How Horny X-Files Lovers Created a New Type of Online Fandom

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Title: How Horny X-Files Lovers Created a New Type of Online Fandom
Date(s): May 5, 2015
Medium: online
Fandom: X-Files
External Links: at Gizmodo, Archived version
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How Horny X-Files Lovers Created a New Type of Online Fandom is an article by Kate Knibbs.

It includes some credited fanart by the Theban Band and other uncredited banners and fanworks.

Some Topics


I discovered The X-Files in re-runs as a gangly, easily embarrassed 13-year-old in the late 90s. I found the online fandom soon after. The re-runs were aired out-of-order, and I learned to tell what season it was by the tailoring on Scully’s practical pant suits. Blockbuster only had the first season, so I started digging around, using my mom’s slow CompuServe to make sense of this dense, dank, claustrophobic show. I filled in the plot holes by reading websites., which is still an active forum, sprang into one of the first flourishing fandom hubs. It was followed by a bloom of competing groups and thousands of garish Geocities websites, from the (impeccably named) David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade to the (also impeccably named) Order of the Blessed Saint Scully the Enigmatic. It was one of those lucky moments of convergence where a show that questioned authority and promoted fringe or alternative thinking came out just as the greatest tool for subversion and spreading unconventional ideas became mainstream.

Activity on message boards even ended up directly influencing the show’s course. “I remember one specific instance where I was actually inspired to write an episode based on something I read on a message board,” show producer Frank Spotnitz wrote Bambi Haggins, an academic who has written about X-Files fandom. “I read one comment noting that we hadn’t followed up on the death of Scully’s sister earlier in the year.” Spotnitz wrote the episode “Piper Maru” based on his lurking. Later on, The X-Files named a guest character after a prominent online fan named Leyla Harrison who had died.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously described TV as a collective unconscious, a way to dream in groups, and with The X-Files, the internet provided a portal for a more lucid kind of dreaming, with fans actively helping shape the show, adding layers to the narrative through their analysis and fan fiction. And as the intensity of fan culture helped push The X-Files forward, it also pushed the online community at large forward.

After The X-Files put fan fiction on the map, other groups took it and ran and ran and ran until every fictional pairing you can think of has probably been portrayed engaged in some seriously deviant acts.

Fan fiction is frequently disparaged, and I cannot lie: Much of it is bad. So, so bad. Fifty Shades of Gray started out as fan fiction about Twilight, and that can be forgiven but NEVER forgotten. But no matter its literary merits, fan fiction is an voluminous, fervent manifestation of participatory internet culture. Fans rewrite and reshape their favorite characters, fulfilling wishes and subverting canon and essentially rioting against the limits of the traditional reader-writer divide.

This shit isn’t new — people have been writing unauthorized, derivative fiction for hundreds of years — even the 18th century novel Pamela had fan-penned sequels. (Unrelated: Pamela is the most boring book I’ve ever read!) And Star Trek fans used to print out and circulate fiction based on the show.

The internet didn’t generate a compulsion to create fan art, but it made it so easy to share and find an audience for niche interests that anyone looking for self-published poetry about the Cigarette Smoking Man or romantic YouTube collages could sniff them out. The X-Files was the first show with fans to start sharing en masse.