All the Children are Insane

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Fanfiction
Title: All the Children are Insane
Author(s): MustangSally
Date(s): June 18, 1998 (one day before Fight the Future hit theaters)
Length:
Genre: het
Fandom: The X-Files
External Links: first chapter is here

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All the Children are Insane is an X-Files story by MustangSally.

"CONTENT WARNING: NC17 for sex and alcohol, first person present tense narrative and cruelty. Elements of satire. Did I miss anything?"

The title is taken from a line in "The End" by The Doors, which is quoted in the story along with several other lyrics from the song.

Reactions and Reviews

1998

MustangSally jumps in to the post-The End vignette franchise with both pens pumping on "All the Children are Insane." The story may be NC-17, but it is less about sex and more about the crafting of language.

Now, MustangSally has made an art of using a driving, Chandleresque narrative style in her fan fiction. But she's in top form in this vignette. It's tight and full of vivid imagery; I'd call it poetic, but I don't want to people to imagine flowers - instead, I'd say picture poetry a la Quentin Tarantino.

Bottom line, this is an excellent piece to read to sample some extremely well crafted writing and to sample a short work by an accomplished XF fic novelist with a definitive sense of style....BIG style. :)

Let MustangSally know if you read it, folks, and if you like it, check out "Syntax and Measure," "Iolokus," or the "Diamonds and Rust" series of vignettes, all hiding out on Gossamer.

"All the Children are Insane" came over XFF today (Thursday), and will probably show up on ATXC soon. love, lore [1]
Fantastic. Probably the best post-episode XF vig I've ever read. And far more compelling in ways than what we got in the real 'The End. Rarely do I bestir myself to write public feedback, but I wouldn't be able to write enough about this fic. -swikstr (amazed at the wonder of good MSR) [2]

1999

All The Children are Insane - black couch shagfic at its best with splendid characterisation [3]

2011

In The X-Files fandom there are debatably no two authors more closely associated in the minds of fanfic readers than RivkaT, the author of our last fic, and MustangSally, who are indelibly linked by their co-authorship of "Iolokus". Which is why this week we're going to be reading "All the Children Are Insane," perhaps MustangSally's most widely read solo fic. It's a vignette set in the summer after S5, with sex, angst, and the burnt-office base notes of existential crisis. The posting date stamp on "All The Children Are Insane" is June 18th 1998, just one day before Fight the Future hit theaters. To me the writing has always hummed with the captured tension of that summer, the fever pitch of fannish excitement and anxiety. [4]
It's been going on five years since I read Iolokus, but I took to it like an addictive substance. I'm the opposite of you on this one, write_out. I had no problem accepting Iolokus' Scully, but ATCAI's Scully is just not for me. Which is not to say the Iolokus characterizations weren't disturbing, and different from my own idea of Mulder and Scully - they were. But ATCAI Scully doesn't just have differences, I feel like she is fundimentally different than my Scully. I've always found the idea of "character integrity" really interesting. It's what I think of as the thing that determines, for each fanfic reader, whether the character will be essentially within the bounds of character, or outside of those bounds. But because each reader has a different idea of what consitutes character integrity (which is, I believe, closely tied into how we individually perceive integrity in the real world), we end up with dispute, even amongst the most open-minded of readers, as to what is within the bounds of the character, and what isn't. For me, ATCAI Scully lacks character integrity. I can't love this Scully, though she bears the Scully name, and though I would rather love her than be estranged from her. Not so with Iolokus Scully, though her differences from canon Scully are - to my judgment - even greater than ATCAI's Scully. [5]
Oh, I love this story. Love love love it!...I just wanted to drop a quick note to commit to commenting in more depth on this one. I know I've been absent from the past few stories here. [6]
I will say I have a hard time with her Scully voice. I spent the first part of this fic trying to figure out who the character was because, well, it didn't fit my feeling of Scully. I thought maybe it was Skinner or Kryjek, and then I figured it out. I just don't see Scully being so foul-mouthed and hard. It just doesn't fit Scully, to me. [7]
I agree that MustangSally's Scully takes some getting used to. This is a flintier, harsher version that differs quite a bit from Canon!Scully. My theory is that the writer designed her to be what Scully would have been if all her traumas and scary shit that happened to her on the X-Files would have *really* taken its toll - dented her soul in some way. This is a deeply human Scully with all the flaws that comes with this package, not the ersatz Madonna Chris Carter had in mind. This said once you accept this raw, merciless portrayal, you will begin to see that at the core lies something that *is* essentially all Scully. [8]
So after re-reading this...I still like it, but not as much as I first did.

This Scully has a mighty bee in her bonnet - an angry, crude inner voice that swears like a sailor. She's pretty remote from the soft spoken, compassionate woman from the show who only swears in time of crisis.

This is indeed Iolokus Scully's twin on a bad, kick in the balls, day.

But if you accept this OTT portrayal then you can sit back and enjoy the ride. And there's a lot to enjoy in this fic. It is extremely well written and the descriptions sparkle like fireworks, branding images vividly in your head. Mulder feels more or less 'right' to me. The paper bag comment was pretty insensitive, but this is not something I would put past him.

Sometimes it gets a bit much, the metaphors and simile arrive at machine gun pace to the point of ruining the overall effect. Less is more. It feels that sometimes the writer is trying to cram too many things at once, maybe to maintain the sense of urgency, but for the reader this is akin to sensory overload. Of course this could be just me, I like words in the stories I read to have room to breathe and expand to their full potential. I have a similar issue with Penumbra's Parabiosis.

This food is just a a tad too rich for my taste.

And yet, there's a lot to love in this ATCAI. It's so rare to read smut that doesn't make you want to burst out laughing or cringe or roll your eyes. And nobody writes smut as evocativelly as MustangSally (and RivkaT)do IMO. The only thing that didn't work for me was Scully saying "Don't screw around and fuck me" which I SO can't hear coming out of Scully's mouth. Not like this at any rate. [9]
I really feel at a loss here. I don't have a problem with the characterizations. The writing is mostly great, although as you say, it gets a bit over-crowded in places. I love the ending. The sex scene just doesn't do it for me. I simply don't like stories where the plot is for them to get loaded and have drunken sex, so skipping over the sex doesn't work either since that's the plot. Oh well. I did start rereading Iolokus on the plane coming home and thought it was great. Better than I'd remembered, even. I just finished part three.[10]
I had a lot of issues with Scully's characterization in Iolokus (and with Mulder's as well, but not to the same extent). I mean, I love the story but I had to completely separate my version of M&S from theirs. I think as the story went on, I could put aside my initial dislike of Scully for the most part, but it was not an easy read for me. I haven't read it in a long time, so maybe my opinion would be different these days. [11]
Bad for the Fish and Write Out have both referenced the M/S interchange that I consider the most erotic one in our lore. "Nothing, nothing, nothing" indeed. It just occurred to me that this touches the nihilism at the heart of the show. Except for the idealism. Oh, never mind. I'm sure MA never considered that. We are sex scene bound!

Mustang Sally's stories--I also love the lighter and earlier "Diamonds and Rust" and "An Everlasting Kiss"--introduced me to fanfic I really got. I want happy endings but I love bad language and rough sex. And how could we get two overtrained fibbies to that point? Booze. More booze. Everyone off the hook and into the abyss.

For some reason a tough-talking Scully has never bothered me. And this sexual encounter, a matter of lowered inhibitions, comfort, but mainly overdue lust, is perfectly to my taste. I do realize, on the reread, that it's kind of a careless story. It's made up of genius lines ("And the great ship split in half and sank into the North Atlantic") and lines that could have used an editor's smoothing hand ("...her teeth scoring the sides of my throat, my shoulders, and her nails nip into the jumping muscles in my ass"). MA is not waiting for editors. She's bound for the Big O.

I actually think the carelessness is in a kind of keeping with the crazy transgressiveness that marked the work of this writer and her frequent partner. They were the break-outs, the outliers, the ones who insisted and demonstrated that pornography without exciting language was pornography without excitement.

I agree that the exaggerated images bump into each other, and that the humor and the serious shipsex ("The great ship") sometimes argue. It's careless language and careless sex. But it sure as hell worked then, and in my opinion it still works.[12]
I love meta fan-winks.

I love drunkfics.

You are right about the temporary nihilism. And you are not too serious. I am simply far less serious. Which I (and others) must live with.

Incidentally, I seem to have devolved into one of those who don't actually groove on the sex scenes. I prefer the introductory lust. [13]
There is a lot I love about this story, but I'll echo a few complaints first.

The metaphors do get a bit much - the Sherpa line was fine for me actually - it was just the right amount of humor for me. One example of one that did not work for me was "I am shaking like a paint mixer at Home Depot" I think the product placement feel to that line threw me off. :-P

The sex scene is a little silly, but it also doesn't take itself quite so seriously. There are a few tropes, but it also feels fairly tongue in cheek.

Also one of the first few lines threw me on the identity of Scully was: "I feel like I'm back in 'Nam." It reads like they meant to start with Skinner, changed their mind and then never changed the line - it could also be tongue in cheek I suppose, but it was a bit too jarring for me for that.[14]
Methinks this Scully has less "soul" than the Iolokus one. Ah, Hell, I don't know how to word it right. Iolokus Scully was a heartless bitch because she was in pain, and it turned out in the end, she wasn't heartless, just very damaged. She had tons of excuses to be this fucked up, and you could feel her struggle to cling desperately to her own humanity and not spiral down into self destruction.

ATCAI Scully doesn't have Iolokus Scully's horrifying medals on her chest. She hasn't gone through enough fires to justify her being this callous and rude.

And this is what bugs me here. A burnt office is not good enough an excuse to justify SarcasticBitch!Scully.

Scully doesn't have a mean streak in canon. So if you want to give her one, you need to give enough material to the reader to justify such a change of behaviour. Otherwise you'll lose their suspension of disbelief. Iolokus aced this. ATCAI, not so much.

Am I making any sense? [15]
Hold on just a minute, folks. It's not just a burnt-up office she's dealing with here. Let's recap some of shitstorm of season five. Diana Fowley is back, and if you think Mulder's relationship with her is confusing and/or infuriating to the fans, imagine how Scully must be feeling. They've already closed down the X-Files. They're talking about breaking up the partnership and transferring Scully to Bumfuck, Montana. Plus what about the death of Emily?! And finding out all of her ova were extracted?! And nearly getting burnt to a crisp at that bridge because of the chip that was put in her neck to save her from dying of cancer.

I think she's got plenty of reasons to feel cranky, and bitchy isn't much of a stretch either. Plus, isn't she just bitching to herself for the most part? Isn't that allowed or does the complete control have to extend to her inner self as well as her persona? The only line spoken aloud that I could find skimming through this that one could conceivably say was bitchy is this: ""Now." She orders in a tone that makes my legs start to tremble, "Don't screw around - fuck me."

Given the situation, the line seems like what any woman might say to the guy who is about to--fuck her. What should she say? "Make love to me, Fox darling." I'm just sayin'. [16]
I don't think ATCAI Scully is particularly bitchy. And I definitely don't have a problem with her saying "fuck me". I'm not wild about the "don't screw around" part, I think in combination with "fuck me" it's overly gruff, but that's not really the point either. It's her whole inner voice that doesn't sound the least bit like Scully to me. As hazel75 said, she sounds more like Skinner than herself. She's got this inward macho swagger thing going on. [17]
I like a tough Scully, tough if it isn't canon, screw canon, fuck that CC shit (see, it's easy, and my family is full of protestant ministers). After all, she's just thinking all this stuff. No character need be 100% consistent with what was provided on the screen. Fanfic, is seems to me, was created to correct what we saw and were forced to endure.

MOREOVER, if we must deal with text, let's not forget that Scully had a military father and at least one military (and judgmental) brother. Don't we think she's heard a bit of bad language? And can't we imagine that her militaristic upbringing has resulted in more than professional determination and deportment and the ability to cope with paperwork?

People come in layers, like onions. And fic writing is not the same animal as tv screenwriting.

Of course, this may be another case of me not taking a story seriously enough. I think of the burnout and bitterness in ATCAI as an excellent excuse to jump into bed. Moreover, it suddenly occurs to me that Scully's top sergeant command for sex is exactly what's needed to inflame hesitant Mulder, and maybe her inner self is suddenly getting that too. [18]
I can value this story for what it is: an artifact of a particular time in [[Philedom<|XF fandom]]. I like certain lines. I don't think it's badly written, quite the contrary. But as a whole, I admit it does disappoint me. I'd never read it again, that's for certain. Maybe it would have worked better for me if it had had a plot of its own, if it had been part of a larger whole, as opposed to being what it is and what it was clearly intended to be: a short, first-time msr, a drunk-fic post-ep for "The End." Reading your analysis (excellent as always, by the way) reminds me of how off-kilter I am in how I see fic and how non-mainstream my fannish opinions (and my own writing) are as a consequence. It's a comeuppance and probably one I deserve.... Reading your analysis made me realize that there were things here to notice and comment on but I refused to look at the story more carefully because the genre made me feel irritable and impatient. I wasn't fair to the writer. Here's the problem: I'm not sure I can be.

This train of thought started with a fifteen chapter Sherlock story, oddly enough, which I gave up on about half-way through, having realized that it was never going to stop being what it was: a well-written story that was about three characters having sex, over and over and over again, in many different positions and combinations, with and without sex toys, etc. It was more than that, of course, there were feelings, too. Character arc. Whatever.

I know I went into the story hoping for a plot that wasn't just about the sex and the ship and the feelings. This is not what most fanfic readers do. And it's not that I think there is anything wrong with liking to read about sex. I like to read erotica too sometimes, but I think a little goes a long way for me.

My kink is plot. It really is. I want people to write fic that makes make my brain work hard to try to figure things out. Most people in fandom simply do not care about this at all so I need shut up, get over myself and move on. Or write the stories I crave myself. It's my problem not theirs. Or yours. There is nothing wrong with me either--probably. I'm just wired differently or something.

I might have liked this story a lot better if I had read it when it was first posted, too. [19]
Well, for the most part I think you're in the right fandom, then. Sure, a large chunk of XF fanfic is PWP, or total fluff, or something that just barely clears the PWP bar, but in comparison with what I've seen of other fandoms (especially newer fandoms), XF is the fandom to turn to for plotty, intelligent, substantial fanfic.

And no, I don't think there's anything wrong with liking, or even needing a fic to have plot in order for it to be enjoyable. That is, for the most part, true of me too. I may have a somewhat higher tolerance for PWP than you do, and I'm also someone who loves beautiful, poetic language, so there are fics that you may consider insubstantial than I consider exquisite and poignant. But I can probably count on my fingers the number of PWPs or pieces of total fluff that I really like.

I have a strange inclination to be magnanimous towards ATCAI, and I'm not sure why. I really dislike Scully's characterization, I don't really buy that they would be doing any of this in the first place, and every time the sex scene starts to get to me, it goes and turns me right off again two sentences later. Yet somehow I want to speak well of the fic. Because it was written by MustangSally? Because it was posted the day before FTF? Because one of my favorite fic writers loved it back in the day? *shrugs* I don't know why.

I think it's just the raw idea of them being left reeling that I gravitate towards. I want a fic that spans the entire summer, I want two or three feverish months of this "falling down the mountainside" feeling. I can't entirely explain it, but for me there's an eroticism in that alone, without having to even bring smut into it. It's careless of me, in a way, to have such an appetite for their distress, but it's that honesty, that humanity in the storytelling that I'm hungry for. [20]
I also like the idea of what's going on here - that they've gone out to some random bar to get horribly, blind drunk because their circumstances are just that bad. At this moment there's nothing for them to hold themselves responsible for, there's nothing for them to be noble and virtuous (in the classic, 'thou shalt not' sense of the word) - self-controlled and self-denying - for. And then they fuck each other, essentially for the same reason. The fact that I don't think canon Mulder and Scully would do this actually makes me more intrigued with the idea of it. On the show, we jumped right from the burnt office to FTF, and in classic Chris Carter fashion, any and all emotional reactions that Mulder and Scully had to the destruction of their office - which by that point was basically their raison d'etre - were carelessly side stepped. We all saw and felt the devastation in the last scene of The End, but that was as far as it went. ATCAI really drives home the reality of what's just happened and the enormous effect it has on Mulder and Scully.

I've always considered The X-Files a show with three essential elements - Mulder, Scully, and The Work - each of which being of equal importance. The season finale for S5 was the first (and only) season to destroy one of those elements. Yes, Mulder had seemed to be dead at the end of S2, and at the end of S4, but most people knew rationally that he wasn't really gone. The End destroyed The Work in a permanent way. There was real and monumental loss, which is how it should have been portrayed, for more than just thirty seconds at the end of S5.

Ultimately it's that feeling of existential crisis, shock and haplessness and the suppressed violence of their desperation, that I value in this fic. And the fact that it was written that summer, before FTF, is very important to my enjoyment of the fic. It's a piece of X-Fileana, something penned at a precise moment in x-files history, when the past and the future had both been razed to the ground, and once again nothing was certain, everything was forced into transition, and anything was possible.[21]
[comment by the author, MustangSally]: OUCH!

wendelah1 messaged me that you guys were talking about All the Children are Insane and I lurked by last night to see what was going on and I feel suitably embarrassed. It's like looking at my junior high photographs and trying to figure out *why* I thought polyester disco was a good look for me!

In retrospect, AfCaI seems *so* purple and for that I am heartily sorry! I wish I could plead that I was young when I wrote it - but I was about 31 when I wrote it. I might have been drunk, I wrote a lot of fic when I was drunk back in the day, but I don't recall being shitfaced when I wrote that one. I was often crocked when I was working on Iolokus! What I did intend was a very rough and angry Scully*. I never could understand how serene she could be while all these horrible things were happening to her and around her. I know I would have been seethingly angry the whole time. I did intend it to be sordid and ugly - my initial image was sex on the sofa with one foot dragging on the floor and it just being ugly and sordid.

Both Rivka and I set out to intentionally subvert many of the tropes that were endemic in the fandom at the time - saintly Scully, damaged Mulder (anorexic, cutting, masochistic, whatever) e - and the drunken sex being another. Drunken sex was right up there with the shared hotel room.

Seriously, I think I wrote AtCaI over a day or two without a serious beta and it was never structurally sound enough to handle this much examination! It was all about exciting and enraging people and it was fun to write and fun to put the cat among the pigeons as the case may be!

Strangely enough, I saw someone mention Sherlock in the comments and that made me laugh - I'd been playing with an idea of writing a girl!Watson fic and realized that it was just the XFiles and I'd done that already.

But thank all of you for still giving a shit about something that was written so long ago with so little thought. I'm feeling the love here! *and the swearing like a sailor part was my Mary Sue talking! [22]
We love you, Mustang Sally, we really love you! Speaking for myself and my multiple personalities, of course.

I know you're Jersey and I used to be Philly and it was a secret sorrow that I never got to drink with you. Higher praise doesn't exist.

Never apologize. [23]
Our fandom wouldn't be the phenomenal thing it is if it weren't for fanfic writers and all their many different visions of the text, and fics like ATCAI were and continue to be excellent, stand-out contributions to the larger whole.

If anything, your fic is in a tough spot with us, because your writing in ATCAI - however rushed - is ultimately solid enough that we deem it worth discussing in depth, but perhaps flawed enough that it makes our task of picking the fic apart particularly fun.

my initial image was sex on the sofa with one foot dragging on the floor and it just being ugly and sordid.

That was a very stand-out image in the fic. I love the thought that it's the kernel the fic began from.

It's also really interesting that you say you'd imagine the fic being ugly and sordid. I think that actually helps my reading a little - gives me license to embrace my feeling that "this is kind of icky." I think a big part of my problem with the fic was that I could never get a sense of how I was meant to feel about it. The writing is an intermingling of hot and beautiful, sordid and ugly. For me the balance between the two qualities doesn't sit well. I feel like there needs to be more of one or the other. But the next best thing is knowing that the sordidness was not only intentional, but a focus of the writer. As someone who is kind of hung up on authorial intent, it helps me het an angle on the fic.

Anyway, thanks for talking with us. Having the author of our current fic show up is basically the ultimate cherry on top of any discussion. [24]

2016

Hope you had a great week, Philes. Since you’ve been good, you deserve to be a little bit sinful, especially today. @mustangsally78 is an author you should all be familiar with, and while most of her more popular fics are generally co-written, today’s rec is a solo fic that happens to be one of our favorites. It’s also a post-ep for The End, and let’s face it…if Mulder and Scully were facing reassignment after the destruction of the X-Files, there’s a solid chance the events of this vignette would have actually happened. [25]

References

  1. comment by lore at alt.tv.x-files.creative, June 19, 1998
  2. comment by swikstr at alt.tv.x-files.creative, June 19, 1998
  3. comment at Stories you never get tired of, post to alt.tv.x-files.creative, August 1999
  4. wendelah1 at XF Book Club, October 2011
  5. amyhit at XF Book Club, October 2011
  6. write out at XF Book Club, October 2011
  7. hazel75 at XF Book Club, October 2011
  8. badforthefish at XF Book Club, October 2011
  9. badforthefish at XF Book Club, October 2011
  10. wendelah1 at XF Book Club, October 2011
  11. write out at XF Book Club, October 2011
  12. estella c at XF Book Club, October 2011
  13. estella c at XF Book Club, October 2011
  14. maria 37 ann at Book Club, October 2011
  15. badforthefish at XF Book Club, October 2011
  16. wendelah1 at XF Book Club, October 2011
  17. amyhit at XF Book Club, October 2011
  18. estella c at XF Book Club, October 2011
  19. wendelah1 at XF Book Club, October 2011
  20. amyhit at XF Book Club, October 2011
  21. amyhit at XF Book Club, October 2011
  22. MustangSally at XF Book Club, October 2011
  23. estella c at XF Book Club, October 2011
  24. amyhit at XF Book Club, October 2011
  25. X-Files FanFiction Sommeliers, Archived version