Leyla Harrison, the green FBI agent introduced in the last episode we reviewed, was named after a longtime Phile and prolific writer of X-Files fan fiction. Given this, I thought it appropriate to delve into this segment of the fandom.
It may seem a bit outmoded nowadays for fans of genre fare to not be aware of the concept of fan fiction, which is a reflection of how enmeshed these tales are within the fabric of various fandoms. A big part of this has to do with the rise of the Internet, which gave people in disparate geographic locales a chance to meet and connect over their shared interests. I devoted a whole piece to this concept last year; for The X-Files, the spread of the World Wide Web went hand in hand with fans taking to the medium to write tales featuring their favorite characters.
I could go on about the historical origination of this phenomenon, including takes on Sherlock Holmes and the tales of Lewis Carroll, but I know you faithful readers would rather not engage in dry academia. Rather, the modern concept of what you and I consider fan fiction really originated with the pioneering science fiction show Star Trek. Fanzines about the program began to spring up, and many of them included stories about the USS Enterprise crew, penned by the show’s devotees. This was a natural and mutually beneficial combination — fanzines needed content, and the dissemination of these publications gave fan fiction writers an audience for their work, encouraging others who may not have done so otherwise to take up writing fan fiction as well.
The X-Files, as we all know, launched the Fall of 1993, and with it the opportunity for people to plug into a new and burgeoning fandom. By this point, fan fiction was flourishing on newsgroups and primitive bulletin board systems, and the Internet population was about to explode with the advent of the World Wide Web. When I wrote about The X-Files and the Internet, I mentioned how the show was the first television program whose fan base truly took to all the gizmos and gadgets of the Internet. And so the idea of writing stories about Mulder and Scully was a foregone conclusion.
It comes as no surprise, given the chemistry between our heroes over the years, that a huge segment of X-Files fan fiction focused on the possible romantic and even sexual relationship between Mulder and Scully. By the time of Fight the Future and the show’s break into the mainstream, shippers were out in full force, and made their feelings about what the two agents should be doing in their free time clearly known. Fan fiction in the age of the Internet became formally organized, with tags so that fans could easily find works that played to their interests and content ratings to keep younger fans informed of what kind of material they could expect. The ratings came about because the majority of fan fiction either dealt with pairing two characters in a relationship reflective of the canon or with the writer’s imaginings. And so, readers of these stories could expect everything from Mulder and Scully having a relatively chaste date at an ice cream parlor to sordid and prurient tales describing their sexual escapades in graphic detail.
The latter kind of fan fiction is what people who wrote Slash fiction tended to produce. A sub-genre created by Star Trek fans who believed that Kirk and Spock were more than just friends, Slash fiction (as in Kirk/Spock) focused on homosexual encounters between characters, mostly relationships between men. In terms of The X-Files, this meant a raft of stories about the torrid affairs between Mulder and Skinner, Skinner and Krycek, Mulder and Krycek, and pretty much any other pairing that was limited only by the imagination. Scully had her own flings as well, primarily stories about an attraction between her and Monica Reyes. The emergence of Slash fiction has been seen by many as a net benefit for the LGBT community, given how the people who write these stories as well as the audience that reads them get to establish and define their identities as queer. The camaraderie that results from these pieces enables them to engage with a wider world that sometimes treats them as less than what they are.
There are of course other kinds of X-Files fan fiction, many of them dealing with the overarching mythology and plugging their own ideas in as to how the various plots and conspiracies connect to each other. This became quite popular after the show ended, giving fans an opportunity to finish what was started, and to muse on what actually would happen when the alien colonists would initiate their plans to retake the planet and kill off the human race.
The open-ended nature of the fan fiction enterprise has given many people an outlet to hone their writing skills in addition to the usual benefits of expressing their love for a particular fandom. Numerous college courses, academic papers, and online series have devoted themselves to investigating what exactly it is about fan fiction that draws so many people to engaging with it both as writers and readers. It is also interesting to note that the writers of fan fiction are predominantly women, and perhaps the medium gives them a venue they would not have otherwise, given how there is still a long way to go before we can really enter a gender-equal society. And this ties into the show as well, as many fan fiction writers saw in the strength of Scully’s character someone they could look up to and relate with, a role model and a friend, a character they could use to speak about things that matter to them.
And then we have what I consider to be an offshoot of fan fiction, video super-cuts edited together by fans relating their love of the show in a new visual medium. This includes fans waxing romantic about Mulder and Scully, incorporating the many tender moments they have on screen together and setting them to prototypically cheesy love songs. This is a relatively new concept, but even David and Gillian have acknowledged this new form in interviews given since the twentieth anniversary of The X-Files almost two years ago, which sparked the renewed interest that has culminated in the upcoming six-episode miniseries.
Fan fiction has connected fans of The X-Files and celebrated the show that has brought all of us together since that night in 1993. It is at times wacky, serious, cute, cheesy, and erotic — but most of all it is a fun diversion, something that keeps us all believing that the truth is out there…
THE LINKS ARE OUT THERE
The Gossamer Project – Largest archive of X-Files fan fiction on the Internet.