Read James Cameron's 1987 responses to angry fans who hated Aliens

Back before James Cameron was combing the depths of the Mariana Trench and developing new breeds of screwable blue extraterrestrial feline, the director was answering annoyed fan letters about Aliens.

In a 1987 issue of Starlog, Cameron personally addressed Aliens haters who wrote in to the magazine's letters column. What commenced was a geek fiesta of minutiae quibbling that seems absolutely inconceivable nowadays, given the director's bilion-dollar cachet and whatnot. To quote Cameron, "By the way, it's not in the goddamed cat and it's not in Newt, either. I would never be that cruel."


In Starlog #125, the director fielded gripes on such topics as the Space Jockey (whom he refers to as the "dental patient") and xenomorph physiology. Here's Cameron's response to one fan who thought LV-426 was a ringed planet...

The unnamed planetoid harboring the alien derelict ship, to which I gave the designation LV-426, was in fact a moon of a ringed gas giant, which was occasionally glimpsed in the sky in ALIEN. The gas giant does not appear in ALIENS because the exterior scenes on LV-426 have an unbroken cloud cover or overcast, and the space scenes are handled in a cursory manner, advancing the story without dwelling on the wonders of interstellar travel, which so many other films have done so well, as their primary raison d'etre. You might say we approached LV-426 from the other direction, and the ringed gas giant companion was out of frame.

A reader who was wondering why the colonists didn't notice the Space Jockey's emergency signal...

As some readers may know, scenes were filmed but cut from the final release version of the film which depicted the discovery of the derelict by a mom-and-pop geological survey (i.e.: prospecting) team. As scripted, they were given the general coordinates of its position by the manager of the colony, on orders from Carter Burke. It is not directly stated, but presumed, that Burke could only have gotten that information from Ripley or from the black-box flight recorder aboard the shuttle Narcissus, which accessed the Nostromo's on-board computer. When the Jorden family, including young Newt, reach the coordinates, they discover the derelict ship. Since we and the Nostromo crew last saw it, it has been damaged by volcanic activity, a lava flow having crushed it against a rock outcropping and ripped open its hull. Aside from considerations of visual interest, this serves as a justification for the acoustic beacon being non-operational.


And the vagaries of the xenomorph's life cycle...

One admittedly confusing aspect of this creature's behavior (which was unclear as well in ALIEN) is the fact that sometimes the warrior will capture prey for a host, and other times, simply kill it. For example, Ferro the dropship pilot is killed outright while Newt, and previously most of the colony members, were only captured and cocooned within the walls to aid in the Aliens' reproduction cycle. If we assume the Aliens have intelligence, at least in the central guiding authority of the Queen, then it is possible that these decisions may have a tactical basis. For example, Ferro was a greater threat, piloting the heavily armed dropship, than she was a desirable host for reproduction. Newt, and most of the colonists, were unarmed and relatively helpless, therefore easily captured for hosting.

Please bear in mind the difficulty of communicating a life cycle this complex to a mass audience, which, seven years later, may barely recall that there was an Alien in ALIEN, let alone the specifics of its physical development. I had a great deal of story to tell, and a thorough re-education would have relegated ALIENS to a pedantic reprise of Ridley Scott's film. The audience seems to have a deepseated faith in the Aliens' basic nastiness and drive to reproduce which requires little logical rationale. That leaves only hardcore fans such as myself and a majority of this readership to ponder the technical specifics and construct a plausible scenario.


It's fascinating to see the director tackle these minor details with such maniac candor. You can read the entire interview at Aliens Collection.


Via Reddit. Cameron photo via Starlog/Michael Biehn Archives.

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