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Title: Etched
Author(s): Sean Smith
Date(s): August 1995
Fandom: X-Files/Alien
External Links: online here

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Etched is an X-Files/Alien story by Sean Smith.

It was the winner of a 1995 Spooky Award for Best Carteresque Story.

It was originally posted to

Reactions and Reviews

This one is an oldie but goodie - and very very appropriate right now. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to give away it's secret surprise. Let's just say it is a crossover - and it works even if you aren't familiar with what it is a crossover with (though I would find it hard to believe). "Etched" is a good, long, action-packed piece. Curl up with this one on an afternoon. You won't be sorry. [1]
I'm not a big crossover fan, generally. But XF is in many ways custom-made for crossovers (who hasn't wondered what Mulder would think of all those mysterious disappearances in Sunnydale?), and Sean Smith keeps the focus on Mulder and Scully and his original characters, so a reader may not even realize that this is a crossover. (What it's a crossover with, I leave to the reader to determine *g*.)

"Etched" is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. The prose could use a line-edit, and the overall story could be tightened up, but XF is short on sprawling epic adventures, with gunfights and explosions and last stands. This story keeps you reading past any minor infelicities for the sheer entertainment of it all. It's just so much fun, and the characters are so cute and early-season, long before Scully became brittle and Mulder became disenchanted. The characters are tough and smart, the situation desperate, and the bad guys really frelling creepy...

Set aside some time this weekend for a long entertaining read. [2]
Come back in time with me to 1995... <bad, shimmery curtain-o'-time-travel effect> This was one of the first big XF stories I ever read. It's an adrenalin-fuelled Alien crossover -- more Jim Cameron than Ridley Scott -- set on an oil rig. Way better than any summary could possibly make it sound. [3]
Personally, I could have done without the Scully goes on date melodrama. Honestly, it seemed out of place and kind of silly for Mulder to be pissed off at Scully for not telling him she got some. I can believe he might be jealous; what I can't believe is that he'd ever let her know, let alone confront her about it, let alone do it while they were in the middle of a situation. In fact, I thought the whole Mulder/Scully dynamic seemed off in this story. I wonder if this is another of the infamous rift stories. Anyway, they don't do a great job with the relationship stuff in this kind of movie either, so I'm not surprised. I did find myself fast-forwarding through that mess and just reading the adventure parts, which were, for me, exciting even the second time through. Well, I guess my taste is no longer very mainstream. [4]
I'm no speed-reader, and got through maybe one third of this before I resorted to a sordid spot-check. So I've no right to an opinion. Not that that ever stopped me.

I will say that, opposite to Wendy, I was searching for any trace of relationship interaction and pushing my way through the fighting-aliens scenes. Only to be disappointed. A Mulder that practically bursts into tears at the idea that Scully may be sexing with someone else is a Mulder who might be too much of a wimp even to watch Alien the Movie.

Alien is a great movie, subtly made and scarier than any other I can think of. (It has to do with pacing; all the anticipation is on a continuous, upward trajectory, with no plateaus provided to relieve the tension.) But the very fact that I revere Alien--and Sean Smith obviously also reveres it enough to imitate it--makes me impatient with the giant step backwards that this fic represents. I'm not dwelling on typos or punctuation glitches; we accept, I think, some carelessness in a project of this size and general breathlessness. I just feel strongly that it's pointless to *read* an adventure involving firearms, monsters, pain and death, all delivered at top speed, when we've really already *seen* it.

It's actually kind of boring. And Alien was never boring and never will be.

Not everyone agrees, of course. This kind of military adventure is being written and sells. I just think it's Dead Prose Walking. It's a genre that has been superseded by a new technology, and now that we have film, with a whole new kind of grammar and punctuation, we don't need it.

I respect Sean Smith. He took two things he loved--Alien and The X-Files--and introduced them at great personal effort. I honor this effort as the nostalgia it seems to me to be. [5]


  1. from News for the OBSSEsed #10: December 1997 OBSSE News, Archived version
  2. recced at Crack Van, January 2004
  3. YMMV
  4. wendelah1 at XF Book Club, February 2010
  5. estella c at XF Book Club, February 2010