Cyberpunk guru William Gibson’s rejected ‘Alien 3’ script scores a new novelization (exclusive excerpt)

“Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson” recounts the unrealized vision for the “Alien” science fiction franchise.(Image credit: Titan Books)

Representing one of cinematic history’s greatest “What If” stories, cyberpunk godfather William Gibson (“Burning Chrome,” “Neuromancer”) once penned a provocative draft for “Alien 3” that was never used by the studio. 20th Century Fox eventually went with a stitched together script using ideas from David Twohy and Vincent Ward & John Fasano for director David Fincher (“Se7en,” “Zodiac”) that resulted in a polarizing 1992 entry in the storied “Alien” sci-fi franchise.

However, Gibson’s action-oriented unproduced version is being given fresh life with Titan Books’ “Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson,” a hardback novelization adapted by Hugo Award-winning author Pat Cadigan — and is serving up an exclusive excerpt to entice your senses. This never-realized draft kept Corporal Hicks and Newt at the forefront, with Ripley serving as more of a background character in cryogenic stasis.

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Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson $22.46 at Amazon

“Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson” from Titan Books recounts the unrealized vision for the “Alien” science fiction franchise’s third entry by a legend of cyberpunk.View Deal

The plot follows the Colonial Marine vessel Sulaco on its Earth-bound journey from LV-426 when it drifts into a sector controlled by the “Union of Progressive Peoples,” a nation-state embroiled in a mounting cold war and arms race. U.P.P. operatives climb aboard the Sulaco and locate hypersleep tubes containing Ripley, Newt, and an injured Hicks. A Facehugger attacks the main commando and the team escapes, grabbing what remains of the android Bishop during exit. 

The Sulaco eventually docks at Anchorpoint, a humongous space station and military installation, where it unfortunately falls under control of the military’s Weapons Division. Boarding the Sulaco, Colonial Marines and scientists are swarmed by Xenomorph drones.

During the engagement, Ripley’s cryotube is smashed and taken inside Anchorpoint, where she remains in a coma. Newt and an injured Corporal Hicks are resurrected and Newt is shipped off to Gateway Station on the way back to Earth. The U.P.P. sends Bishop to Anchorpoint, where risky hybrid xenomorph cloning experiments are setting the stage for acid-spewing calamities.

Now douse the light and check out our exclusive excerpt courtesy of Titan Books’ “Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson” below.

Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay excerpt

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the first three capsules: a woman, a little girl, and a Marine. Status lights on each one indicated they were functioning perfectly and the occupants all looked normal, although the Marine had sustained injuries to his face and upper body, burns of some sort. Bandages hid most of the damage, but he’d need treatment when he woke up.

The last capsule, however, was trouble. The condensation on the inside of the lid was the same milky-white as robot-blood, and Luc Hai didn’t think it was a coincidence. If the top half of the robot was in there, something had gone very, very wrong.

Luc Hai stood back as Boris attempted to pry the capsule open by forcing his gloved fingers under the edge of the lid. He wasn’t having much luck, and despite the bulky vacuum suit, his body language clearly indicated he didn’t want any help. 

Fine with her, she didn’t want to help him—she wanted to stop him. But she knew better than to try. Boris didn’t react well to a subordinate questioning his actions. On the other hand, he’d react a lot less well if he had to leave his legs behind when they went home.

Letting out a frustrated growl, Boris punched the capsule. Luc Hai’s jaw dropped; Boris was often gruff but he was calm-gruff, not given to displays of temper and not tolerant of those who were. The impact instantly jolted him out of his anger fugue and back to himself.

He turned to her and gave a faint, embarrassed laugh. “That’s called ‘percussive mode.’ Learned it from an engineer.”

Luc Hai barely heard him. She was staring at the capsule, now slightly off-kilter on its base. The red and green status lights on the end flickered for a couple of seconds before they went off. There was a soft clunk as a lock released, and then the whited-out lid slowly lifted away from the bed.

Dense white fog flowed over the edge of the capsule in graceful billows. Luc Hai tried to pull Boris away with her but he shook her off with an emphatic gesture to keep her distance. She took another step back, half-expecting the fog would turn to liquid when it hit the floor, but it only disintegrated. She started to say something to Boris about leaving, then saw that all the fog had cleared away to reveal some kind of egg-shaped thing sitting in the middle of the capsule.

Or, more precisely, growing, its roots indistinguishable from the ragged guts of the robot’s upper torso.

The egg didn’t have a hard shell—it looked rubbery and wet, like something a reptile would produce. Had the capitalists programmed their machines to reproduce like robot-lizards? Was it more economical to have robots grow their own? Unease increasing, Luc Hai moved around behind Boris to move up on his left. 

Now she saw a few shreds of plastic under the robot’s head, the remains of a medical catastrophic-injury cocoon. Wasting medical treatment on a machine was yet another example of capitalist stupidity but she couldn’t work up much indignation about it. There were probably two dozen cocoons untouched in their supplies and none of the humans needed them, not even the Marine.

The robot’s head rolled to one side and its eyes opened, staring directly into her own with an expression of suffering on its face.

Luc Hai felt an intense dropping sensation in the pit of her stomach. No machine could actually suffer, whether it was a centrifuge, a spacecraft, or a robot that looked like a human. Her gaze traveled from his face along what was left of his body to the egg growing out of his torso, which was also impossible. Nothing grew out of inanimate objects.

At the top of the egg, flaps suddenly unfolded with a moist, fleshy, smacking sound. Boris took a step back just as something sprang out of it, hitting his face with a splash of ugly, yellowish liquid. Luc Hai jerked back,  avoiding a large blob that landed exactly where she had been standing only a moment before. To her horror, it began eating through the metal with a loud hiss, which was quickly drowned out by Boris’s screams.

Luc Hai turned to see Boris was still on his feet even as the thing from the egg sank through his helmet and into his head. The creature looked like a three-way cross between a snake, a jellyfish, and a squid. His screams became muffled, then took on a strangled quality as he staggered backward, clawing at the creature with both hands as he turned and broke into a clumsy run. 

Leaving Ashok to fend for himself, Luc Hai closed her faceplate and followed him into the passageway at what she hoped was a safe distance. Her helmet was filled with the sound of her own terrified breathing but she could still hear Boris’s cries of pain as he headed for the cargo deck in an off-balance, stumbling run, sometimes hitting one wall and rebounding off the other.. 

She kept waiting for him to fall, wondering what she would do when he did, how she could possibly help him. Somehow he made it all the way to the cargo deck, and kept going for almost half a minute before he finally fell face down three meters from an airlock marked EMERGENCY ONLY. 

Luc Hai used the barrel of her rifle to roll Boris onto his back, hoping it was over. The creature’s body was pulsing now as he clung to life, his hands making feeble swipes at the thing. Or maybe those were just spasms—he couldn’t possibly be alive with a monster eating his head. 

Slinging her rifle, she drew her sidearm, and then hesitated. Boris was past caring, but after all they’d been through together it felt disrespectful to shoot him in the face, even if he didn’t really have one anymore. 

On the other hand, he’d have ordered her to make sure the thing was dead no matter whose face it had landed on.

She moved out of range of blowback and took aim, then closed her eyes as she pulled the trigger.

The mess of bloody tissue, fragments of bone, and helmet were dissolving even more quickly than the metal deck underneath. Other, smaller holes were opening up all around wherever pieces of the creature had landed, and the hissing was so much louder here, practically thunderous. Luc Hai could barely hear her own grunts of effort as she dragged Boris by one leg toward the nearest airlock, desperate to get them there before he fell apart.

Muttering an apology to Boris for the unceremonious treatment, Luc Hai hit the OPEN button beside the hatch, shoved him into the airlock, and punched EMERGENCY EXPEL. A red light overhead started flashing as the inner door snapped shut and a siren went off. Luc Hai closed her eyes, feeling the vibration as the airlock opened and spat Boris’s body into the void. 

The siren cut off as the outer hatch closed and the airlock was re-pressurized. Luc Hai remained still, counting her breaths and willing her pounding heart to slow down. Although her commando training wouldn’t let her fall apart until she was back in her quarters, she needed a few seconds to pull her shit together.

It had just been a mission to gather intel—get in, get the data streaming, get out, and get gone, leaving no sign they’d displaced so much as a molecule of air. A simple mission, and about as safe as any espionage mission could be.

Was supposed to be safe. Should have been safe. Would have been safe if they had just set up a data transfer conduit from the cargo deck without investigating anything else on the ship. If they had, they would have been back on the interceptor, monitoring the big fat data stream from the Sulaco. Boris would have been telling them about their mistakes, in between bullshit fairy tales about his glorious Bolshevik ancestor, not flying headless through the void, and she’d have been a little bored, not traumatized. While Ashok—

Her heart began pounding faster again as she realized she was no longer alone. She’d been so stupefied, she hadn’t sensed something creeping up behind her. Hell, she hadn’t even noticed that the hiss of acid eating through metal was nowhere nearly as loud as it had been. Luc Hai swallowed hard as she straightened up and turned around.

The monster standing at the mouth of the passageway had multiple limbs sprouting at weird angles from an irregular bulk atop two legs. As she raised her weapon, the thing stepped forward and turned into Ashok, carrying half a robot in his arms. The right half.

Ashok was so smart, she thought. The robot would contain data that wasn’t in the ship’s computers and they were legally allowed to confiscate it as suspicious tech aboard a trespassing spacecraft. It would give the UPP an even greater advantage than they’d thought.

When they returned to the interceptor, Ashok locked the robot in the quarantine box. They put themselves through decontam three times during the return trip and twice more on arrival, just to be on the safe side. Still, Luc Hai couldn’t scrub the image of the robot’s face from her mind. She told herself not to anthropomorphize, but she couldn’t forget how relieved she’d felt when they’d closed the quarantine box and the robot hadn’t looked like it was suffering anymore.

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