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Alien The Cold Forge commentary

Alien: The Cold Forge commentary.

The following is a chapter-by-chapter commentary for the 2018 novel Alien: The Cold Forge, released by author Alex White as part of his email newsletter.

Owing to the ongoing nature of the commentary, this page is incomplete.

Chapter 1: Line Items

Welcome to my monthly short feature about the interesting bits of ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE! In this section, I'll be discussing any interesting bits of trivia about the individual chapters.

Up first: Line Items!

What's with the name Indigo Flag?

When governments name projects, they'll often use code names to refer to it. One of the problems with human-generated code names, however, is the unconscious bias we have to give things relevant monikers. So if you wanted to give an all-consuming cloud of nanites a code name, you might call it "Project Piranha."

That's a mistake.

Good code names are completely purpose-agnostic when viewed on a spreadsheet. You shouldn't be able to discern a single detail about them, whether it's staffing, scientific level of acumen, budget or end use. Most smart code name generators will pick two words at random — the stranger, the better.

You can see this pattern in all projects in THE COLD FORGE: Indigo Flag (the adversary's code for RB-232), Rose Eagle, Silver Smile and Glitter Edifice.

What does the RB stand for in "RB-232"?

You know, I could make something up here, but it stands for "Red Bull," because I am a huge Daniel Ricciardo fan. As for the numbers, I liked the verbal cadence of "two thirty-two."

Where did Dorian Sudler's name come from?

As you have all likely guessed, Dorian is a reference to Oscar Wilde's THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. It's such a beautiful, articulate name, and when it's linked to an amoral libertine, it works so well. It's also the reason he paints.

I've always felt that painting is a vaguely sinister thing for villains to do, because it represents the need to capture the world around oneself. Some people would celebrate those frozen moments. I think Dorian enjoys subduing the world and forcing it into his own order.

In the opening scene, I wanted to establish that it's not enough for Dorian to win (by getting laid, for example). Someone else has to lose.

Where did Blue Marsalis's name come from?

I've known a couple of women named Blue in my lifetime, and I always thought it was a fantastic name. Of course, when you couple that with her serious, depressing backstory, it's just as on-the-nose as Dorian's name.

Blue's last name comes from Wynton Marsalis, an ultra-famous jazz musician. I wanted readers to subconsciously imagine an ability to improvise, since that skill is what keeps her alive in the long run.

Why is Blue a queer, disabled woman of color?

Because I wanted to give her every possible disadvantage in a mindless, corporate system. Weyland-Yutani represents the ultimate soulless machination, and Dorian is a force for preserving entrenched power structures.

Characters like Blue are often buffeted by stifling workforce cultures. Because she is a woman, she is less likely to be taken seriously by her male counterparts. Because she is black, she is more likely to be seen as aggressive when she stands up for herself. Because she is disabled/dying, human resources will be eager to get rid of her, considering her a drain on the insurance pool.

Even in her introduction, Kambili Okoro tells her to "man up," a clear attack on her gender identity.

Why isn't Marcus more representative of Blue's identity?

When I think of the androids that have endured from the series — Ash, Bishop, David and Walter — they're male caregivers. I was never particularly drawn to Call (Alien: Resurrection), because I enjoyed the trope subversion of having empathetic male servants. We're all familiar with Blade Runner, and the roles that female replicants typically filled onscreen, and that's a bit... boring. In my mind, most androids from the Alien universe are male, and Joss Whedon's Call is the outlier.

It wasn't hard to tap into the spectacular performances by Ian Holm, Lance Henriksen and Michael Fassbender. Many readers responded to Marcus, and you can see a lot of love for him in the reviews. It delighted me to no end to see the synthetic referred to as, "the only sympathetic character."

Join me next month for more!

Chapter 2: Arrival

Welcome to my monthly short feature about the interesting bits of ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE! In this section, I'll be discussing any interesting bits of trivia about the individual chapters.

Show and tell

In the book, all the project managers line up to brief Dorian on their projects with boring presentations. In real life, that's exactly how it works. Going into classified labs, I was always struck by the cheesy posters and video screens, like it was some kind of science fair.

If you ever work in the defense industry, you can expect to sit through a lot of PowerPoints, and I assure you, they'll pack each slide with a full page of text.

For more information on SCIFs, click here!

Why does Dorian hate his family so much?

This isn't in the book, but Dorian comes from a family of high-minded academics. His father was instrumental in developing energy-efficient solutions and reducing industrial waste. Dorian, however, was never good at that stuff, and vastly preferred auditing for its political machinations. When he told his parents what he was doing for a living, it caused a (very polite, but tense) falling out.

Dorian and his father haven't spoken in ten years.

Where did the idea for the killbox come from?

I draw a lot from my defense contractor experience. During a military exercise, I visited the DMZ in South Korea, and there was a football field-long, chain-link corridor between two guard shacks. Anti-vehicle pylons dotted the road, preventing anyone from simply bashing through. I went to knock at the guard shack door on my side... and there was no one inside. I couldn't simply leave after poking around an abandoned guard shack — I'd be arrested on suspicion of sabotage/terrorism/espionage/whatever. Remember, this was the border of two nations who are still at war.

I had to walk across the 100-meter expanse to a man on the far side, who had an automatic rifle ready to mow me down. It was one of the most tense moments of my life!

Join me next month for more!

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