In order to fully appreciate this novel it may not be necessary, but I think it will greatly add to your enjoyment and understanding, if you have seen at least one of the Alien movies, and have played at least one computer shoot-em-up arcade game.
- [p. 7] "The Mighty ScreeWee™ Empire™ is poised to attack Earth!"
A wonderful parody of the way in which the typical computer action game is advertised or described on the box. Terry confirms:
"Let's say I've played Wing Commander and Elite and X-Wing and loads of other games, so writing that first page was easy for me :-)"
- [p. 9] The Hero With A Thousand Extra Lives
A reference to the title of Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, an anthropological work comparing and contrasting Hero myths from different cultures.
- [p. 13] "My dad brought me back 'Alabama Smith and the Jewels of Fate' from the States."
Puns on the movie title Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Alabama and Indiana are both American states.
- [p. 19] "Hey, I really need a computer because that way I can play 'Megasteroids'."
'Asteroids' is the name of a classic early computer game.
- [p. 27] Johnny's nickname for his friend: 'MC Spanner', spoofs our world's pop-rap star 'MC Hammer'. A spanner is a wrench, and also (colloquially) equates as a mild insult, equivalent to the American English 'dork'.
- [p. 40] This is not really an annotation, because I think it is highly improbable that there is an actual link here, but the idea of Terry's 'Cereal Killers' immediately reminded me of the short science fiction stories by Philip K. Dick. Not any particular one, but just the whole idea of something horrible masquerading as something ridiculously innocent appears again and again in Dick's slightly paranoid oeuvre.
The serial/cereal pun itself is of course fairly obvious, and can be found in many other places, from old Infocom adventure games to Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comics.
- [p. 42] "'I saw this film once, right, where there were these computer games and if you were really good the aliens came and got you and you had to fly a spaceship and fight a whole bad alien fleet,' said Bigmac."
Bigmac is describing the 1984 science fiction movie The Last Starfighter here (starring Lance Guest and Robert Preston).
As a movie this was decidedly a so-so experience (you can take my word for it, I have seen it), but it deserves credit for one major achievement: after the box-office disaster of Tron it was the first Hollywood film to make extensive use of computer-generated animation. And since The Last Starfighter was not a commercial failure, it effectively opened the road again for further use of computer graphics in movies.
- [p. 72] "But everyone watched Cobbers."
'Cobber' is an Australian word meaning 'companion' or 'friend'; these days used more as an informal slang label for addressing someone (as in: "Now look here, cobber, ..."). Terry's use of this title reflects the fact that Australian soap operas (such as e.g. Neighbours) are extremely popular in the UK (as in the rest of Europe, I should add). As Terry explained:
"Actually, the scene is probably lost on [non-Brits]; you have to understand that it is almost impossible to turn on a UK TV at any time between 4.30 -- 6pm without hearing the distinctive sound of Australian adolescents locked in confrontation."
- [p. 109] "What's your game name?' 'Sigourney -- you're laughing!'"
Sigourney Weaver is the actress who plays the heroine in all four Alien movies.
- [p. 118] "On Earth, No-one Can Hear You Say 'Um'"
The now famous slogan used in the advertising campaigns for the first Alien movie was: "In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream".
- [p. 133] "'I saw a film where there was an alien crawling around inside a spaceship's air ducts and it could come out wherever it liked,' said Johnny reproachfully. 'Doubtless it had a map,' said the Captain."
The movie Johnny refers to is, of course, Alien.
- [p. 147] "'Is there anything I can do?' [...] 'I don't know,' she said. 'Is there anything you can do?'"
The same dialogue occurs between Ripley and Sergeant Apone in the film Aliens.
- [p. 158] "'You're thinking: He'll be in there somewhere, hiding.'"
In Alien, the alien creature eventually hid itself in the escape capsule Sigourney Weaver tried to get away in at the end.
- [p. 162] "'If we find a cat I'm going to kick it!'"
In Alien, Sigourney goes back into the mother ship because she did not want to leave the cat behind.
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