel and DC or if it was just a direct reference to the science?
Tim Lebbon – Don’t read too much into that, it was just an idea to show how advanced the Founders had become once removed from the rest of humanity’s influence.
AvPGalaxy – He also asks if you were aware of the Hish? You were aware of Steve Perry’s Yautja culture but when DH Press started releasing Predator novels again in the 2000s, they introduced a new culture by John Shirley called the Hish’que-ten.
Tim Lebbon – No, other than what I read on Wiki etc when I was researching these books.
AvPGalaxy – And the last question from our members is from Ultramorph who wants to know what was the most fun aspect of the world building you did in Predator – Incursion?
Tim Lebbon – Creating human space colonies was fun, but I had most fun writing about the Yautja’s giant habitat, UMF12 (and I wonder if anyone picked up where I created that name from…?)
AvPGalaxy – Have you been keeping up on the reactions to the book? What do you think so far?
Tim Lebbon – I’m delighted with how it’s being received. It’s always a nervous time for a writer, especially when I’m playing in a universe loved by so many.
AvPGalaxy – What can we expect to see from the rest of the Rage Wars?
Tim Lebbon – More battles. A bigger body count. A few surprises. A Xenomorph/Yautja romance.
That last was a joke. Bet I worried you.
AvPGalaxy – Just before we finish…Hoop?! When do we get to see him again?
Tim Lebbon – I don’t know! Maybe he’s still floating around out there, somewhere…
AvPGalaxy – Thank you again, Tim, for taking the time to look at our questions. Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers that I haven’t given you the chance to?
Tim Lebbon – It’s a pleasure, thanks for asking me. And thanks for continuing to read my work. I know I can’t please everyone all the time, but I hope you’re all enjoying this different, far future take on these fun alien species. Interestingly, if the universe/multiverse truly is infinite … then they really do exist, somewhere.
I would like to thank Tim Lebbon for taking the time out of his schedule to answer some of our questions and the communities’ questions too. Our review of Predator – Incursion is also available to read. You can find out more about Tim and his work over at his official website.