Bengt Petter
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Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Mon 15 Jul 2019, 18:54

The Swiss artist H. R. Giger was a part of the team that created the first Alien film. He was brought into the production because Ridley Scott liked his art book Necronomicon. Some of the creatures from that surreal and Lovecraft inspired book were changed only slightly to become the xenomorph we all know. Giger also personally made the movie sets for the Derelict, the Pilot (also known as the Space Jockey), the egg chamber and the Facehugger. It ment that his art became an important part of what is now a big franchise.

In the original Alien movie, the Pilot seemed obviously none human. Instead of being a human guy in a suit, he or she (or it) was fossilized, and seemed attached to, or maybe even grown out of, the seat. The Pilot was perhaps a part of a larger biomechanical system that also included everything around him. The size of the Pilot also hinted that he or she was something else than human; the body was simply too big. If you look closely, you can also see that the Pilot seem to be missing legs, as if he was created to spend all his life in the pilot seat. The entire creation – the Pilot, his seat, the Derelict and the eggs – just seemed very different from everything previously known to humans. 

By now, we all know that Ridley Scott at least partly changed the concept Giger created for the original Alien. In Prometheus, the Pilot became a human bodybuilder in a biomechanical armor. Stairs were also added to his platform. All these changes did upset a lot of people (google if you haven't read that stuff). Scott did, for sure, add a contradiction. But that's NOT what I intend to discuss here. Prometheus and Alien Covenant have been made and are by now important parts of the Alien franchise. Nothing can change that. So instead of complaining, I would like to discuss what the Gigeresque biomechinalcal vision means to the entire Alien setting. I find it very thought-provoking. Giger simply made things more Alien.          

1. Why is sex also an Alien thing?
Initially, I thought sex wasn't that important to this setting. I changed my mind after listening to Giger (there are several Youtube interviews). His art is full of sex, sometimes in a quite rough and explicit way. And the creatures Giger brought to the Alien franchise are obviously sexual too. The Facehugger is, more or less, simply a phallus with long fingers. It gives the term facerape a very literal meaning. In the art from Gigers´ book Necronomicon, even the head of the xenomorph looks like a long phallus. And the entire shape of the Derelict is womb looking. All this stuff is a part of the Gigeresque biomechanical vision where the difference between bodies and machines is very blurred. After the prequels, it´s obvious that the very idea of two opposite sexes is something that once was seeded on Earth by the Engineers. Male and female are simply a designed mechanic, created to be used for spreading and mixing genes between organisms. This makes having sex an Alien behavior, simply because life on Earth is also Alien.

2. Exactly what kind of creatures are the xenomorphs?
The creatures Giger created are biomechanical beings who (in the form of facehuggers) impregnate other beings. They are sexual in a very brutal and deadly sense. But they are probably also a part of a much larger biomechanical eco system. In the Derilict, where xenomorph eggs were found in the original movie, there were even vagina looking openings next to the eggs. The eggs seemed to have been born out these wall "vaginas". It least that is a possibility. In the second movie, the eggs came from a Queen, but it might still be possible that the Derelict itself also could produce eggs. The xenomorphs might just be one of many beings that could come out of a biomechanical womb.         

3. What does the existence of a biomechanical ecosystem really mean?
I would like to imagine that the Derelict and everything that is contains is a part of a huge interstellar, or maybe even intergalactic, ecosystem that has been spread out among the stars for many thousands of years. It might be a combination of life from many planets, united in a long term, interstellar evolution. The biomechanical aspect might have been there for a very long time. It may include not just many living species far away, but also biomechanical AIs, androids, buildings and huge weapon systems. Some of this stuff is probably drifting somewhere in space, more or less fossilized, bizarre looking and hard to understand for humans...   

4. What does it mean to be human in the perspective of a biomechanical evolution?   
Humans are just one of many life forms that was once seeded on Earth. The fact that they (we) have a genetic bond to the Engineers, doesn't make us special. Perhaps we are just one of many possible version of humans. I can imagine humans, in one form or another, being born from thousands of eggs or being grown out of the walls or seats in a womb looking vessel or a planet based factory. Humans are basically bioengineered creatures that could be changed in ways that might seem terrible or just bizarre to us. Since humans can be created through genetic programming, we are not that different from synthetics. Both beings are programmed to do certain things. In a biomechanical and bioengineered ecosystem, the difference between biology and technology is blurred and perhaps not even relevant. 

5. How much does mankind know?
Weyland Yutani, and probably some of their company rivals, must have grasped at least some of the stuff that's out there. But I would to think that nobody really fully understands the big picture. And hopefully that will never be completely described within the franchise. A total description of all Gigeresque creatures would just kill the mystery. Instead I would like to see hints and clues, maybe even contradicting stuff, showing up in different places and companies. Just knowing that there is something huge out there is interesting.

6. What is really the big picture?
Humans are not aware of what they recently have encountered. Life has probably existed in the universe for a very long time, maybe even billions of years. Mankind is just something very small in a much bigger interstellar or maybe intergalactic context of life. That would make sense also in a Lovecraftian perspective, where mankind is just something insignificant, facing much more powerful beings from other, distant worlds. As I said above, Giger was inspired by Lovecraft. I would say, he is kind of a Salvador Dalí with a Lovecraftian twist.

7. Conclusions and further thoughts
In this post, I have tried to understand the xenomorphs, the very centerpiece of the setting, in a way that is true to the original Gigeresque thoughts. In a way, that is rethinking things, at least all the stuff that has been done after the first move. It makes the xenomorphs (and mankind) a part of something bigger. A biomechanical ecosystem, as I prefer to call it. By seeing the xenomorphs in the Gigeresque context where they were first created, they become something more than just scary monsters with acid blood. In some of the movies and in many of the comics and novels, the directors and writers seem to have forgotten or not studied the original ideas. I hope that will change.

Obviously, I'm posting this in the Setting section. I guess it's possible to use some of this in the Alien RPG – maybe as inspiration for new creatures, new biomechinalcal technology or other Alien things. As I see it, the art Giger created is cruicial to anybody who wants to understand this franchise as something more than just space horror. His biomechanical take on life is – just like The Company with the dark secrets, and the synthetics who challenge their creators - a core theme in this franchise. I hope it will be useful to many, perhaps even beyond the RPG. As I said in another thread: the Alien franchise is something that should be fixed. Returning to Giger and his art might be a part of that.

Of course, I´m not the first one to think about the Giger legacy. Alien fan theories have been around since 1979. But by this post, I tried to develop some of the thoughts that has been around for many years. As David puts it: Big things have small beginnings.   
Last edited by Bengt Petter on Fri 17 Jan 2020, 17:54, edited 3 times in total.
 
Byrax
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Mon 15 Jul 2019, 23:15

Well written and I totally agree!
 
Bengt Petter
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Thu 18 Jul 2019, 12:58

Thanks, Byrax. After having a closer look at Giger´s art, I actually understood the entire Alien franchise in a new way. I think his contribution came from a very none Hollywood direction, even though some of his work obviously became a part of this commercial franchise. I wonder how much Fox/Disney cares about that now. Even though the franchise today is much of a commercial gory monster thing, many hardcore fans are very well aware of the Giger legacy. So maybe it will be a part of the upcoming RPG. I hope so, even though I have my doubts. 

My main point with this thread is that the xenomorph is not a staple movie monster, it´s a part of something much bigger. You can see that already in the Derelict in the first movie, but perhaps you have to know some of Giger´s work to fully understand what's on the screen.   

Here are some links to videos that puts the Alien franchise in an interesting historical perspective:

A long behind the scenes documentary about the first Alien (1979): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYJXaEN8F4Q 
H. R. Giger, the Art of Biomechanics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3om2TOUMW8 
The Israeli (or Palestinian?) youtuber Nitpicking Nerd has done several interesting videos about the Gigeresque aspect of Alien: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hxexdOUJic
Georg Rockall-Smith has also made similar comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuOtTH_31Fk 


  
 
Oreh
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Fri 16 Aug 2019, 21:35

Very well put!
What you talk about is absolutely my concern too, I find it too easy to go wrong trying to “play” plots that alternate between the films (or comics, books). I don’t think this game will open up much new concepts in the Alien universe. But I want to do that! That grand scale of a universe that is bisarre and scary - unknown, will bring a better experience to the players. I am interested in building a world that the players can investigate before the it becomes a deadly threat.
At first I thought I would draw a line at Alien3 and make clear that everything else doesn’t count.
But your post made me rethink. I would state to the players that nothing is the perfectly true not even the original movie is safe.
 
Bengt Petter
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Mon 19 Aug 2019, 18:30

Thanks, Oreh. I totally agree. What I would like to see more of in the Alien RPG is the terrifying body horror from the first movie. I think that is what the Gigersque, biomechanical contribution to this franchise is all about. But how should it be used to develop the RPG setting? Body horror can come in many forms. I would like to boil it all down to something like this:

1. Humans on Earth are not the only possible humans. It makes sense that the humans who were once seeded on Earth is just one version, probably designed to fit the local conditions here. Other human versions might look similar, but be designed to live in other ways. The life cycle we now as human – egg, embryo, baby, kid, adult – might come in other versions, more suited to other purposes or environments. Perhaps there are humans with a more insect like development: egg, larva, pupa and imago. A biomechanical form of hibernation is also possible or some kind of a parasitical survival strategy. Other, perhaps more weaponized, versions of humans are also possible. Maybe that is the actual, designed over all purpose of humans: to be used as weapons. In some ways, we are more dangerous than the xenomorphs. To others, we might be the monsters.    

2. Humans and xenomorphs are probably related. The xenomorphs seem to be able to absorb genetic material from other beings, but they might also be more or less related to humans (for example, the face huggers have fingers). Maybe the xenomorphs are a form of weaponized humans. This means that there might exist humans with some xenomorph features such as acid blood, biomechinacal parts, no eyes, telepathic abilities or a more insect like behaviour. I imagine bizarre looking humans (or almost-humans) living in large, telepathic hives, perhaps supporting, protecting worshipping a big egg laying queen. They might live in large wasp nest looking "buildings" or even "cities". Those humans could possibly be the original humans. 

3. Technology can be biomechanical. In a biomechinacal ecosystem technology is integrated with living beings. That means that spaceships, buildings and weapon systems might look like or even be living, biomechanical organisms. Things could then be "born" to grow in engineered life cycles. This might also happen in space. Imagine a growing spaceship that, after 2000 years in space, suddenly is "giving birth" to new crew members, biomechincal torpedos or even another, living spaceship. A biomechanical spaceship might for example look like a giant coral reef, a fossilized super size tree or an enourmous wasp nest (just like the buildings I mentioned above).     

4. Biomechanical technology can be sexual. The two sexes, male and female, united through the sexual exchange of genetic material, is a kind of logic that could be used also in biomechanical forms. Sending "sperms" in the form of space torpedos or other vessels to an "egg" counterpart could be an advanced form of communication or creation. Sexual exchange would then be an engineered form of transmitting information over very long, interstellar distances. In this way, new life or new technology can be created in the most remote places. The sender and the receiver might even, to some extent, be quite alien to each other. 

5. Human culture on Earth is probably totally irrelevant in the perspective of the bigger interstellar evolution. The way we humans live on Earth – industry, consumption, capitalism, rapid population growth etc. – is maybe just an early stage of the evolution known by other, to us unknown beings out here. Their culture is  probably more advanced, perhaps integrated to other cultural and engineered systems. This should also affect what can be found from those beings in space or on other planets. Their culture, values and technology are most likely beyond our imagination. When we encounter alien things, we would probably not understand it. That is what happened in the first movie when the xenomorph was found. I would like to imagine that there are also other possible encounters with alien life or remains of alien life, that would be just as bizarre and surprising, but in other ways.    

Having all this said, what I'm looking for here is a new framework for rethinking and creating new things that feels truly new and Alien. To just add more gory xemomorph monsters are, I think, a sign of bad imagination. I get that this is a commercial franchise with a well known centerpiece creature and a certain kind of genre drama ("Where is the monster? Is it on board this spaceship? Oh, nooo..."). Some people will probably be satisfied with that, and that's just fine. But I guess, some of us are also interested in the much bigger vision that was hinted by Giger. It would simply make things more interesting if there was something more out there than just a very angry beast with acid blood. It must come from some place where there are other really bizarre and fascinating stuff. Actually, when we see the xenomorphs in the movies, they are out of their own world most of the time. There should be a lot more in the world or worlds they came from.  

 
Last edited by Bengt Petter on Fri 17 Jan 2020, 17:37, edited 3 times in total.
 
Byrax
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Mon 19 Aug 2019, 22:23

Again I agree. Do not just re-hash what has been done (movies), try to implant a new ’alien’ vision.

PS so glad that I had a chance to visit Giger’s museum in St Germain, Switzerland in 2001.
 
Bengt Petter
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Wed 15 Jan 2020, 14:15

By now, we know that the biomechanical Engineer technology was at least mentioned in the basic rule set. Today, I noticed the new technology of ”xenobots”, that was just recently developed in a lab: https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-a ... zqNZbiWS34

This is, so far, just hinting a biomechanical future - on Earth. Considering the rapid development of real world AI, you can now imagine the existence of creatures and things (and living things) that not so long ago seemed possible only in fiction. I wonder how Peter Weyland and other fictional corporate tycoons would have approached the xenobots we now see coming in our own, none fictional world. I’m sure it’s just a first step.
Last edited by Bengt Petter on Fri 17 Jan 2020, 17:40, edited 1 time in total.
 
Egg-O-Deth
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Wed 15 Jan 2020, 14:54

Bengt Petter, thanks for this post and the additional comments... this is very thoughtful and thought provoking. I will definitely be keeping this thread on hand to refer back to in the future. I think there are some brilliant ideas here to inspire people.
 
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Corporal Hicks
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Wed 15 Jan 2020, 21:31

Bengt Peter, thank you for you thoughts! Explororing and encountering somthing truly Alien is something I strife for, when I'll write my own Adventures for the Alien RPG. I don't want to just rip of the Movies. That is also the point why I find the prequels (also with their faults) very intriguing!

I'll later check out your links.
Kill it... kill it with fire!!!
 
Bengt Petter
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Re: Why the original Gigeresque vision still matters to the entire setting

Sun 02 Feb 2020, 19:49

Thanks guys! I find it really thought provocing the explore the ideas Giger had. And, they are for sure a part of several of the franchise movies, also Prometheus and Covenant. They aren’t really masterpieces, but still full of interesting stuff...

I didn’t want to post anything new here, without really having something new to say. I do have a few concepts for actual biomechanical locations and Gigeresque creatures (that are not staple xenomorphs). But I’ll come back to that stuff later. In this post I will instead focus on time and space, and expand on some ideas from both science and fiction.

1. Is an Engineer or Alien timeline possible and what would it be like?
As you know, there is a timeline in the basic rules (p. 14-15). Basically, it points out a number of corporate events in space, and that’s just fine. But if you want to tell another story - a timeline is a kind of narrative - you can just pick some other events. In the Alien universe it could be a timeline for AI evolution, U. P. P. expansion or Marsian colonies - just to pick a few examples.

To create an Engineer or Alien timeline would be a lot harder. Still, there are a few events known from the canon. Together, they form a kind of fragmented timeline (some events are already in the official time line). I don’t think there should ever be any detailed Engineer or xenomorph timeline (it would just kill the mystery). However, new and alternative timelines can be written in game, as hypotheses created by, for example, corporate scientists or xeno archeologists. Such documents probably are probably kept as corporate secrets. From a game conceptual view, I see them as GM tools, maybe handouts.

An alternative timeline could include anything from more recent findings - let’s say corporate discoveries over the past 100 years - to something much longer - perhaps 50 000 years of Engineer expansion in space. I think those timelines should be very fragmented, based on perhaps some archeological findings and AI calculations. Creating new alternative timelines, with previously unknown events, is a way of world building. And it’s a way to make actual narratives from the Lovecraftian aspect - the human insignificance among other superior beings somewhere far out there.

2. What could the Kardashev scale mean in the Alien universe?
This is another way to deal with time and space in the Alien universe. The Kardashev scale (a real world concept) was created by the Soviet astronomer Nicolai Kardashev in 1964. To quote Wikipedia, it’s ”a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy they are able to use”. There are three types of civilizations in this scale. A Type 1 civilization can ”use and store all of the energy on its planet”. Mankind might have approached that level around 2100 (just my guess). A Type 2 civilization can use and control all the energy from its stellar system, while a Type 3 civilization can use and control all the energy from its entire host galaxy.

It’s possible to apply the Lovecraftian vision to this - it gives us an idea of the possible scale of things. The Engineers, and maybe other far more powerful beings, might have reached at least Type 2, and maybe even Type 3. Another concept that could help us imagening how such technologies would actually look and work are the Dyson spheres. To quote Wikipedia: ”A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output.” It’s a Type 2 solution.

If we put the Dyson spheres in the context of the Gigeresque biomechanical ecosystem, you could imagine large number of ”living” solar panels ”swarming” around a star. The panels are probably huge, and to some extent habitable. In a Type 3 civilization - here I imagine something even more powerful than the Engineers - the galaxy itself is an engineered object. It’s more of a God like scale. In the scope of the Alien RPG, I don’t see any visits to functional civilizations in this scale, but perhaps some signals, or maybe parts of an ancient huge biomechanical solar panel, drifting through space... At least, any kind of advanced civilization should (if they are not very different from us) deal with energy in some way.

3. What would a more large scale alien contact be like?
We know from the movies there are some kind of lbeacon signals. But what I’m thinking of here, is a more large scale contact, perhaps even communication. I don’t mean anything like the events in Arrival or Independence (I like both if those movies, but they are not really relevant here). Instead of invasions or more peaceful visits, I’d rather imagine fragmented signals from far away. Maybe only an advanced AI could understand the content.

What would the messages be about? An interesting possibilty could be: ”We are on our way to to you and there are plenty of us coming.” That could be quite a starting point for a campaign. But rather than dealing with an Engineer invasion (it wouldn’t fit the style of the genre), I would rather suggest something more enigmatic. The expected arrival could be supposed happen in 50 or 200 years or so. And it might also be unclear who or what the actual sender of the signal is. It might have been dead for thousands or even millions of years. Still, the signals are there.

Maybe, there are more messages with other content, perhaps messages contradicting each other. Who recieves these signals? Maybe several corporations or other human factions? What are they doing with their knowledge? Sending deep space expeditions? Preparing for war? Planning interstellar evacuations? Trying to learn new things from the messages? Expecting divine beings to arrive? There are many possibilities, and it should possible to create many interesting and quite different campaigns or scenarios from an Alien twist of the quite well known ”contact trope”.

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