Sunday, September 10, 2023

Thirty Years On

Mulder: Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted.

Scully: Agent Mulder? I'm Dana Scully. I've been assigned to work with you.

Mulder: Oh, isn't it nice to be suddenly so highly regarded. So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?

Scully: Actually, I'm looking forward to working with you. I've heard a lot about you.

Mulder: Oh, really? I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me.

While this wasn't the opening scene of this relatively unheralded television show released on Friday September 10, 1993 on a network (Fox) that still wasn't in every American media market by that year, this is the scene where all of the X-Files fandom hangs its hopes, dreams, follies, and fanfic.

I think I've written about the show's modest beginnings, how I got hooked as a fan halfway through the first season, and how by Season Five I was an unabashed 'Shipper who began posting humorous "Shipper Surveys" on the ever-important Usenet feed that tied the fandom together.

The show came at a time when the cultural touchstones in America were changing.  Generation X - which grew up in the shadows of JFK and Watergate and waves of political and financial scandals - bought into the jaded message that people in power were covering up everything, but also bought into the optimism that there were heroes even within those halls of power trying to bring us The Truth (which was, as the tagline said, Out There)...

This can't be overstated.  There had been other shows that gained fanbases around 'Shipping - Moonlighting was the prime example before the X-Files, and Star Trek itself had a version (but called Slash, which remained a low-key part of that series' cult fandom) - but with this show it became part of the show's broad appeal.  Fans tuned in to watch the Unresolved Sexual Tension - another phrase this show originated - between Mulder and Scully that played off archetypal narrative tropes usually seen in medieval Courtly Love stories...

In a lot of ways, the X-Files remains a cultural milestone of the Nineties decade, much as Miami Vice was for the Eighties...

When you think of the 1990s, what are the first things you associate to that era? Nirvana and Grunge music, flannel fashions, a barely hidden sense of cynicism, the spread of CGI blockbuster special effects, and the paranormal paranoia of that Big Ole X Show.

In all the time since the show ended by 2002, there's been numerous successors - Supernatural in particular could be considered a sibling or first cousin considering the number of production personnel from this show that worked there - but none of them had the particular cultural impact on a decade the way The X-Files did. Where Dana Scully's influence was clearly Jodie Foster's Agent Starling from the Silence of the Lambs, every investigatory female agent (or science expert) since the 1990s can arguably trace their heritage to Scully. Mulder's obsessive quests for The Truth - whatever that may be - set the tone for fantasy/conspiracy thrillers across literature and visual formats.

The X-Files also helped shift the nature of television series by opening up a successful plotline - the mystery of who(what) abducted Mulder's sister - while giving itself room to explore non-mythos one-shot stories hunting Monsters of the Week. As Cindy White notes over at AV Club:

To appreciate where The X-Files ended up, we need to go back to the start. When the show began on September 10, 1993, the TV landscape looked a lot different than it does today, and we’re not just talking about the outdated fashions and clunky technology. There were no streaming services, cable wasn’t a threat to the big broadcast networks, and Fox had only just expanded to seven nights of programming per week. Primetime shows tended to follow either a serialized format (nighttime soaps and melodramas) or an episodic one (mainly sitcoms and procedurals). Plot-lines were either self-contained and resolved in a single episode or they continued on from week to week. But when The X-Files came along, it refused to limit itself to one or the other. Creator Chris Carter set out to prove that a series could do both things equally well. And he did—for a while.

Carter wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea of a show that could be both serialized and episodic, but he popularized the model that a new generation of showrunners would eventually adopt. Now we’ve become used to season-long continuity arcs broken up by one-off episodes with little or no connection to the larger story, especially in genre shows and franchises like the Whedonverse and the Arrowverse...

It was a tricky balancing act that had to be constantly calibrated. The paranormal cases had to be solved, or at least resolved, within a single episode, and they had to have an interesting hook. Otherwise, they could feel like filler and risk the audience losing interest before the next major development brought the alien conspiracy back to the forefront...

You could sit down and still enjoy any of these tonight without having seen a single minute of The X-Files. The MOTW episodes were never the problem. It was the convoluted mythology that eventually disrupted the balance and wound up turning viewers off...

Whatever happened with The X-Files in its later seasons, its influence on everything that came after can’t be denied. Before it got weighed down with too much plot, it perfected the cocktail that so many other shows now regularly serve up. If The X-Files hadn’t become a surprise hit we might not have gotten hybrid series like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Lost, Fringe, Supernatural, or even Breaking Bad (from X-Files alum Vince Gilligan). Like the urban myths that inspired many of its episodes, the show has become a part of pop-culture lore.

The current media landscape - where streaming services now dominate what gets created, and the 1000 channels out there struggling for content are forced to find something that can hook an audience for an entire season - pretty much requires working from an X-Files blueprint: Set up a mystery to solve, but leave room for the characters to run side missions that won't affect the main story while giving them development and fan-friendly quirks. 

Many shows can't pull that off, and eventually even the ur-example itself collapsed under that weight.

But 30 years ago, we had two FBI agents meet cute in a basement, and everything just grew from there.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

From the Past: The X-Files Incredibly Short Fic Archive!

Oh my God. Here's a blast from the past.

For a brief period, I would write incredibly short fanfiction for the X-Files in-between the 'Shipper Surveys and larger fanfic projects. I went and created a dedicated webpage for it on a Tripod provider site... and then promptly forgot my login and password to manage the pages! (it may be an old 'rogue_librarian' account name I used before switching to my current Witty Librarian persona)

After remembering and then forgetting where I had the site - and then prodded today by a writing critique group I'm with about short fiction - I finally took the time to Google Search for it until I FINALLY FOUND THE SITE. 

It was done on an old Dreamweaver HTML editor,
with CorelDraw for the banner designs!

And this time I'm not forgetting it, I'm adding links to it here.

I should have the original HTML pages on file somewhere, so I may one day transfer the stuff directly here, but in the meantime, here's a link to the past my fellow X-Philes!

I need to warn you, the Email link is to an old Lycos email account I cannot recover.

Also a call out to the likes of Cheezstk, JazzieBee, and Spider Angel. Their short fics are archived here as well!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


I've let things go on this blog, mostly because real life keeps getting in the way of things and partly because the revival series left a bad taste in my mouth.

I can't guarantee when I'll get back on here to post more of the Senseless 'Shipper Surveys I did back in the days of high adventure, but I hope everyone else is doing okay and finding their own means of enjoying one of the best shows of the 1990s.

I'll tweet out if I add anything here.

Take care.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Another Anniversary of Checking Into This Blog 2020 Edition

Okay, so it's been another year since the last time I said anything on this blog.

I should point out in my defense that Real Life can be a time-consuming monster of the week every week.

And with other things about to happen to me - ouch ouch ouch - there are few guarantees that I may be back any time soon.

All I can do right now is a request to you: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T VOTE trump IN 2020!

I hope to be back to check on whether you did. (grrrrrrrrrrrrr)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

At Some Point I Will Find Time To Do Some Shipping Surveys 2019 Edition

Having kinda been bummed out by the last season's miscues, I'd gotten into a bit of a funk keeping up with this blog.

I'm also seriously focused on fiction writing projects that take precedent.

So, yes this is an excuse to procrastinate, but I will get something blogged here sooner or later. Something 'Shippy and happy and shiny and...

Fine. Whatever.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Looking Back At Season Eleven: Regrets, I've Had a Few...

Looking back on all that Season Eleven had wrought:

1) Still not enough Darin Morgan.

2) The shift of the Mytharc away from "OMG Aliens are here and taking us over with clones and cyborgs!" to "OMG William is a whiny emo why are we even trying to save him?" has gotta hurt.

3) I've been following Lucas the Spider instead.

4) Actually I've just found this one YouTuber doing X-Files reviews and she's kinda about on the same page as I am with the whole "William is a whiny emo" thing:

5) If there is going to be a Season Twelve, Chris Carter needs to give up on bullsh-tting his way out of the corner he's painted himself into, go back to the points where he started screwing up the alien invasion Mytharc stuff, and fix the plot holes he still hasn't gotten around to resolving so we can get up to date on this stuff and bring back some sense of global menace that made the X-Files an unnerving show to watch.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

As Far As the William Arc Is Going This Season

I'm honestly underwhelmed.

The introduction of teenaged William as an illusion-casting self-healing Mutant was slightly unexpected in the middle of what started out as a Monster of the Week (Ghouli), and it seemed part of a disjointed plot to bring some cohesion to a muddled MythArc that had spiraled out of control.

There was a lot of plot ideas thrown at the screen in a 60-minute episode - which begged whether this should have been one of the epic two-parters that informed the MythArc episodes from Season Two forward - and because of that I felt the character development for William went nowhere. He was not given enough time on-screen to show depth.

Although if Smoking Man is his biological father, he's taking after his old man by double-dating and two-timing multiple girls at one time.

Damn that biological urge to breed.