Remembering Bruce Coville


Readers who grew up in the early-mid ’90s loving monsters and all things macabre often cite R.L. Stine as one of their favorite childhood authors. But even before Mr. Stine cranked out Goosebumps month after month, there was good ol’ Bruce Coville. If that name evokes nostalgic memories of cozy reads from ages ago, you’re not alone. I feel he’s been kind of forgotten over the course of time, so today, on the eve of October, I’d like to cast the spotlight on the author largely responsible for introducing me (and many others) back in the early ’90s to the fascinating world of sci-fi. His all-around strange stories were often times bewitching and mystifying. Without further ado, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at some of his most memorable work.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Almost up there with Lee and Springsteen! Almost :P



Before Covid-19, there was “Coville-89″ (sorry). Bruce Coville had some other work published prior, but I feel it was really My Teacher Is An Alien, published in the summer of 1989, that put Bruce on the map. At the time I was only six, so I was too young to read it. But I remember my brother, two years my senior, reading it in the fall of ’89. Even though the book was clearly beyond my reading level at the time, the cover haunted me for years. Coville wrote 3 sequels, and you couldn’t help but spot them everywhere throughout the early ’90s. They were an absolute hit series with kids before Stine released his first Goosebumps book, Welcome to Dead House, in the summer of ’92.


I ran across these bad boys at a second hand bookstore in 2019 and was greeted by a tidal wave of nostalgia. It was like stepping into a time machine and remembering that warm feeling of entering a classroom only to find the latest Scholastic book order buys waiting for you, sitting pretty on your desk. In some ways, it was like a mini Christmas morning.

For kids of the late '80s, this was an iconic series
For kids of the late ’80s, this was an iconic series


Let’s talk about the art! They had a very distinct sci-fi flair that never left me. If I close my eyes, I can still see them as though they were right in front of my face.


Looks like a dinner date with the Grinch and SpongeBob SquarePants! There was always a fantastical element to the illustrations found in Coville’s books that did well to transport you to a different planet.


They were also a bit creepy! Stuff like this stays with you for a lifetime…


Credit John Pierard for these imaginative and provocative illustrations! Later works would be illustrated by Coville’s wife, Katherine, although Pierard would pop back in here and there. Both did an amazing job accentuating Bruce’s madcap stories.



If it wasn’t already readily apparent that Bruce was obsessed with aliens, the fall of 1993 provided further confirmation with the release of Aliens Ate My Homework. This was a brand new series with new characters. You gotta love the artwork on those covers. Super ’90s! With, dare I say it, a hint of Lisa Frank but for boys.


That age-old excuse “My dog ate my homework” was a huge line in the early ’90s, even though it originated many decades prior. So it was brilliant that Mr. Coville would adopt and modify it to Aliens Ate My Homework. It was an easy and instant gateway to another quadrilogy of zany sci-fi shenanigans.


The artwork really added a lot of life to the books and made them even more fun to read.


I remember some of the illustrations were pretty creepy and gave me the heebie-jeebies!


The most disturbing thing about this picture is probably the adult diaper that the alien is wearing. There was definitely some legit “nightmare fuel” in some of the artwork.


When the pictures weren’t mentally deranged, they took on a delightful and whimsical feel. Very adventurous, indeed.


Looking back on it, the art in Coville’s books was truly amazing. The kind of stuff that any 10 year old kid would eat up.


You can almost hear the crickets chirping the night away. You can almost feel that warm gentle summer breeze lightly brushing the back of your neck.


Bruce Coville’s books always did a great job of capturing that magical mix of blending whimsical adventures with just the right amount of creepiness and heart.



My Teacher Is An Alien wasn’t the only Bruce Coville book to hit stores back in the summer of 1989. The Monster’s Ring kicked off yet another quadrilogy for Mr. Coville. They weren’t as well known as his two aforementioned series, but they were still a blast.


I love the depiction of the old shopkeeper. Decrepit and slightly hunched over, he’s smaller than even the kid. He’s definitely seen a thing or two. Who knows what skeletons are hiding in his closet…


Michael J. Fox and 1985 called — they want Teen Wolf back! :P


Monster of the Year is a standalone, though
Monster of the Year is a standalone, though

The first in the Camp Haunted Hills trilogy, How I Survived My Summer Vacation, was published in the summer of 1988 (a full year before even My Teacher Is An Alien). This was followed by Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters in 1989 and The Dinosaur That Followed Me Home in 1990. Monster of the Year is a standalone, but I had to throw it in there as it’s classic Coville. You could always count on him to conjure up stories of monsters and the macabre.



Beginning in September of 1993, Bruce Coville released the first anthology in a longstanding spooky series that would span 12 volumes. The first was called Bruce Coville’s Book of Monsters: Tales To Give You The Creeps. Coville curated various selections from different authors, ranging from veteran horror writers such as Joe R. Lansdale and Al Sarrantonio to beloved authors Jane Yolen and Jack Prelutsky. Of course, Coville made sure to include 3 of his own stories in this collection of 13 chilling tales. It was a no-brainer day 1 buy for me, and I must have read my well worn copy 50 times over. I haven’t read it in damn close to 30 years, so I’m not sure how well it holds up, but I certainly endeavor to find out one day soon.


It covered everything: monsters, aliens, ghosts, nightmares, magic and spine tinglers. The 12th and final volume, Bruce Coville’s Book of Magic II: More Tales To Cast A Spell On You, was published in the summer of 1997. I fell out of reading by then, and I have only ever read the first books in the Monsters and Aliens edition. So I have a lot of catching up to do! I’m looking forward to it.

So many books, so little time...
So many books, so little time…


I love how the sequel’s cover sees a role reversal. Callbacks and clever changes like such always score high in my book, no pun intended.



I quickly snatched up Bruce Coville’s Book of Aliens: Tales To Warp Your Mind when it came out in February of 1994. The cover art is just so badass. The color scheme, the huge bulky alien creatures, and the look of fear etched on the boy’s face as he knows danger is lurking right behind him… it hits all the feels! The sequel’s cover art — not so much.



Really digging that wavy font on the GHOSTS portion of the title. Also enjoy the feature story of each volume being highlighted in a nice sleek yellow box. They definitely nailed down the aesthetics.



Spine Tinglers, eh? I see we’re starting to run out of ideas but no matter. I’m still a sucker and will always be down for a mutant spider story!



I’m not sure what the difference is between Nightmares and Spine Tinglers, but the more the merrier! That skeleton there does 1980s Zebra horror paperbacks and Ruby Jean Jensen proud.



As if we haven’t jumped the shark already, here comes the Magic editions. These are probably more fantasy-based rather than horror-based, but I had to buy them anyway. Like I said, I’m a sucker.




Like most Coville books, these anthologies had some really neat artwork. Since I read the first volume numerous times as a child, a lot of the images are burned in my mind. Just very spooky, eerie and imaginative illustrations that captivates as well as creep out…

This one left me unsettled as a kid
This one left me unsettled as a kid
Their zombie like nature gave me the willies
Their zombie like nature gave me the willies
Like straight out of a dark disturbing nightmare
Like straight out of a dark disturbing nightmare
"I'll show you the REAL Squid Games..."
“I’ll show you the REAL Squid Games…”



Although R.L. Stine stole much of his thunder, Bruce Coville was always one of my favorite writers when I was growing up in the early-mid ’90s. His writing was a bit more sophisticated than Stine’s. They’re quite different actually, if memory serves me right. Coville cranked out a number of memorable series and books. I haven’t read any of his works in close to 30 years, so I’m not entirely sure how well they hold up today. But his stuff will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s so wonderfully nostalgic and a reminder of a simpler time in my life. My favorite of his is the Book of anthology series. I’ve only read 2 of the 12, so there’s no telling how good (or bad) the other 10 are. But that’s all part of the fun when you get a chance to watch, play, listen to, or in this case read stuff you missed out on back in the day.


Bruce Coville is thankfully still alive as of this writing. In the unlikely chance that Bruce sees this… I just want to say thanks for all the fun and spooky memories. I hope you come out with one last final Book of volume. It would be entry #13. A fitting number, indeed. But I already know what you would say. “Actually, I did write a volume #13 but alas… the aliens ate it.” Touché, Bruce. Touché.

Any anthology with Ray Bradbury is a winner! :)
Any anthology with Ray Bradbury is a winner! :)

Alien³ (SNES)

Pub: LJN | Dev: Probe | May 1993 | 8 MEGS
Pub: LJN | Dev: Probe | May 1993 | 8 MEGS

Movie game adaptations back in the ’90s were hit or miss. Often times seemingly more miss than hit, especially when you saw the infamous dreaded letters of LJN on the box cover. Alien³ has a mixed reputation when it comes to the film. So you factor all these things — somewhat shoddy film with a very shoddy firm such as LJN — and it’s easy to see why some folks had their doubts about how this game adaptation would turn out. Thankfully, Probe handled developing the game and Probe strayed away a little from the film’s stifling creative choices. This included strapping Sigourney Weaver with enough arsenal to start a small war and oh boy, were there aliens galore! Compare this to the film which had only one alien and zero guns. A most fine creative choice by Probe. The box wasn’t lying when it said 3 times the suspense, 3 times the danger, 3 times the terror…


Not one to play "Telephone" with
Not one to play “Telephone” with

The first Alien film, released nearly 38 years ago on May 25, 1979, was a smash success. It was a tense sci-fi thriller starring Sigourney Weaver as the iconic Ripley character. And of course, one badass alien that scared audiences the world over. The sequel, Aliens, hit theatres on July 14, 1986. It scored rave reviews but the franchise would go on to remain dormant for six years. That’s when Alien³ marched into theatres on May 22, 1992. Today actually marks the 25th anniversary of Alien³. It received mixed reviews and is considered by many as the black sheep of the franchise. However, there’s a decent smattering of Alien³ backers who will claim otherwise. It’s one of those “controversial” sequels in a franchise that warrants another viewing if you haven’t sat down to watch it in over 15 years or so. A year later Alien³ was released on the Super Nintendo. Let’s take a closer look…

At the very least the game captures the gritty grimy feel
The game certainly captures the film’s gritty, grimy feel














Nothing like that classic slow Alien fade in effect.













Shiver. That damn facehugger dropping always gets me.







Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, one of the most iconic characters in sci-fi cinematic history, is the sole surviving member. She may wish otherwise…







Alien³ is not your typical side-scrolling platformer, which tends to be the fate of most movie licensed games. It plays more like an interconnected adventure, which is a nice change of pace from your typical hop ‘n bop affair. Throughout each level you’ll find computer terminals. Select a mission, discover your objective(s) and view blueprints. There’s some slight strategy at play here, such as being able to select the missions in an economical fashion where you travel the least amount of distance from mission to mission. Obviously the less ground you cover the greater your chances of survival.







Missions don’t vary too much, which can lead to a spell of repetition now and again. One type of mission is locating and rescuing all the trapped prisoners. Right away you notice the game has this gritty, grimy feel to it. It’s faithful to the movie in that regard, perfectly capturing the bleakness and futility of the maximum security prison. It stands out in a crowd of bright, cartoony looking SNES games for sure!







Ripley’s energy bar is only shown after she incurs damage. I rather liked this as it’s not eating up your HUD space. Although your health bar will occasionally flash once your health drops to 25% or below. It adds to the tension of the game and is a bit reminiscent of Metroid, but less annoying. The smaller aliens inflict little damage but the bigger ones pack a nasty punch.







Speaking of the bigger aliens, I love the way they explode. You can really feel the impact. The screen also seems to shake ever so slightly, just to further play up the gravity of the situation.







Climbing ladders and crawling through the claustrophobic air ducts are two things you can expect to do a lot of. Watch out — those air ducts can quickly fill up with deadly facehuggers and other buggers…







Another mission type is repairing broken electrical boxes.







Creepy shadowy figures watch you from the safety of the sidelines. Use the flamethrower on the eggs when they open up. And beware of falling facehuggers!







Always the little details in a video game that makes me go, “Nice.” Look no further than spotting an item, collecting it and watching it split into several different pieces as it goes into your inventory. I also like the ability to shoot up and kill aliens that may be scurrying high above.







Nothing like taking a flamethrower to those nasty eggs. Also equally satisfying is rescuing all the hostages held captive within the prison.







Ripley’s hand-over-hand technique is brilliantly animated. Finding that tricky final hostage is quite a fist pump worthy moment.













Mission completed? Head back to any given terminal and select the next one. You can choose them in any order you wish, and a blueprint allows you to see exactly where you need to go. It can slow down the action of the game but I do like the touch of strategy that comes with the ability to view a map.







Multiple pipe fractures are compromising your safety, so find them all and seal them up. I like how you see the meter charging from 0 to 100%. Sometimes aliens will come scurrying at you so you must take them out first, and then resume reconstructing the pipes.







Medikits are scattered throughout the game and replenish 30% health. They’re a Godsend when you’re low on health. The game will remind you if your health dips below 25%. There’s nothing like healing up and not having to deal with the annoying low health warning.







Sometimes you need to hang around for a bit. Watch out for the alien’s acid spit!













Roasting the bigger aliens and seeing them explode into tiny pieces is disturbingly satisfying…







Speaking of roasting, the flamethrower is by far my favorite weapon of the three. Just a shame then that it eats up ammo super fast.







Creepy! Alien corridors are exactly that.







Nothing beats an ammo room! You’ll need it too as ammo in this game can dry up fast with the insane amount of aliens that the game throws at you. Probe had mercy and even makes the ammo and various goodies reappear after each successfully cleared mission. Trust me, you will need to restock…







Alien³ can be a pretty tough game. Not impossible by any means, but hard enough to send you to the game over screen a few times. And what a game over screen it is, too…







Scrambled? Sunny side up? Over easy? None of those. I simply prefer my eggs to be alien-free, please. Thank you.







Another type of mission sees you picking up a device in one area only to place it in a control unit in a different area. This back and forth gives it a slight Metroid feel as opposed to an all-out hardcore action affair. And for the most part, this works well.







Sealing certain doors is another type of mission. Notice in the first shot there you are sealing off the door that leads to the ammo supply room. This is where strategy comes into play. I recommend saving this particular mission for last since you will probably need to restock on ammo. Killing all eggs is another mission variant. Watch out for them bloody facehuggers leaping out at you!







Facehuggers should naturally make your skin crawl. They definitely do that in this game. Falling from the ceiling and scurrying about… it really adds to the horror vibe of the game.







Quick, better fix those fuse boxes! But don’t forge ahead if a nasty bugger is quickly heading your way. Pause and dispatch of the threat. You’ll have to start over from scratch charging the bar but thankfully they charge pretty fast.







Grenade launcher will light up your TV screen. Potent sucker!







Hidden goodies are usually lurking about if you explore enough. Once you clear all missions you receive a (funky) password and a time stamp of your adventure. I love games that provide the time it takes to complete a level or mission.







Things get progressively more difficult as you proceed. For example, multiple eggs and xenomorphs call the various hallways home. You’ll be amazed at how fast the ammo flies… and watch out for the changing colors of the aliens. They do grow stronger, like the blue ones…







Missions galore, as usual. I like the little titles they each get too, rather than a generic “Mission #1,” “Mission #2″ and so forth. Take advantage of the blueprint by examining it carefully before accepting and carrying out a mission.







Ooooh, ahhh. A nice change of pace from the more depressing looking visuals of certain other locales.















Sometimes an action shooting game doesn’t need a whole lot of guns. Alien³ only has three, but they work extremely well and each has its pros and cons. Take the pulse rifle, for instance. It can kill aliens from a low angle but it’ll miss aliens crawling up top. That’s when you bust out the flamethrower instead. However, the flamethrower eats up a ton of ammo fast. The third gun, a grenade launcher, does massive damage but is used more sparingly. Three guns may not seem like a lot but in this case it actually works so well that you don’t find yourself wishing there were more weapons. All three guns are also instantly accessible from the very start. Deciding when to use which, or sometimes even not using any of them at all (if you can safely evade the alien hordes that is), is all part of the ever shifting strategy as the game unfolds. There’s a brilliant simplicity to it all.







Roasting aliens never gets old. The flamethrower goes through three upgrades. Red-green-blue. Red is the weakest. Green is medium and blue is extremely potent. You’ll find the different colors accordingly as the game progresses. Of course, the aliens themselves grow stronger too…








Interestingly enough, the beta version is a lot lighter by contrast. The finished product however is much darker. I’m glad Probe went the darker route because it creates a creepy and foreboding atmosphere that is perfect to play on a stormy night with all the lights turned off.








Unfortunately, Alien³ isn’t without its share of flaws. While Ripley can jump a great distance, the jumping can feel a bit floaty. In particular, jumping straight up is awkward. It causes Ripley to leap straight up and then float forward a bit. Don’t ever jump straight up if you can help it. And then there are some instances where you need to make a bit of a “blind jump” and it’s tough to land on a platform. This can lead to unnecessary damage and some frustrating moments.


Passwords are simple and easy
Passwords are simple and easy

There are a total of six levels, each containing six to eight missions per level. Due to the nature of these various missions, each level can last you a decent 45 minutes or so. As such, thank goodness for the password feature. The passwords have these odd words, as opposed to random strung together letters and numbers. For example, one password is MOTORWAY and another is CABINETS. Um, OK? It kind of adds to the weird charm of the whole game though, for sure.


Ah, R.I.P. Bill Paxton
Ah, rest in peace, Bill Paxton

In the 1986 film, Aliens, Bill Paxton had a classic line that simply stated, “GAME OVER, MAN!” Alien³ gives you a Bill Paxton voice over of that same line. Brilliant. It just fits like a glove. Even though they’re different films, it was still nice to see, er, hear.


Which is better: SNES or Genesis Alien³?
Which is better: SNES or Genesis Alien³?

Alien³ is a vastly different game on the Genesis than the SNES. Which one is better? There seems to be an equal amount of fans in each camp. If you’re seeking a more action-oriented rendition then you’d do well to play the Genesis version. But if you’re looking for more of a Metroid style action adventure then check out the SNES version.

The Genesis version came out in 1992
The Genesis version came out in 1992


Alien³ made Nintendo Power's Top 100 at #100
Alien³ made Nintendo Power’s Top 100 at #100

While the film Alien³ flopped with the critics, the Super Nintendo version of Alien³ was by and large considered a success. Often hailed as one of the better movie to video game adaptations of the ’90s, Alien³ was praised for its dark atmosphere, challenging gameplay and an intensely moody soundtrack. The visuals were also heralded as being top of the line in its day. EGM gave this game ratings of 8, 8, 8 and 8. GameFan scored it 95, 90, 89 and 87%. Super Play rated it 84%. It was a hit among critics and players alike. Nintendo Power in their 100th issue ranked their top 100 games. Alien³ cracked the list at exactly #100.



Don’t let that LJN logo on the box fool ya. Probe took their time developing this game and it shows. While the movie itself wasn’t great, anytime the video game is better than the movie that’s a win in my book. The graphics are amazing. They almost seem to have, at times, this photo realistic style to them. The music fits the game’s dark creepy corridors to a tee. It’s moody, intense and helps to craft one hell of a nightmarish atmosphere. There’s a sense of dread and bleakness that seeps throughout Alien³. It’s bloody brilliant.

The action never stops...
The action rarely stops

Aliens come scurrying after you at almost all times. There’s hardly a moment to breathe as just when you think you’ve exterminated the last batch, here comes another wave. However, it’s not to the point where you feel suffocated so much that the game becomes overly difficult and thus no fun. It manages to keep you on your toes at all times yet skillful navigation and strategic conservation of ammo keeps you on the winning side. I love the alien variety, too. Although there may not seem to be that many, the different attacking styles and whatnot keep the game fresh as you adjust combat strategies on the fly. Facehuggers, chestbursters and then three kinds of alien warriors: small, medium and DAMN. The first time you see the big one is one of those moments you never forget. It’s an all out barrage of alien warfare the likes of which is sure to satisfy any action aficionado.

Sweet mother of God...
Sweet mother of God…

Alien³ has its share of flaws, though. The jumping can feel a bit wonky in spots. Ripley also has this annoying control scheme where you press down and she’ll kneel. You have to tap down and shoot. Hold down too long however and you’ll aim down instead of shooting while crouching. I lost way too much health to this than I care to recall. It’s not something you can’t overcome without a little practice but she’s definitely not as easy to control as, say, Mario. It’s not a deal breaker by any means but it’s little things like this that prevent me from giving this game an even higher score. Having said all that, this game is packed with action, intensity, violence and an underrated soundtrack. Killing aliens never felt so good before. You can really feel the “weight” behind the guns and the sound effects are top-notch, right down to the aliens’ screeches and death cries. Alien³ is easily one of the better movie video game adaptations not only on the SNES but of the entire 16-bit era.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Longevity: 6

AwardsOverall: 8.0
Silver Award


Sweet dreams my dear...
Sweet dreams my dear…
Catch Alien: Covenant out in theatres as of this writing!
Catch Alien: Covenant in theatres as of this writing!