This was originally going to be a review of the first two episodes of The X-Files’ “reboot”/Season 10/etc., but since so much press has already been given to that, I’m going to take a different approach altogether.
Considering the fact that “x-files” is an old tag on this blog and practically any other blog I’d ever created, I think I can realistically call myself a fan. To be honest, however, The X-Files has made me the person I am today, so I’d like to think that in relation to X-Files, I go far beyond “fan.”
On a Friday in 1993, at age nine, I sat in the living room flipping through the channels while my mother worked in the other room. I knew it was past my bed time, but I figured as long as I stayed quiet and didn’t make too much noise, Mother would let me stay up a bit longer. In my flipping, I came to a “grownup” show where some sort of invisible monster was running through the woods and, when it came upon other people, it would attack them with an intense light and kill them with burns. I was so intrigued by what I was watching that I couldn’t turn the channel and continued watching as these two people, a man and a woman, seemed to be searching for this monster. In the end, one of the people that they were working with, named Max, was found hovering in the middle of a room. There was a blinding light and then he was gone. The man saw the whole thing, but the woman had just missed it and, in the end, they both seemed a little miffed at one another. Overall, I was terrified by what I’d watched and vowed to never watch the Fox channel around 9pm on a Friday ever again. I didn’t know what I’d watched or what had actually gone on, but I knew I didn’t want to see anything like it again. If I’ve learned anything about life it’s that whenever I say never, I’m almost willing it to happen (obligatory: I’m never getting published. I’ll never win the lotto.)
While I can’t succinctly place how and when I became an obsessed fan within the next year, I clearly recall watching what I later learned was a Season 1, and likely first run, episode “Fallen Angel” when I was nine. I do know that I didn’t watch Scully’s Season 2 abduction first run, but I did watch “Firewalker” first run (the first new episode following the abduction series) and I was already obsessed by that point. It’s likely I caught the X-Files “bug” during a set of reruns. I don’t know which episode did it, but by the time I was ten, I was hooked forever on what I’d said I never wanted to watch again.
When I finished watching that first Season 10 episode this past Sunday night, I just sat in pure silence, revelling in the opulence of a moment I hadn’t experienced since high school. I thought about what I’d watched and how much I’d enjoyed it, and with the thought that there was another episode happening the next night, I actually cried happy tears. It’s almost like a religious experience for me. Yep…I’m a big dork, but that’s fine, because X-Files has made me the person I am.
X-Files is why I learned to code:
I love all things tech; from operating systems, to hardware, to programming languages, I love it all. I’ve got dual boots of Windows and Linux on my two “main” PCs and I bought a Macbook Air a few years ago mainly to learn OS X, though my “official” rationale was the need for a light-weight travel laptop. I know the ins and outs of iOS better than most iOS device owners and it’s only out of a strong desire to stop buying things I don’t need that I haven’t bought a cheap Android tablet just so I can learn the OS as well as Apple’s. I also love learning programming languages. I’ve been slowly teaching myself Java and C++, which I don’t find terribly daunting because I’d taught myself HTML and CSS long ago, and why did I teach myself how to code? Because I wanted to create an X-Files website of my own.
As with spoken languages, learning one programming language makes it considerably easier to learn others. Without knowing any programming languages, viewing any code will look like a giant wall of letters, but understanding just a single language can bring a sense to the unknown without a lot of effort. While playing Minecraft, I decided to have a go at creating my own mods and started to tweak the Java code quickly because I’d already had experience reading code. At first-job, I create and edit Excel VBA on various projects often, not because I received a degree or even a certificate in the process of being taught VBA code, but because my experience learning HTML/CSS on my own had already taught me how to generally make sense of any code. Following all of this from beginning to end, no matter how silly it sounds, my love of X-Files has actually helped my career.
X-Files is why I appreciate music of all genres:
The first X-Files movie came out summer of 1998; I saw it opening day and still have my ticket stub. The movie came out on VHS later that year and I made it quite clear to my mother that it didn’t matter if I received nothing else for Christmas that year, all I wanted was the X-Files movie. Of course, I got my beloved film, and still have the original VHS, but after countless watching, I found myself wanting the soundtrack. Previous to this, most of the music my 13-year-old self liked was pop or hip-hop, with a little early 90s R&B sprinkled in for nostalgia. In watching that X-Files movie for the umpteenth time, however, I started to enjoy some of the music I heard in the background. I received the soundtrack later that next year, but was originally disappointed. What I thought I had enjoyed didn’t sound all that great once I heard the full songs that were all a far cry different from the pop music I mostly enjoyed at the time and I eventually dropped the soundtrack into the pile of other music that I would just keep around to say I had a large music collection. The soundtrack still called me from time to time, though and, after repeated plays, I would find something else to like about one more song. Foo Fighters’ “Walking After You” became the most beautiful song I’d ever heard, the lyrics of Bjork’s “Hunter” were so interesting that I wanted to write a song of my own, and Noel Gallagher’s “Teotihuacan” taught me that instrumental music came in forms other than classical and jazz. It was as if a light had clicked. This single album expelled my musical myopia from the simple pop radio stations to anything that was available. I could like any kind of music, not just pop and hip-hop, not just what was at the top of TRL; all music could have value.
I spent a good part of today cleaning the whole house from top to bottom and listened to a playlist while I cleaned. The playlist starts with 90s R&B, goes into contemporary R&B, continues into Korean pop, then Korean R&B, then techno-punk, then rock music, a David Bowie cover, “edgier” rock music, then spliced rap (specifically, it was The Grey Album), and then new-age hip-hop. All these genres flow from one to another and, if I play this in the car with another person, I have to warn them, “I listen to everything” because I’m familiar with the “What the heck is this?” look received when a playlist goes from R&B to K-Pop to techno-punk. What’s best is that today’s playlist isn’t even a wide spread of the music I like, and I recognize that I’d be stuck in one set of stereotypical music for my race and my upbringing if it was not for X-Files.
X-Files is partly why I write:
This may be a slight stretch, but it’s still relevant. Like much of my Oregon Trail generation, I spent a good amount of the late 1990s glued to the Internet, and one of the sites where I spent most of my time was an X-Files fanfiction archive. It’s still around, though I don’t think it’s been updated in several years, but it was through X-Files fanfiction stories that I first started to appreciate characterization and learned how to craft a story.
I think it’s prudent to mention that this site wasn’t like a FanFiction.net, where it’s a huge free-for-all, with neither care nor controls for quality. All the stories had to be reviewed before being added to the archive, so everything I read was written by people who had taken the time to craft a properly written story which, in turn, gave me some insight as to how to tell a story.
Much of the reading I did as a teen came through assigned novels in English class and few of those ever intrigued me enough to think about after I’d finished them. X-Files fanfiction, however, gave me the pleasure of reading stories about characters I cherished and I loved reading how different authors tweaked Mulder and Scully just so much to take their characters into entirely different, yet still plausible directions.
I had written two novels before I went off to college, but neither of them were decent by even high school standards and, in my first few years at school, I nearly abandoned the idea of writing altogether. However, I still read X-Files fanfiction and I still yearned to create. After a good amount of practice trying to emulate what I’d been reading for years, I decided to write my own small X-Files story, and yep, I managed to get it onto the archive ten years ago. From that small story, I decided that I loved the craft too much to give up and I set forth learning how I write a novel, i.e., I started writing Flight.
I’m still unpublished and may never even get there, but I still write because I recognize that it’s part of who I am…and that I love to attribute to my love of X-Files.
Following that second new episode this past Monday, I was invigorated with the need to create. I spent much of the week perusing old projects I hadn’t touched in months because I was filled with the kind of happiness that only a simple television show that saw me from the tail end of my childhood, throughout adolescence, and into my early adulthood could bring. I am the way I am because of a TV show. I suppose it sounds trite or sad or pathetic or inane that I place so much onto a set of fictional stories, but as The X-Files has been my source of comfort through the fright of leaving childhood, the pain of adolescence, and the hapless wandering of my adult years, I discuss it proudly. Everyone has vices and I’m fortunate enough to have had one for the last 20 years that has made me, if not a better person, at least a more interesting one.