The Beginner's Guide to Tightrope Walking

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Fanfiction
Title: The Beginner's Guide to Tightrope Walking
Author(s): Kel
Date(s):
Length:
Genre: MSR
Fandom: The X-Files
External Links: online here

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Beginner's Guide to Tightrope Walking is an X-Files story by Kel.

Author's Notes

"Spoilers: Breaks with canon after "Requiem." Seasons 8 and 9 never happened. Mulder and Scully have a son named William, but he wasn't born in a ghost town or adopted by farmers or anything stupid like that.

Summary: "Mulder left the FBI about a year after me, but where I got the gold watch and the pension, he got the royal screw.""

Reactions and Reviews

2008

Kel is one of my favorite authors in The X-Files fandom. She writes superb dialog, her plots are tight, her characterizations are excellent, and her stories are by turns funny and suspenseful.

Making his third appearance in a Kel fic, FBI agent Jerry Luskin may be the best original XF fanfic character I have ever read. In this story he has retired from the FBI, hung out his shingle as a PI, and (gulp) hired Fox Mulder as an investigator. As Jerry will soon find out, you can take Mulder out of the FBI, but you can't take him out of the game.

The story goes AU after Requiem. Seasons 8 and 9 never happened. Mulder and Scully have a son named William, but he wasn't born in a ghost town or adopted by farmers or anything stupid like that. Kel, I love you.

So go, read it, feed the author. [1]
I'd read this fic recently and meant to skim, but ended up savoring every word. It is so proficient on so many levels. Kel really is one of our could-be-pro writers.

The style is very cool and noire, though the writer's famous wit follows her around like a puppy who won't stay home. We expect to laugh and we do, but there's a lot of fear and sadness. I feel the spirit of Raymond Chandler here; Jerry and Mulder are tough guys who crack wise to avoid whining.

This time I appreciated the plot. I mean, how often do we get a mytharc-related casefile the reader has to work to figure out? Usually it's just waiting till they catch the serial killer with gratuitous sex scenes to relieve the monotony. There aren't any sex scenes in TBGTTW, but it's a powerful love story.

Years ago a bunch of fic writers posted "snippets" of stuff they'd never developed into stories. Kel posted one about Mulder and Luskin as PI's. It was pretty funny. I emailed her and begged her to continue, a request she justifiably ignored. Yet here we are.

(This is my way of taking total credit for The Beginner's Guide To Tightrope Walking. Now if only OneMillionandNine would finish that time-travel thing with Mulder and Scully aboard the Starship Enterprise...)

Poor Skinner. [2]
Kel is a terrific writer. Whenever I read something this good, I get inspired to read more of the author's work, and I was not disappointed by hers. Even her early fic, which can found with the rest of her work at Gossamer, is funny and readable.

I LOVE JERRY. Seriously, he is such a great character. He seems so real, too, not just a stock character, even if he is based on that guy from Law and Order. He has a wife who is an optometrist, and a son who acts off-Broadway. And a daughter who is interested in forensic dontolology, although in Jerry's head she's going to be hanging out a shingle. Just like every other American, Jerry remembers where he was when 9/11 happened.

I entered the XF fandom really late in the game, after the show had ended but I have read about the fandom back in the day. Someone wrote, and I wish I could remember who they were so I could credit them, that 9/11 changed everything, that after 9/11, we could no longer view the government as the enemy, because we now had a "real enemy." Another commentator even went so far as to suggest that it wasn't the bad writing that destroyed the show's ratings in the last season, it was terrorism.

Personally, I think we have to go with the bad writing and absence of DD, but I like how Kel acknowledges the passage of time here, the influence of history on our characters, integrating it into the mythology of the series. I love her Mulder, who, under his wise-cracking exterior, is as passionate and driven as ever, far more than the man we got to see in IWTB. This Mulder never gave up, never gave in, and certainly didn't sit at home clipping out newspaper articles for six years.

The way 1013 dropped the ball on that chip in Scully's neck always irked me to no end. It inspired a lot of fanfic writers who were similarly irked. I love how Kel acknowledges the distance that had to have created between them. When your best friend has a microprocessor in her that allows her to be summoned and presumably tracked by the Forces of Evil, and influenced by them in unknown ways, it's got to have a chilling effect-- on intimacy, on work, on everything. But it just never gets dealt with in any meaningful way after season five, not on the show anyway. According to the events of The Red and the Black, you would be led to believe that the most important thing to then skeptical Mulder was that Scully thought she saw a spaceship, not that she was nearly barbecued. Lunacy.

But in Kel's (and my) XF universe, Mulder is worried about the chip. He's been worrying about it ever since she was called the first time. He's still chasing after the aliens, too, in very Mulder-like fashion. Covertly. Intellectually. While hiding his activities from the person he has always been able to trust. It's positively Shakespearean, really.

Kel treats the characters I know and love with respect. Her Mulder and Scully don't behave like addle-pated teenagers, they act like adults. Frankly, I find adult relationships far more appealing, and yes, romantic. I don't miss the gratuitous sex scenes, either.

Skinner's fate is appalling, but realistically handled.

Thank you, Kel. This story is an example of fan fiction writing at its best. [3]
Others have spoken eloquently about the quality of the writing. It is amazingly good. And for me, it's exactly the writing that makes the humour work. I actually stopped and called my brother to read him aloud a couple of sentences.

I mean, even the sad as hell parts have their upbeat touch:

But she did. You know, there's a lot of stuff up there. Nerves, arteries, bones. And the brain is right there too.
"Lucky we found a medical doctor for that part," I said.
"A gynecologist. I wonder if he's planning to take the scenic route."

The fact it featured heavily original characters made expect that I would be jumping ahead a lot (I, uh.. mhh, do that sometimes), but no way! Both Jerry and his wife are fantastical, realistic and plenty entertaining on their own. This part is one of my favourites:

She frowned. "Just how big is this?" she asked.
"Huge, but maybe it's so big that it doesn't matter. Like... like if you're a mouse in the cellar of the Vatican when they elect a new pope. You wouldn't give a damn."
"You wouldn't give a damn about his views on theology," she said. "You'd sure as hell want to know if he liked cats."
One thing I like quite a lot is the subtext/text thing with Jerry's son. I've a thing for gay characters being managed realistically even when they are not, you know, plot points or principal characters, and Jerry's reaction to his son struck me very verisimilar for a guy his age and temperament. [4]

2014

I can't believe how fast the time has gone. For these final days I am going to focus on fanfiction for The X-Files which I consider essential reading. Regardless of whether it's been recced here before, unless it was during the past couple of years, I consider it fair game.

I recced this story myself when it was first posted in 2007, and at het_reccers a few years ago. Both sets of links are broken. It's an old fandom. In any case, this is one of my favorite stories of all time from one of our most accomplished and under-appreciated writers--by the general readership, though not by her fellow authors--the one and only Kel.

Kel has set her tale in a post-Requiem universe where seasons eight and nine never happened. "Mulder and Scully have a son named William, but he wasn't born in a ghost town or adopted by farmers or anything stupid like that." It's told from the POV of her original character Jerry Luskin, making his fourth or fifth appearance in a Kel fic. It has that trademark Kel wit, edge of your seat suspense, smooth prose, terrific characterizations, an irresistible mix of humor and poignancy, and a far more satisfying ending to the series than the stupid one we got from 1013. [5]

2016

The other category of fanfic that I’d like to touch on is “chip fic,” i.e. stories that focus on the computer chip embedded in Scully’s neck. The way 1013 dropped the ball on that plot thread always irked me, but their laziness inspired plenty of fic writers. There is a partial listing at The X-Files Lost and Found FAQ if you decide you want more of the same.

Strangely, my favorite “chip fic” isn’t on the list: “The Beginner’s Guide to Tight-rope Walking” by Kel.

When your best friend has a microprocessor in her that allows her to be summoned (and presumably tracked) by the Forces of Evil, and influenced by them in unknown ways, it’s got to have a chilling effect—on intimacy, on work, on everything. But none of these issues are dealt with by the series, not before, after, or even during “The Red and the Black,” at least not in a meaningful way. But in Kel’s (and my) XF universe, Mulder isworried about the chip. In fact, he’s been obsessing about it ever since Scully was called to Ruskin Dam. He’s still chasing aliens, too, in a very Mulder-like fashion: covertly, hiding his activities from the one person he has always been able to trust. It’s positively Shakespearean, really.

Kel has set her tale in a post-Requiem universe where seasons eight and nine never happened. “Mulder and Scully have a son named William, but he wasn’t born in a ghost town or adopted by farmers or anything stupid like that.” It’s told from the POV of her original character Jerry Luskin, making his fourth or fifth appearance in a Kel fic. It has that trademark Kel wit, edge of your seat suspense, smooth prose, terrific characterizations, an irresistible mix of humor and poignancy, and a far more satisfying ending to the original series than the stupid clip show we got from 1013. [6]

2017

Tonight’s rec makes brilliant use of a unique and empathetic original character, Jerry Luskin, in order to give us a third-party perspective on MSR and a “civilian” perspective on the idea of the looming colonization by an alien race. Kel does a masterful job giving this character both a backstory and a heart. So much so that you come to care about Jerry, and to appreciate his sardonic sense of humor and the shades of gray that make up his moral fiber.

Through Jerry, you get to see a version of Mulder that came back from his abduction haunted, but still very much in love with Scully, valiantly continuing his search for the truth, but this time shifting his focus to Scully’s future, as well as that of their son. If you loved Basketball Therapy, for Kel’s insight into the MSR dynamic and for her ability to transport you by drawing you in to a tightly-woven tale, you’ll definitely adore this little gem.

[7]

References

  1. ^ wendelah1 at xf book club, November 2008
  2. ^ estella c at xf book club, November 2008
  3. ^ wendelah1 at xf book club, November 2008
  4. ^ hlbr at xf book club, November 2008
  5. ^ Crack Van, January 2014
  6. ^ 201 Days of The X-Files, Archived version
  7. ^ X-Files FanFiction Sommeliers, Archived version