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David Cronenberg’s Alien — Novelization by J.G. Ballard

Author: • Oct 25th, 2006 •

Category: body horror, David Cronenberg, features, parody, pastiche, sexual politics

Ballardian: David Cronenberg's Alien by J.G. Ballard

Lyle Hopwood uncovers a lost Ballard work, apparently the only surviving fragment from JGB’s novelization of David Cronenberg’s film of Alien, before the studio infamously got cold feet and replaced Cronenberg with Ridley Scott and Ballard with Alan Dean Foster.

It’s only the cat, Ripley.
Squatting in the brine strained from the ore above, Kane pressed the activation panel of the locker. Startled by the noise of the lock tumblers, the skittish cat bounded over him, causing him to slip on a thin mesentery, a sloughed skin like that of an amphibian dissected by a careless junior doctor. “Catch it, you fool,” Ripley shouted. “It’ll show up on our scanners again.” Ignoring her, Kane shone his torch on the masklike membrane, recognising it as the discarded integument of the final nymph of the Alien. He was unaware of the caudal barb creeping behind him until he was pulled up into the air-duct. He heard Lambert’s irritating hysteria below him as he gazed onto the Alien instar. The moist, immaculate skin of the erect head reminded him of the perineum of a young boy; he felt an almost ceremonial arousal but experienced only the ghost of his orgasm as the buccal ram of the creature shattered his spinal column between the fourth and fifth thoracic verterbrae. As consciousness diminished he relished lying in the warm saline flow of the duct, a simulacrum of his origin unexpectedly recreated in the gulf of space.

Priority Override 1007: Crew Expendable
Holding the data-CD that it had removed from the high-pressure liquid chromatograph, the dismembered robot Ash lay before the three medical display monitors like the sacrificial victim of some digital Cargo Cult. Framing the AI like a triptych of its credo, the three video frames displaying dorsal, ventral and sagittal section of the arachnid-phase Alien called up an impossible geometry, a forbidden angle in which some non-Euclidian Angel could dance only in isolation on the head of a pin. Its injured hands proffered the data, the compositional analysis of the buccal mucus, like a wafer. “The organism, like a moss, has an alternation of generations,” Ash said. “Unlike a moss, both the gametozoon and the sporozoon stages require a living host. The last acts of humanity may be as surrogate mothers for this free-living phallus existing only to impregnate the weak. Darwin and Freud in one jewelled lizard. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, they say. Where does that leave me?”

“History,” said Parker, raising the muzzle of the flamethrower.

The option to override the destruct sequence has expired.
The bolts tethering the shuttle exploded in a series of magnesium flares, strobing the tableau inside, a technological Burgess Shale. Between the bars of darkness a woman stood; her interpatellar distance, an indicator of sexual arousal, increasing with each burst of light; her obsolete mammalian uterus nurturing only the copper worm of her IUD. Beside her the Alien basked in the warm exhaust of the hibernaculum, a confident equilibrium suffusing all its parts, a physical instance of a new paradigm. Instead of some implacable hatred that one zoological class might feel for its usurper, she felt a brisk, matronly efficiency. She replaced the flamethrower in the translucent plastic rack. As the ovipositor sought out and probed the hollow of her solar plexus, the cat’s hiss framed the moment, a Polaroid of the Hieros Gamos of the once and future predicates of sentience. Reaching out, Ripley, the Madonna of the New Flesh, stroked the elongated head of the creature, her fingerprints in the mucus tracing in an unknown alphabet the names of the children of the dead.

This piece originally appeared in Interzone #75, September 1993. The blurb from the editor, David Pringle, was as follows:

“On page 5 of Interzone 70 we announced a competition for the best short extract from an imaginary novelization of the science-fiction movie Alien as it might have been written by leading British novelist J.G. Ballard. The prize is a copy of the new edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (ed. Clute & Nicholls), kindly provided by publishers Little Brown/Orbit. The response, for what was quite a demanding competition, pleased us: over a dozen good entries were received. The clear winner, however, was Lyle Hopwood, who performed a clever double-twist: she not only reimagined the novelization as having been written by Ballard (rather than Alan Dean Foster), but she reimagined the film itself as having been directed by David Cronenberg (rather than Ridley Scott).”

Thanks to Lyle and David for permission to reproduce it here.

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9 Responses »

  1. Amazing. Made my day… Thanks!

  2. Nice…

    By the way I happened to pick up a copy of the French fashion magazine Purple recently. It reproduces an interview that JGB did with artist Richard Prince in the mid 1960s:


    Prince had been caught in a weird situation where he temporarily had no documentation proving his true citizenship and was bounced from international airport to international airport for a week. You can see why this would have intrigued Ballard.

  3. Shorter Ballard: Beauty and the Beast, in space. Would make a good entry for Wired ‘s “sci-fi in six words” contest…

  4. Alex:
    “Shorter Ballard: Beauty and the Beast, in space.”

  5. that Richard Prince interview……….complete fiction.

  6. appreciated…

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