a) Dreams of Japanese industrial conglomerates
In 1977, Robert Asprin's novel Cold Cash War was released, a satire of business, war and politics that dealt with industrial conglomerates in the future and n this future, The book starts with a conflict between a communications conglomerate and an oil company involved in war simulations. Soon negotiating tactic results in non-military personnel becoming targets. Fake warfare immediately becomes real assassination. Soon there are other players involved as well. A Japanese zaibatsu representing a community of Japanese-based corporations prepares to get involved as well. Information brokers and spies flit around the outskirts of the conflict, trying to figure out what's going on. And most ominous of all - the Communist nations (the "C-Block") sit silently in the background, biding their time as the capitalists kill one another off.
(Click here to read The Cold Cash War)
Since Ron Cobb might well have gone ahead and called the company Leyland-Toyota, but using those names would have invited trouble for the production. He came with a different version of such a name, he changed Leyland to Weylan, basically just changing the first letter and perhaps he wasn't sure about the spelling. Toyota had to be changed, and so Ron Cobb used the surname of his neighbour Yutani instead which still had the Y and the T.
|British Leyland logo|
However 1968 Leyland Motors merged with British Motor Holdings to become the conglomerate British Leyland. At the time, one might wonder what other transformations the company might undergo. Perhaps a company such as Toyota seemed like a good idea.
c) Going ahead with the Egyptian Motif
Ridley got to a point where he wanted to use the Egyptian motif that would be used with Weylan-Yutani logo and soon the words were dropped so that it was the Egyptian motif by itself and the joke got lost unless you looked closely at details such as labels on underwear, stationary and beer cans.
d) Weylan's origins in Lovecraft
However the named Wayland could also be found to be the middle name of Francis Wayland Thurston, a character who is the narrator of the story "Call of The Cthulhu" by HP Lovecraft , an author whose work Dan O'Bannon was very very familiar with. And a Francis Wayland in turn was president of Brown University from 1827 to 1855, a place which HP Lovecraft wished to attend.
|Francis Wayland, president of Brown University, 1827-1855|
- Review of The Cold Cash War: The Cold Cash War (1977) was Robert Asprin's first book. Asprin was later to establish a name for himself with humorous fantasy - the Myth Adventures series probably being his most impressive and longest-running contribution to the genre. However, in 1977, Asprin seemed to have a much more grim look at things.
In The Cold Cash War, corporations are using military operations as a bizarre way of settling contract negotiations. Armies - all wearing special suits and using non-lethal weaponry - muck around in the wilderness (mostly Brazil).
By employing armies of mercenaries to zap one another in this advanced form of lasertag, the corporations resolve their disagreements without having to deal with things like 'courts' or 'laws'.
The book starts with a conflict between a communications conglomerate and an oil company, but its focus quickly expands. A negotiating tactic results in non-military personnel (e.g. 'Jan in Corporate') becoming fair targets. Fake warfare immediately becomes real assassination. It doesn't take long for the government to notice the sudden spate of dead executives, and fake warfare soon becomes dangerously real...
There are other players involved as well. A Japanese zaibatsu - for no discernible reason - is preparing to get involved. Information brokers and spies flit around the outskirts of the conflict, trying to figure out what's going on. And most ominous of all - the Communist nations (the "C-Block") squat silently in the background, biding their time as the capitalists kill one another off.
The story is told through a half-dozen disparate points of view. A corporate negotiator, an information broken, a mercenary commander and even one of the marketing team assigned to 'sell' the war to the public. Although some of these characters are only tangentially related to the story, Asprin does an excellent job of making these (thumbnail sketches of) characters interesting, if rarely empathetic, through the old-fashioned use of cinema-style smack-downs. I'm not sure I ever cared very much about Captain Tidwell, but his ability to punt a knife into a charging samurai is pretty cool, and certainly kept me reading.
The book concludes with a bizarrely improbable resolution that neatly ties everything together while still managing to leave the reader slightly dissatisfied. The first half of The Cold Cash War is far superior - mercenaries blundering around in an adult version of Ender's Game is much more interesting than the vaguely Dystopian preachings of the inevitable corporate-government conflict. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Cold-Cash-Robert-Asprin/dp/0441113826)
- Ron Cobb: One of the things I enjoyed most about ALIEN was its subtle satirical content. Science Fiction films offer golden opportunities to throw in little scraps of information that suggest enormous changes in the world. There's a certain amount of potency in those kinds of remarks. Weylan-Yutani for instance is almost a joke but not quite. I wanted to imply that poor old England is back on its feet and has united with the Japanese, who have taken over the building of spaceships the same way they have now with cars and supertankers. In coming up with a strange company name, I thought of British Leyland and Toyota, but we obviously couldn't use Leyland-Toyota in the film. Changing one letter gave me Weylan, and Yutani was a Japanese neighbour of mine. I also thought it would be fun to develop a log using the W and Y interlocking. We tried a lot of variations and came up with some very industrial looking symbols, which were to be stenciled all over the ship. By that time though Ridley was already set on using the Egyptian wing motif. We tried some combinations, but they didn't really work. Weylan-Yutani now only appears on the beer can, underwear and some stationary, so the joke sort of got lost. (Alien Portfolio)
- John Mollo: Weylan-Yutani was Ron's invention and we all liked the sound of it. The name and the Egyptian wings were hotly pursued at the beginning, but we eventually dropped the words and just used the wings as a logo. (Alien Portfolio)