Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 12:38:47 -0400From: Tara Leigh Thorne
Okay, so this is my first attempt at fanfic. Be kind. A lot of 'Shippers won't like it, but OH WELL. Feedback appreciated at email@example.com. Flames used to heat my home, situated smack dab in a Canadian winter.
By Tara Thorne
Not even the geek could distract her today.
As Agent Pendrell fell all over himself to open the door for her, Dana Scully strolled through it nonchalantly, forgoing her usual pitiful look normally directed in the infatuated man's direction.
Walking briskly to her car after throwing a quick wave over her shoulder at Pendrell, Scully was actually shaking. It took her awhile to unlock the car door, and once she did got in and sat momentarily, head down on the steering wheel, mind working rapidly.
Muttering a prayer to someone for technology, she recounted the simple, minor event that had caused her growing excitement.
She had returned from lunch that day preparing for the rest of the slow workday. Mulder was out of town, mysterious as usual, and the lack of his presence left the room dark and humourless. As much as he grated on her sanity, Scully silently admitted she missed the big goof.
As she was mulling over this revelation, Scully noticed the envelope icon on her computer terminal was lit up. This was a surprise to her because not many people had her email address and she had just talked to her mother the night before, so...?
Clicking on it curiously, Scully's face changed from confused to awed to ecstatic. The four lines before her would mean little to anyone else, in the fact that they were simple and revealed nothing. But to Dana Scully, they meant the world.
As with much of my now-favourite television, I came to The X-Files late. My best friends in high school and my sister would fight over who got its hooks into me, but I remember sitting in Lindsay’s house on a Friday night in 1995 reluctantly watching “Soft Light,” a throwaway second season ep that was months past the ultimate episode triad of “Duane Barry,” “Ascension” and “3” (the Scully abduction series), three weeks after the circus ep “Humbug” and two before the season finale “Anasazi,” which would have confused me at the time, considering my lack of mythology background.
I’d avoided it for two reasons: I wasn’t into procedurals, especially ones about the paranormal---give me character! Give me monologues about relationships! Give me making out!---and I’d heard it was really fucking scary, and I never had that whole horror-movie predilection teens have.
But something about “Soft Light,” a filler episode about all I can remember without checking the DVD is fire and an explosion, grabbed me and pulled me in. The banter, the tension, wondering how they were going to get from crazy to explained, finding the parallels in the universal and the personal---it worked for me all of a sudden. (Anderson was also the best actress on television until *Gilmore Girls* launched.)
And then, like with much of my now-favourite television, I went nuts. Everything on my Christmas list that year was X-Files-related, easy since the show was on its worldwide sensation climb and merched out the ass. I spent Christmas afternoon watching the killer-bug romp “Darkness Falls”---oh the baby-deer days of early CGI!---and “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” when Deep Throat gets iced and Gillian Anderson cracks out one of her patented early-series reactions, The WTF Wide Eyes.
There were magazine covers on my walls, the soundtrack in my CD players, and---man---the action figures on my shelves.
Around the same time, the internet was just lumbering to life. After a brief flirtation with one of those AOL discs, the best I could convince my parents was to sign up for Chebucto freenet (thanks for the tip, Street Cents!). Twelve dollars a year for text internet. Pictures were marked by . It was a meticulous trial-and-error process just to figure out how to navigate websites, and this was back before *87 could disable your double line and a single phone call could ruin your life.
In my quest to devour anything X-Files, as well as find something fun to do on my stupid white-screen internet, I started joining Usenet groups about spoilers, press coverage, various salary disagreements, what have you. One was a list for fanfiction, where regular schmoes not associated with the show posted stories featuring its characters in situations that they wanted to see. (Often this meant sex; my parents had no idea how much porn was pouring into my inbox every morning. My introduction to the world of slash fic---Mulder and Krycek are tied up in a trunk together why? And they need to do it because why?---was unexpected, scary and confusing. This was years before Queer as Folk, or even Will and Grace.)
Soon I was reading half a dozen stories a day, in the morning before school and the afternoon after. I learned to avoid the “slash” label, at least when adults were wandering around, and wrote emails to the people whose stories I really liked, which oddly were never the ones about Scully and Mulder hooking up, probably because I was on the fence about my Ship status. The fic authors always responded, because writers are a needy bunch, and fanfic writers are the neediest of all---the bulk of them are not professionals of any kind, but fancy themselves talented and merely undiscovered.
I became addicted, especially in between real X-Files episodes. At first I balked at the sheer audacity---who are you people to think that Chris Carter isn’t doing his job? (Oh, would that sentiment fall away soon enough)---but then I reveled in the choice, the freedom, the possibilities and even the naughtiness.
And you know what? I wanted Scully with that hot two-faced rat bastard Alex Krycek. I wrote my first fanfic, “Serious,” in an hour. It was about Scully’s secret relationship with Krycek and Mulder finding out about it. It was overwritten and boring as hell. But the next day, I had half a dozen emails from strangers: Nice job. I want them together too. When are you posting the next part?
I hadn’t thought about next. It’s hard to remember how novel the internet was in the early days, how it could connect you in ways that were thrilling. Those ways are archaic now---I can’t be the only one who longs for them---but back then people still took the time to a) read and b) absorb and deconstruct. And then they put their considered thoughts in an email and sent it to sad, chubby country girls whose only skill was writing. It was a startling, welcome development.
“Serious” stretched into six parts, unnecessarily of course, and involved a Mulder-Krycek punch-up, a chapter from each character’s perspective and Scully’s inevitable death. I always killed Scully, because I knew it would be the worst thing to happen to Mulder, and I fucking hated that prick. So sanctimonious and self-centred, selfish. (The myth of Dana Scully, strong female character, is for another essay.)
My addiction escalated from giving (reading) to taking (writing just for the response). I drifted off in school, scratching out pithy, plotless stories on looseleaf---Mulder acts like a child! What’s that about?---and dashing off the bus to beat my sister to the computer so I could type them up, post them before Another World ended, then revel in the emails that would show up by the time I finished the supper dishes. If someone in the house picked up the phone I would literally cry---it meant I’d lost the entire email, and thus the story, I’d been writing. There was an hour time limit on Chebucto, so other people could have a chance to connect, and it would kick you off automatically, and I couldn’t figure out how to upload a text file, so I had to write live in email, clock ticking. I’d get a warning: and I would speed type, losing valuable seconds to typo fixing (it’s not surprising I ended up an editor), sticking the endings for the sake of posting NOW.
Behind him he heard her stand. "Look Mulder, this wasn't easy for me, okay? I spent days worrying about how to tell you and if I should and how you would react..." she paused.
He took over. Turning to face her, he said, "This is how I am reacting."
He walked calmly over to the filing cabinet, opened it, removed his sister's file and tossed it on the desk. He took out Scully's file and dropped it to the floor in front of the metal structure. He reached behind it and pulled.
The crash was deafening.
Scully could only stare at him.
He eyed her. "This is how I'm reacting."
Mulder proceeded to kick the cabinet, slowly at first, giving himself lots of time in between, but his tempo increased and soon he was going crazy and the dents were multiplying. A staccato beat was ringing out metallically through the basement, alerting a janitor who immediately hopped an elevator.
Mulder was jumping on the thing now, jumping on the back of his life and changing its face with each leap. He leaned over and grasped onto the computer monitor, brightly lit with Scully's latest report.
She could only stare still as he ripped it from the wall. "THIS IS HOW I'M REACTING!" he screamed, and threw the machine against the wall. It hit the "I Want To Believe" poster and ripped it down the centre.
He jumped on the desk, kicking everything off of it, including the keyboard, which he jumped down upon. Scully shuddered as the keys cracked like bones beneath his enraged body. (From Lacuna, Part 3, “The Invitation”)
My fanfic masterwork was called Lacuna. (I wanted a fancy word for “loss.”) In it, Krycek and Scully settle down together and have a child. This was something Mulder couldn’t deal with, and so he tracks them down to their little suburban house---I literally put Scully in the kitchen making dinner at one point, groan---and breaks in. In the rain, natch.
The blatant symbolism and overwrought prose should’ve turned people off, but it didn’t. Buoyed by the response, I stretched Lacuna to 10 parts (unnecessarily of course), culminating in a dew-drenched, blood-tinged standoff on the lawn at sunrise, Scully dead in the grass by Mulder’s hand, the most poignant death I’d ever given her.
The same day I posted part 10, I graduated from high school. I never wrote another X-Files fanfic, maybe because the quality of the show had begun to decline, or maybe because I finally got out of the country and started living. But the flame didn’t burn out completely: last year I wrote a play, Law & Order: Musical Victims Unit, which featured four original songs, a cast of nine, four sold-out nights at the Atlantic Fringe Festival and a one-off performance with a live band. I’m confident that it’s the most elaborate fanfic ever written.
But I haven’t seen the movie yet.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe opens Friday, July 25.