Those who watched The X-Files Movie Special on Fox this week got to see what famous fans like Cher and Melissa Etheridge think of the series, and to hear how famous writers like Stephen King and William Gibson turned their enthusiasm into episodes for the series. Most viewers, of course, aren't offered cameo appearances or the chance to write an episode, but even the big names are in the dark about what's going to happen in the much-anticipated feature film. We know what the pros are expecting: how about the X-Philes?
Well, some fans don't wait around to find out. In a bygone era, fans might have suffered alone in anticipation, or at most managed to find a letterzine with commentary on the season finale of The X-Files and predictions for the movie. Since the advent of the Internet, however, nobody has to sit around waiting for more than a month to explore the ramifications of a cliffhanger like "The End." Fan fiction writers have already offered solutions to the mysteries of Mulder's origins, Scully's implant, the apparent presence of competing alien invaders, Cigarette Smoking Man's plan for world domination...and, of course, how Mulder and Scully really feel about each other. Outside of network regulations and genre expectations, amateur X-Files writers have been telling different, yet parallel, stories all along.
The New York Times described fan fiction as "a new testament to TV's role as a common language in a society becoming both more global and more fragmented" - a particularly interesting description in light of The X- Files' paranoia about the latter development. Professor Henry Jenkins of M.I.T. has written two books on the phenomenon, which has burgeoned since Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, emphasizing the participatory nature of the storytelling and the rebellious, anti-corporate stance of the writers...another theme which jibes nicely with the prevalent suspicion of the series of government and private institutions which attempt to direct or channel people's thoughts.
More X-Files stories exist online than will ever be filmed, written in Harper Prism official novels, or sketched in comic books; there are more than ten thousand stories spread over three major archives on the web. (The largest, The Gossamer Project, has three mirror sites: for most U.S. readers, http://gossamer.interspeed.net/ will probably be easiest to access.) Many of these stories contradict the events of the series and one another, but that's part of the point: sometimes no definitive answer to a question, or a plethora of them, is more fun than conclusive closure.
Sheryl Martin, one of the most recognizable names in X-fic, who has won fan awards and been cited in numerous articles, would like to get some answers in the film to the issues posed by the series. "Even the best mystery novels have to eventually put some of the cards on the table... and I do want to see the end of Samantha," she admits. "I think that the question of Samantha should be answered and the case closed once and for all - we've had two or so appearances and twists on the lost sister over five years, and it's about time that we had the definite word on what happened to her. Which of course then leads to Mulder dealing with the truth, whatever it is."
Martin doesn't mind the ongoing twists in the alien invasion mythology, "as long as there's some consistency - over the past few years there's been some glaring errors in continuity, and it's both jarring and disconcerting when you get the idea that no one at 1013 or Fox is keeping track. A good storyteller weaves new threads in with the old and finishes some off; I'm looking forward to some new scares and conspiracies, as long as eventually it all comes together." She wants to leave the film "with a good taste in [my] mouth, but wanting a lot more...like potato chips."
Rhoni Lake, who manages the massive X-Files Romantics Archive at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/4261/, agrees that Samantha's whereabouts should be revealed once and for all. "It's the most important mystery. It's been the focus of Mulder's search for so long I think it would be interesting to see him shift his focus." However, Lydia Bower, an award-winning fan writer who even has her own fan club among X-Philes, feels that that issue has already become secondary, and it doesn't matter whether the film addresses it or not.
"I'm a huge fan of the mytharc [as the complex scientific and political mythology of the series is called - not to be confused with "MOTW," or "Monster of the Week" stories]. I've always been content to let Chris Carter tell me what he wants me to know, when he wants me to know it, and I'm quite happy being left with unanswerable questions. Unlike some 'philes, I do think he had long-range plans when the series began, and I'm still captivated by his ability to keep me coming back for more - I honestly think I'd be disappointed and begin to lose some of my fascination with the series if he answered too many questions in the film," Bower admits. "I understand that one scene explaining the fate of Samantha was filmed for the movie but later cut because it was found to be too confusing for non-fans. I have to agree with that decision - I think it would be a mistake to try to tackle too much in the film. I'm also of the opinion that Mulder's quest has moved far beyond the question of what happened to his sister, and it's almost a non-issue at this point - at least for me."
Shannon O'Connor, who has written a long and much-praised story offering insights into the mytharc, also doesn't necessarily want to know what happened to Samantha, or Mulder's exact relationship with Cancer Man. "Just for the record, I don't think CSM is or should be Mulder's father, although I think it'd be great if he is Samantha's father...and Agent Spender's, since he's already said that. [But] the movie doesn't have to give any definitive answers," stresses O'Connor. "I don't really want any of the big questions solved; they provide the show's main foundations. Give me bits and pieces, but not the whole picture. The show's success has been built on its ability to raise as many questions as it answers, if not more. I think the movie should follow the same form - a balance of political maneuverings, scientific investigation, action/adventure, a certain 'paranormal bouquet,' and all types of character interaction...or, as a fanfic writer would put it - XTAH UST!"
UST is shorthand for unresolved sexual tension, of which this series has plenty. The overwhelming majority of X Files stories concern the partnership between Mulder and Scully - be it platonic, collegial, romantic, fraternal, passionate, conflicted, or symbolic of different ways of viewing the world as represented by their characters. The stories range from explorations of the intense friendship between the two agents to sizzling erotica about the duo. Some 'shippers specifically do not want to see the couple become intimate, fearing that would diminish the relationship in other ways...but many disagree. Lake - a graphic artist by day, fan writer by night - believes that "it's way past time."
"They trust no one but each other, right? I think at this point the only person who understands what drives them, what goes on in their lives, is each other. I'd like to see more openness between Mulder and Scully - they tend to shut each other out when they most need support," Lake says. "I'd also like to see Mulder lose his 'ditch the partner' syndrome, and I'd like to see Scully actually accept the existence of extraterrestrials. Her 'skeptic' routine has been pushed beyond believability - I don't want her to lose her need for science, or her press for concrete evidence, but so far she's seen too much just in the way of humanoid mutants and undeniable psychic ability for her to keep denying such possibilities. At this point she's gone from skeptic to being in a state of absolute denial. She's starting to look foolish."
"You have to eventually put your cards down on the table," agrees Martin, author of the famed "Dragon" stories - her character Jackie St. George has actually been used by other fan writers, one of the highest compliments to a fanfic author. Martin notes that fans "have picked up on signals sent by the actors and the writers over five seasons of a platonic relationship between Mulder and Scully and have interpreted it to be a long 'courtship,' as David Duchovny commented in one interview - heck, that interpretation didn't come out of the blue, it was intentionally put in the show for a reason and not just to frustrate fans until they quit. Chris Carter must continue through with it, or risk losing a lot of fans who have stuck with him through the five years and the continual teasing."
Martin calls herself a "hopeful romantic," who would like to see a realistic relationship developing between Mulder and Scully. "Over the past five years, the two of them have been drawn to each other in the longest courtship on [television] record - and that's frankly part of the appeal of the series, the courtship dance that we see from week to week in contrast to the prevailing view on television that sex scenes have to be part of a successful series. The X-Files proves that you can have a meaningful loving relationship without even a kiss. The relationship between Mulder and Scully appeals to all of us in the purest form of love that you'll ever see - a true match of minds and souls, if not of bodies...yet."
O'Connor is also quick to point out that most 'shippers don't want to see Mulder and Scully "going at it like wild weasels." But she thinks "it's time for something more to happen between Mulder and Scully, and by the trailers I've seen, something does in the film...I have no idea whether or not they actually kiss, but if the scene of them moving in for a kiss is actually in the finished film, that in and of itself will change the dynamic of their relationship. I don't think Mulder and Scully should just fall into bed together - I do, however, think it's entirely possible and plausible for them to move into a romantic relationship, as long as it remains secondary to their professional relationship and their search for the truth."
Bower echoes the same sentiments. "I honestly don't believe that an acknowledgement of their love for each other - and I can use that term now that Carter has himself - would damage the series. Anyone viewing the events of the past five years already knows these two will do whatever it takes to protect the other from harm. The bond is already there, the stance they've taken speaks louder than any words, but I still want to hear them and I think Mulder and Scully need to hear them, too."
"Having said that, I want to make it clear that I really enjoy the slow, careful courtship we've been seeing," Bower continues. "I have enough faith in Carter and the writing staff to believe they can add the element of a mature, adult romantic relationship between the characters without sacrificing plot or tension. Just think of how much more delicious each small touch or look between them would be if the audience were aware that there was an ongoing physical relationship. I think it's time to move the relationship forward: it's reached the point where many fellow 'shippers have grown tired of Carter's constant teasing. They want some payoff to keep them tuning in each week."
Though there are so-called "casefile fics" which are much like MOTW episodes in their focus on a mystery to solve, overwhelmingly X-Files fan writers seem to focus on relationships...and not just Mulder and Scully. There's a large Scully/Skinner contingent, and quite a healthy Mulder/Krycek following, particularly since Krycek kissed Mulder earlier this season. Writers of the latter types of stories, known as "slash" because of the / mark which separates the names of the involved characters (K/S, an early code for Kirk/Spock from an era when such stories were far more closeted, seems to be the origin), don't really expect to see storylines on a network series which parallel their fiction; many of them were surprised by the kiss in the first place, since overt acknowledgement of homoerotic attraction is still pretty rare on television.
That hasn't stopped them from hoping for an encore in the film, however. "I'd love to see Krycek plant another one on Mulder," laughs a net fan who asks not to be named. "Or to see Mulder plant one on Skinner. I don't think we've gotten any conclusive evidence that Fox is straight, so why not?" Well, it might interfere with Mulder and Skinner's working relationship...but then, all the UST might interfere with Mulder's and Scully's working relationship, too. That's part of the glory of fanfic: it doesn't necessarily matter. Or, if it does, about a million different solutions can be worked out.
"In my view, fan fiction is the ultimate way of merging with the show in a deeper way that just can't be done otherwise - you get to read various takes on the characters, situations and case files that stretch the imagination and yet are all familiar to you since you know the people involved," says Martin. "Some write within the framework of the series, like myself. Some take off into alternative universes and enjoy themselves there. Some move Mulder and Scully into gay lifestyles and create wonderful stories. Everyone writes for their own reason - me, just 'cause I love mind candy."
"I don't like to narrow my options when it comes to fanfic. I think we can have the best of both worlds: creating canon that's separate from what we see each week - i.e., slash, Mulder/Scully romance, alternate universe - as well as fics that stay within the canon created in the series," adds Bower. "I think it's dangerous to hold the position that it has to be one or the other. If one begins to think that way, it has a tendency to stifle creativity - which is the wellspring of any kind of fiction."
The X-Files Reviews