Tikkun Olam

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Title: Tikkun Olam
Author(s): MustangSally and RivkaT
Date(s): 1997
Length: 84,026 words
Genre: het
Fandom: The X-Files
External Links: at AO3; RivkaT: Welcome to My Humble Abode

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Tikkun Olam is an X-Files story by MustangSally and RivkaT.

It was originally posted to alt.tv.x-files.creative in 25 parts. It is now on Archive of Our Own.

The Authors' Introduction at AO3

"I can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and I can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and I can do you all three concurrent or consecutive, but I can't do you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory -- they're all blood, you see."

In other words, this is the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern one.

Summary: "Deaths and disclosures, universal and particular, denouements both unexpected and inexorable, transvestite melodrama on all levels including the suggestive. We transport you into a world of intrigue and illusion ... clowns, if you like, murderers -- we can do you ghosts and battles, on the skirmish level, heroes, villains, tormented lovers -- set pieces in the poetic vein; we can do you rapiers or rape or both, by all means, faithless wives and ravished virgins -- flagrante delicto at a price, but that comes under realism for which there are special terms."

Ah, our poor unloved baby. I still like it, though.

Take the rating and warnings seriously. (Guildenstern: Is that what people want? Player: It's what we do.)"

Missed Being on the Spooky Award Ballot

Due to timing mishaps, this story was not on the Spooky Award ballot in 1998.

A fan explained: "As you probably read, MustangSally and Rivka T did *not* ask us to remove their stories (which would explain why Syadiloh 3: Y2K is listed and nominated for everything under the sun:) This means that Tikkun Olam was simply missed while stories were being pulled for the eligibility list. However, since we were not contacted about this before the cut off date, the story is still ineligible. I'm sorry, but we did post that authors should check the eligibility list for well over a month before closing it, and all responsibility was placed on them to verify that their eligible stories were listed." [1]

Reactions and Reviews


  • "I worship Iolokus but hated Tikkum Olam because it lacked soul." [2]


  • "Does team work counts [as the best X-Files author ever]? If so, I'll also go without hesitation for the MustangSally/ Rivka T duo of infamous Iolokus fame. IMO, these two fly way above the rest of fanficdom as far as style, originality, understanding of human nature and unforgiving characterization are concerned (as long as we forget what I have become acustomed to refer as 'The Unfortunate Tikkum Olam Incident')." [3]
  • "I only remember because it traumitized me so.....Are you sure you want to read it again?" [4]


  • "It blew me away when I first read it (lord, must have been two, three years ago) and it was the first (and one of the only--I'm bad about that) pieces of fiction I ever sent feedback for." [5]


  • "Tikkun Olam has the distinction of being the single most fucked up piece of long fanfiction I've ever read, and I remember kind of loving it - for that, as well as for a number of other, more meritorious reasons." [6]

1998 Discussion at alt.tv.x-files.creative

The below is from a discussion at 1998 discussion at alt.tv.x-files.creative. [7]

This is a disappointing effort from a pair of talented writers. What began as an intriguing story about jumping through universes became nothing but an exercise in what ways and what characters they could throw in bed together for violent sex. A terrific premise degenerated into an ordinary sex story with each character trying to outdo the depravity of the other. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional smut story, but I was expecting a real story from the authors of "Iolokus," not a PWP which is what it became.
Teddi Litman:
Well, I must disagree. I've read naughty S&M... basic smut in other words. This wasn't it. I think the problem is we overuse the word smut. As I see it SMUT is where sex...particularly non-romantic sex is presented just for it's

potential basic sexual turn on and nothing else. I've read pretty violent stories that I must admit found sexually arousing in a forbidden fruit, total fantasy sort of way. There is something about these types of stories that make the violence a fantasy story, less real and then therefore arousing. It's not the sort of thing most people would want to participate in real life, but can

engage in the fantasy of a SMUT story and still be aroused. This story wasn't a SMUT story for several reasons. The first reason being was the violent sexual encounters were not in any way arousing. I firmly believe they weren't meant to be. They were just too brutally realistic. They were *meant* to be destructive and disturbing. They were unsettling and downright SCARY to read. As the universe in this story degraded, the sexual encounters became increasingly more and more disturbing ... which incidentally is another reason this is not a SMUT story: there were specific reasons beyond simply presenting a lurid scene. The sexual encounters were presented as a clear indication of a rapidly degrading world. It was quite effective. Actually, I think the very fact you were so disturbed by these scenes to publicly pan this story because of them is only evidence of their effectiveness.
Loligo Opalescens:
Even if taken in this light, I found the sex scenes to be problematic. Toward the end of the story, I found myself thinking "blah blah blah -- just f**k and get on with it", and then skimming to the end of the scene to start reading again. I never thought I'd see the day that I'd feel like skipping chunks of anything written by these two alarmingly talented authors. This suggests that, for me, these scenes were not fulfilling whatever purpose they were supposed to fill, be that titillation, character development, symbolism, whatever. Unless, of course, their intended purpose was to bore me. I think it might boil down to an issue of pacing. Outside of the sex scenes, there were many indications that the pace of the story was supposed to be speeding up in the last third of the work, but as soon as the reader (well, me, anyway) would get some momentum and excitement built up, one of the sex scenes would appear and it was like someone threw the parking brake. But maybe the authors were specifically going for that sort of jerky pacing effect... who knows?
Laurie Haynes:
I agree with you, Loligo. All the sex was really just getting tiresome and the story didn't seem to be progressing, but bogged down as the authors APPEARED to become obsessed with the weird sex scenes. The plot disappeared and became nothing but the sex. Disturbed is not how I would describe what I myself was feeling -- not much fazes me. It's more of a case of yearning for the story and wondering where it disappeared to. I'm a great fan of these two authors, but this one kind of got away from them, I think.
For what it's worth, I agree with Teddi. I didn't think the story got away from them. I thought the increasing chaos was deliberate. The story seemed to be tornado-shaped to me (Okay, I know that sounds weird to see stories as shaped like anything--cut me some slack) and the eye of the storm was this line right here: >You don't get to choose who you love. The only thing you can choose is how. Each variation in the story seemed to get a little bit farther away from this line. Each iteration, including the smut, became a little less--excuse an old-fashioned word--moral, by which I mean that the characters cared less and less about what other people, including their loved ones, felt. As they moved farther away from themselves, the sex was definitely a reflection of that increasing dislocation. IMO, the sex was the story. The consideration a person shows towards their sexual partner is one important "how" you love them. The end restored balance and equilibrium, and that kind of bizarre gratitude that tornado survivors always seem to express on TV: "Well, we lost everything, but we're going to rebuild right here in Tornado Alley." Actually, it reminds me a lot of The Book of Job. Or It's a Wonderful Life.
[Teddi Litman]:
Exactly! See I think part of the problem some people are having with the sexual encounters in this story *is* the very fact that they skimmed them over with an attitude, "Ok, come on get back to the story," without realizing that was the story. I think the problem a tendency to look at sex scenes as extraneous and ultimately unimportant. Frankly, in most cases, they are. When I first started reading erotic fanfiction, I just ate these erotic scenes up. Now that I've read several hundred, I find I *do* tend to skim the sex scenes, even in my favorite MSRs. They are generally cliche and almost always extraneous. This was not the case in *this* story though. If you skim these sex scenes, trying to stay out of them, not wishing to wallow in them (which may very well be a natural tendency), you will most assuredly not get much out of the story. In fact, you will miss much of the story. Quite admittedly, most of these scenes are *not* a pleasure to read. I found myself quite restlessly thinking several times, "Oh please, just get me off this twisted ride! When is this scene going to be over?!" To paraphrase someone else's sentiment: I *did* feel like I was braining my damage.<G> The scenes with Hunter (Very common "Mary Sue" name btw; maybe now that name will have to be retired. I don't know if I'll ever be able to accept Hunter as a "Mary Sue" name ever again.) were particularly disturbing. I remember thinking when she was first introduced thinking, "I can't wait until this 'Hunter universe' is over." Of course, she turned out to be the major problem. What a wonderfully, disturbing, twisted, self-centered character! In fact, the character might be the ultimate definition of self-centered!<G> And isn't it interesting how these authors' best villains tend to be versions of Mulder? > The consideration a person shows towards their sexual partner is one important "how" you love them. I agree the importance of how one loves is a major theme. It would seem to be that Mulder's saving grace is loving Scully. Really, this story is a Mulder/Scully *relationship* story told on an epic scale. (Oftentimes, one can argue that's all "The X-Files" really is.) Some may argue that I'm being too "shipper" centric. I don't think so. For instance, there is a big Scully/Krycek element in this story. However, I don't think readers specifically looking for a "skipper" content would enjoy this story much. The Krycek/Scully relationship in this story is totally destructive; and not because he's a bad guy. Their intentions are not to hurt each other and outside of their sexual relationship (which, again, *is* important) they are actually sweet to each other. Ultimately though, their relationship *is* hurtful and destructive, as *evidenced* through their sex acts, because the whole relationship is borne out of Mulder and Scully's dysfunctional relationship. It was quite interesting how when Mulder first found himself in his father's place, he saw the choice of which child to send not as a choice between himself and Samantha; but a choice between *Scully* and Samantha. At this point, he had begun to realize how intensely their fates were intertwined. When he tried to push Scully completely out of his life, she ended up dead. When he modified but still maintained his distancing of her, they both ended up more emotionally unhealthy. Ultimately, any Mulder (Robert and Hunter as examples) that was sent in place of Samantha would come out so twisted, he/she would end up literally destroying Scully. To save Scully in the long run, he *has* to save himself. In the end, it is clear they need to save each other and their relationship has to be somewhat healthy in order to save the world. Yes, the world literally does revolve around Mulder and Scully<G>, the world of "The X-Files" anyway.:)
[Konrad Fyre]:
I found myself in much the same boat towards the end [in thinking the sex scenes were problematic]. I was excited by the possibilities the prologue presented but midway through 'Tikkun Olam' I realized that the story was going to be little more than a descent down a dark, sexual, staircase.... The pacing was a little jerky but I also found the work as a whole to be overly linear. You knew full well that each iteration was going to be more disturbing than the last and for me, the story lost much of its mystery and power because of it. Was 'Tikkun Olam' really an XA story? Towards the end I couldn't be sure. An interesting X-File was being suppressed by the sex and the sex was getting repetitive and predictable to the point that I no longer cared if order was restored or not. $0.02
See I think part of the problem some people are having with the sexual encounters in this story *is* the very fact that they skimmed them over with an attitude, "Ok, come on get back to the story," I completely agree. It certainly wasn't gratuitous, in that it was vital to the plot. And hey, it made the story more enjoyable for me...not that everything I read is rated nc-17, but it was well written and the characters were there.... The more I think about Hunter in this story, the more amazed I am. All the little clues that are there in retrospect, including the name, that went right past me when I was reading and didn't know how it was going to turn out. Rather than the choice between Scully and Samantha, Mulder's choice was now between Scully and *himself* which is, if possible, even more trippy than the story. Brilliant minds, the authors are, to have even thought of such a thing, and then for them to weave it so enticingly... I'm glad someone brought [the Scully/Krycek element] up. I run one of the SKipper archives, but I didn't approach the authors to include this one. I don't think S/K fans would really get much out of it, beyond the cheap "they're together!" thrill, and for the reasons stated above. It's a fabulous story, but it's not a S/K story at all.
[Alicia K]:
Ambress, I think you've got something here. I've been thinking of this story over the past few days in the same way I thought about "Eyes Wide Shut": it's going to take a little while for me to formulate an opinion on this. I've enjoyed reading people's comments, and I think I'm ready to go back and read it again and see if I can make a little more sense of it the second time.
[Teddi Litman]:
I was expecting an X-File and got a sex story. Now, I like PWP sex stories, sometimes, as a bit of whimsical fun, but I was expecting a serious X-File from the way the story started out -- and I didn't get it. Yeah, but my whole point is it wasn't a PWP story...or sex for whimsical fun .. or even a nothing-but-weird-sex plot. My point was people only think this story lacked plot because there's this tendency to look at sex scenes as outside the plot or something extra or gratuitous. We are a little too used to seeing either a story that is either just a arousing sex scene or series of arousing sex scenes or a NC-17 "serious X-File" with a couple of juicy extraneous sex scenes thrown in, but those graphic details can be taken out (and often are in a "PG -13" version) without any change to the basic plot of the story. This story fits neither of these categories. The sex scenes were a major part of the plot, and they were *serious* and important. It's not that the "plot" is a series of weird sex scenes; it's that a good deal of the plot and several important themes were buried within these scenes.
And here I know I'm ready to stick my hand into a box of snakes, but this is one fanfic phenomenon when it comes to Mulder characterization where I have a difficult time absorbing its validity. Is there something subliminal in his dynamic progression over the course of the XF that paints him to viewers as one step away from psychotic/sociopathic tendencies? I can't accept that. And as a result, I've often had a hard time embracing some of the 'classic' fics out there that seem intent on trying to sculpt his admittedly breathtaking intellect into such a misshapen form, often bent on self-destruction, but sometimes other, more frightening tendencies. I'm thinking now of such brilliant pieces as Goo and Amp's "Oklahoma," Loch Ness's "Solar Flare," (not as good an example because of the post-"Demons" timeline used by the author which supported her characterization) MS and RT's "Iolokus" and this new one and even Dawson's "ELS." The only episodic support for this type of characterization seems to rest in "Demons" and to a lesser degree, "Grotesque." In fact, Mulder's manifestations of empathy on the show in such episodes as "Conduit," "Duane Barry," "Oubliette," "Paper Hearts," "Mind's Eye" and more would seem to contradict the whole sociopathic interpretation entirely -- as does his association with Scully and to a lesser extent, Skinner. Even when we've seen him close to the edge in episodes like "Paper Hearts" and "Grotesque," I'm not so sure that it hasn't been balanced by his more disassociated attitude in showings like "Beyond the Sea" and "Irresistible." Which is why I'll read this kind of fic with same sort of morbid fascination and appreciation I had when viewing "The Blair Witch Project" or "The Exorcist," but I'm unlikely to go back and put myself through the wringer all over again for something that just doesn't seem real when taken in the context of truth surrounding it... Why do we ultimately assume that these two are one step away from raving madness, whether they have each other or not? Frankly, I think you can argue from the XF perspective that these two are often the only sane things in a vastly *in*sane world (RivkaT's "Blood and Breath" is an excellent exploration of this theme).
[Loligo Opalescens]:
First off, I want to make it clear that overall, I'm not trashing this story: it's intriguing and original, which makes it worth reading. But I think that people are misunderstanding the particular objection that I raised, so I want to have one more go at describing what I meant: Teddi, I understand what you're saying about the importance of the sex scenes, but my problem was that by the end of the story I didn't want to read any more of them, important or no. Imagine if someone wrote the mother of all song stories -- every chapter had a song or two that the characters heard on the radio, or thought of, or whatever, and the complete song lyrics were written right into the story each time. Now, the author chose those songs with exquisite care; each one expressed precisely what needed to be expressed at that point in the story, and so you couldn't follow the character development without reading the songs. Still, by chapter 23, the audience might be rolling their eyes and groaning, "Not another freakin' song!" The author is using the songs as a tool to convey an important message, but if the tool is so overused that your audience gets sick of it, then the message isn't going to get across. That is how I felt about the sex scenes. Normally when it comes to literature, I am quite happy to wallow in kinky sex, be it sex-as-smut or sex-as-metaphor. But even I get burnt-out eventually, and by the end of this story, I was wishing the characters could keep their clothes on and advance the story in some other way.
[Teddi Litman]:
I do understand what you are saying; BUT I think passages of song lyrics are a really bad analogy for what is being done here. An author printing out the complete lyrics to a song (especially one he or she did not write) to actually do the work for him/her is generally not being creative at all. To boot, it is generally ineffective because a song is more than just lyrics ... only readers who have actually heard the song can possibly be affected by it in a similar way the "writer" would intend. Now, I'll concede the analogy works in that a reader might find these sex scenes as equally hard to read as song lyrics. Beyond the disturbing content that a reader might just refuse to immerse themselves in, they do seem, on the surface, repetitive. For instance, when Mulder and Scully had their S&M scene, I do distinctly remember thinking, "Geeze, we just went through this with Scully and Krycek and then Mulder and Hunter, do we *really* have to do it all again with Scully and Mulder?!" Yes, at that point it seemed overkill. Yes, we got the whole destructive S&M thing ladies ... enough already! The scene has lost it's devastation potential; it's just more of the same now ... but then we're in the same place as *Mulder* is. He's just bought in to the continuity of the world he *thinks* he's in, the scene with Scully just seems to be a natural if tedious progression of what has come before ... but then BAM, we come to realize the world shifted! Scully, specifically, is not in the same place we and Mulder are! We come to realize this scene was anything but a natural progression of what has come before for Scully; and it becomes devastatingly destructive all over again. Now it comes down to personal taste. I think some may dislike this story in much the same way they disliked the episode "Monday". As I recall, some felt the episode was tedious and the repetitions lacked emotional impact. I absolutely agree; but I loved the episode. It was all so we could better feel the character's, Pam, angst. Some viewers just didn't really want to be bored and emotionally numbed along with Pam. This story is a bit similar that way. It's a story where the readers suffer a little along with the characters. But some may just not want to wallow too long with the characters in a world where destructiveness becomes almost tedious just to get those "BAM"s. I found the experience worthwhile; another might not. Yes, I can certainly see why one might not enjoy a story where one *has* to read and get engrossed in mind numbing (This expression tends to be overused and misused. I think it fits here though, with "mind numbing" not necessarily being a *pleasant* experience.) sex scenes to really get the story. However, some people are dismissing this story as virtually plotless or somehow not "serious" because of the weight of these scenes. I feel that misrepresents this story somewhat, because I can see how one can get that impression by choosing not to endure these scenes at some level.
My feeling is there had to be other things going on in the branching universes besides just sex. There were obviously important events that Mulder could have been a part of besides just having strange, violent sex with all the other characters. It was a wonderful idea initially, it just got bogged down with the concentration on sex.
[Teddi Litman]:
He was, primarily being a player in a major conspiracy against humanity and a rebel against that conspiracy at the same time... all the while trying to "fix" things while not being completely immune to sinking completely into these "broken" universes. The thing is, his (and other characters') most personal relationships in those topsy turvy universes primarily involved emotionally numbing sexual acts. Unhealthy scenes for an unhealthy world. It wasn't *good* sex; but it was never *just* sex either.... There was plenty of other stuff going on; but the very fact that the story felt "bogged down" by the sexual scenes means they *did* have their impact.
Now, I'm not in anyway suggesting that this is the _only_ way to read the character. Indeed, that's not at all how I've written him. But I think there's enough evidence from the show to make it a valid interpretation. In "One Breath", he's in a "very dark place" and strongly considers taking X's path of skulking in the shadows and remorselessly killing people. In "Gethsemane"/"Redux", he pretty ruthlessly blows Ostlehoff's face off with a shotgun. Okay, he was already dead, but still. And let's not forget "Folie A Deux": "Five years together, Scully. You must have seen this coming." So even Mulder would agree with this characterization of himself. :) Fanfic relies on subtext and seemingly obscure character cues -- I think there's enough going on to make this substantiated.
Well, just to clarify, I wouldn't argue for a moment that Mulder doesn't display very disturbed human behavior at times. The only thing I really can't accept is the implication of *sociopathic* tendencies and to a lesser extent, *psychopathic* tendencies. His emotional range on the show is far too complex to sustain that type of analysis, imho. Certainly, he has a deeply ingrained self-destructive streak, even to the point of being suicidal on at least one very obvious occasion. But I can't accept that the reason why he is such a brilliant profiler and student of aberrant human behavior is because he himself shares those tendencies. Self-destructive, yes. Destructive, no.... And to clarify again, I'd have to agree with you if we're talking about a pattern of unstable behavior. The XF is loaded with instances like this for Mulder. But sociopathic, murderous inclinations? I just don't see it.
Again, it wasn't because the scenes were "disturbing" that I had a problem with them -- but because they were overused and became boring. Well, I don't expect to change your mind, and that's not my intention. But it was interesting to discuss a strange story by two authors who are normally very good. I reckon we've analyzed it from every angle, now, though. I would love to see them do a different version and make the story an X-File instead of a sex story. Lots of people can write PWP sex stories, but not everyone can write a good X-File, but Mustang Sally and RivkaT are most certainly capable of writing just about anything.
[Rachel Avalon]:
I tried to read this one; it wasn't the sex that disturbed me, it was the overabundance of metaphor. Every time I turned around, metaphors were breeding like rabbits. Ooops.
See, [the metaphors are] what I loved about it.
Right up at the top I'll say that everyone is entitled to their own interpretation. But I think when you're talking about fanfic, a quality interpretation *must* be based to at least a small degree on the information we get from the wellspring of the show itself. Otherwise what's the point of making it about XF or any other dramatic series? And I'm only questioning the sociopathic/psychotic tendencies thing based on the Mulder we see on the show... I'd argue that to be good *fan* fiction, there are certain parameters that must shape and define a successful story and/or characterization. Even for the most devious of satires, for example....With all due respect, I don't agree with this at all. It robs the talent of people like DD and GA, as well as CC, M&W and VG (and a cast of thousands <g>) to say that over the course of the XF, they haven't given us a very accurate picture of what goes on inside the characters' heads. And really, in the great scheme of things, this is no big deal. My tastes in fanfic tend to run toward those that maintain a very strong connection to the source. With a few credible exceptions, I'm not a big fan of "If this would have happened to them way back when, where would they be now?" kind of scenarios.I only raised the point to see if perhaps *I'm* missing some latent destructive tendencies in the 1013 portrayal of Mulder that leads to this interpretation in fanfic. That's all.
Such excruciating puns prove that MS and RT have *no* shame. Which is why we like them. <g> It takes a certain kind of style to write something which is simultaneously so hard-boiled, so self-consciously clever and so outrageously arch, but I found myself reading it on two levels, firstly looking for the story and then re-reading each par to relish all the unusual, teasing and sometimes downright ridiculous similes and metaphors. There's so much bollocks out there that it's a pleasure to snatch up something which is written with such pizazz. However I was disturbed by the *relish* with which they portrayed the accelerating depravity and I also found that it jarred me out of the story towards the end. I think it would have benefited from a *little* nip and tuck in the last five or six parts (and I'm hoping there isn't a double entendre somewhere in that statement... but I'm just some git who doesn't even know what PWP means <g>)
Laurie Haynes:
I was so distracted by the overkill on the kinky sex, I didn't even notice the overblown similes and metaphors, but you pegged it just right. It was really a shame because these two normally write very good stories and the premise was really interesting. If the whole thing was satire, which certainly wasn't obvious if it was, this stuff might be forgiven. But hey, this story has sparked some serious discussion and that's good.
I'd have to disagree. The incredible reliance on such devices suggests to me that that was the intention. Both writers have shown a tendency to pick the outlandish metaphor over the commonplace in their previous stories but never to such a degree as now. Perhaps it was just a bit of Hannibal-esque overkill - goth for goth's sake ;-)... I have to say I didn't mind being pulled out of my willing suspension of disbelief - I quite enjoyed the over-the-topness of it all....I suppose if you read something by these two, it is necessary to accept that the characterisation will be off-kilter. Someone once wrote that it was as if all the bad moments they had on the show turned out to be the dominant facets of their personalities, so that Scully's cold and controlling side comes to the fore and Mulder's selfish and whinging side is on display (I think these two do a truly *pathetic* Mulder). But it's possible to extrapolate the characters in Tikkun Olam from the show - and once that is done, I think the degradation between each universe was also relatively skillfully managed (previous complaints about the latter sex scenes notwithstanding). Personally I like the alternative readings of the characters, even if they do veer off in ways which I find personally distasteful; it's better than all that bollocks where they turn into snuggly little shag-bunnies with no discernable dark side. Did you really think you *might* be reading a serious work of fiction? ;-)
Well, I'm already on record as having really enjoyed Tikkun Olam, in a kind of cover-my-eyes-what-are-they-going-to-do-next way (similar to how I watched "The Last Seduction"). I thought the writing was witty, and although I did find the sex scenes disturbing, I appreciate the interpretation that *that* was the intent -- I will have to go back and reread it at some point with that meaning in mind. I am stoked that we are having this sort of analytical discussion on this group, without anyone getting too upset. In the past few months, I've seen this level of analysis maybe three times - for this, the Dark Seed by bugs, and Brandon Ray's Making it Personal series. For the prior two discussions, bugs and Brandon *specifically requested* public commentary - I don't recall any indication that Rivka and Sally did. But it happened anyway, and these two ladies seem secure enough in their writing that their feelings aren't hurt. (I would hope that they would be pleased that people enjoyed it enough to read it that carefully.) I guess what I'm getting at is that it's too bad it takes the posting of a major work by established writers, or a specific request for discussion by the writer, to kick off such a useful level of analysis. I would have loved seeing this level of insight and argument applied to The Tiger Complex -- anyone have any idea why it didn't happen? If this newsgroup functions as a meta-workshop on fiction-writing, I'd love to get into some more meaty discussions of why certain techniques do or don't work, the appropriateness of metaphor and simile, and so forth. Or not. Whatever.
[Loligo Opalescens]:
Now, I've already weighed in with my partly-unenthusiastic opinion about the sex, but I will defend Sally & Rivka's metaphors to the death. First, they are INTERESTING, which is major attraction here in the bland, cliched world of fanfic. Second, many of them are downright perceptive; a dress hanging in the closet like a suicide -- I had never thought of it that way before, but it's true, in the right state of mind the limp garment would suggest the dead body within. Third, they are more thematically coherent than you make them out to be. Many of them deal with sex, death, and violence -- central elements of the story -- and it's entirely appropriate that death metaphors show up in sex scenes and vice versa. The two elements are everywhere intertwined in this story, and that's part of the point. Other metaphors flow naturally out of the characterizations -- the communion wafer example, which I thought particularly apt, as well as many that drew on the paranormal. And then there were the car metaphors, which didn't really resonate for me, but hey, there's probably a reason why MustangSally is called MustangSally.
I'm not referring to Tikkun Olam here but there are authors that one can read as much for their stylistic elegance, wit or the sheer inventive unexpectedness of their language. I don't suppose anybody ever got a copy of Finnegan's Wake because it was a right little potboiler to buy granny for Christmas.... I think they do sit down and write something and think "how can I create something new and refreshing. How can I express myself in an interesting way while remaining intelligible" Sometimes - not very often I agree - that trade-off is worth it. Haven't you ever read anything and been startled enough to think, "flaming Ada, that's good"? (which is usually followed, in my case by "Bastard, I wish I'd thought of that"... I think that's an occupational hazard of reading stories by these two. I detested Iolokus for much the same reasons as you cite above until the fact that it seemed *everyone* disagreed with that assessment forced me to read again with a more open mind. Now I think I was utterly wrong and it's one of the best fics I have read - because the characterisations are so on the edge of extreme possibility (BTW I'm not trying to be smarmy by suggesting that rereading Tikkun Olam will have the same effect on you because IMO it is very much inferior to Iolokus and it won't).
[Teddi Litman]:
There it is! I'm going to say something a little shocking here: I think "Iolokus"* is overrated. <Gasp!> Don't get me wrong; I really, really enjoyed "Iolokus"; there is much in that series that is absolutely terrific. I have read parts of it more than once; and will likely continue re-reading it. The story has an intense popularity;a popularity that is so intense that yes, a great read like "Iolokus" can be clearly overrated. I have seen, several times, "Iolokus" held up as the *ultimate* X-Files fanfic, as the absolute best there is, as virtually *flawless.* That's overrated. I happen to think what is terrific about "Iolokus" well outweighs it's flaws; but it *does* have flaws. Yes, there are at least two or three people who posted here that they had problems with "Tikkun Olam" who were clearly *not* "Iolokus" fans; (The story has too many qualities similar to "Iolokus" that I don't believe this story could appeal much to non-Iolokus fans I'm afraid.) but I strongly suspect the majority of the people who stated they disliked the story are major, big time "Iolokus" fans. I really think this story is suffering a serious case of not-being-Iolokus. "Iolokus" is so greatly loved that it is hard to live up to. "Tikkun Olam" is similar enough to "Iolokus" (notably with the heavy use of metaphors and similar dark characterizations) that the comparisons are inevitable; but ultimately, impressions of the story will fall short for some "Iolokus" fans. I actually thought "Tikkun Olam" was a better story than the "Iolokus" series. <Gasp!> Oh, I think I *enjoyed* "Iolokus" more. As dark as it was at times, we had a much more "feel good" resolution. As much as we don't want to admit it at times, we are all suckers for the happier endings and ... well, more *resolved* resolutions. Oh yes, the happily-ever-after ending was very cleverly disguised; but come on, Scully was even talking to her family at the end ... grudgingly yes, but after all that happened, that's pretty darned "feel good", admit it!<G> I think "Tikkun Olam" though, was a little tighter, a little more unique, a little more daring, with more clear and universal themes. I thought it was just a little *better.* Just to clarify, I want to state when I write "Iolokus" I mean the whole series of stories including the "Syadiloh" stories; because I really think that's what most people mean when they mention "Iolokus." I do not think any of the individual stories are truly independent and complete. Only as a whole, is it complete. It is really not a series as I see it; but really a massive epic *serial* which is another reason I believe many comparisons to it tend to be a little unfair.
Well, I feel like I'm perpetuating the beating of a dead horse here, although I really like that we can all discuss a story to this depth. But I feel like you're a bit too dismissive of Tikkun Olam with what you're saying here. I understand how you feel that the sex seemed to take the place of the plot and the story, but I agree with Teddi in that I thought TO was tighter and more clever, more original, than Iolokus. Perhaps it's because Tikkun Olam is a *concept* fic rather than a straight advance the plot in a linear direction story like Iolokus (which I thought had its fair share of weird sex scenes -- although not quite to the degree of TO, but take for example Scully and Marita's little encounter). Tikkun Olam is an exploration of what I consider to be an ingenious idea: how alternate versions of ourselves can be created in alternate universes, with each decision or choice we make. It is an exploration of what it means to call oneself a SELF. How can we really have any identity if our identities are so dependent on each little turn we take, out of a myriad of infinite possible turns? That was the question that made the story, for me, "better" than Iolokus. What Iolokus did with the Mulder twins dealt with identity issues, as well, but I didn't think it did so with anywhere near the originality and creativity of Tikkun Olam. I think there was plenty of "real plot" and "real story" here. The way that question gradually revealed itself as the central philosophical idea, through all of the surprising universe-switches and character changes, kept me on the edge of my seat the entire 25 parts. And someone in a previous message mentioned why Scully doesn't ever get the same kind of story, about the different kinds of person she may be given different circumstances. I thought Tikkun Olam did this quite well. It wasn't just Mulder we were seeing in different forms. We were seeing all of the other Scullys, too, every time he landed somewhere new.
I just can't seem to clam up on this thread ;) I will say that "Iolokus" is a very effective piece when viewed from a certain perspective, not the least of which is in its satirical qualities. I often wonder if the collective interpretation of this vastly popular work by the masses is really what the two authors intended. I also suspect that the story eventually went places on them that it was never really intended to go. And in the end, it speaks very subtly to the skill of the writing since so many people come away from this thing with differing reactions. But they still love it. On some level, the fic shifts more deftly than Eddie Van Blundht's visage to become all things for all people. Readers really see only what they want to see with this story from what I've been able to gauge. But frankly, each of the two writers has done stellar work on their own -- perhaps even surpassing the skill of "Iolokus." And that's my humble subjective opinion. Rivka's "Blood and Breath" and "Arcadia" would fall into that category. As would MustangSally's "Syntax and Measure." Her "All the Children are Insane" might be the best piece of post-ep characterization I've ever seen. Just thought I'd mention some other alternatives ;)
[Teddi Litman]:
Ok, you have a point. There are definite points in the series that have a certain self awareness to them; and the wilder metaphors are indications of this. My main point was really to ask why certain aspects of the authors' style were suddenly unacceptable to a person claiming to actually like their previous work. A couple of people who were turned off by the metaphor use in "Iolokus" saw the same thing in TO and brought it up. Ok, that made sense to me: they found the metaphors distracting in "Iolokus"; they are *not* going to like TO either for the same reasons. However, then someone responded basically with: You're absolutely right. That's unforgivable. They usually do much better. *That* made no sense to me; because I was fairly certain that "better" meant "Iolokus;" and they did the very same thing in "Iolokus." Without going into specifics, I think the "Iolokus" series shows self awareness of being an "X-Files" story while TO has a more pointed self awareness of being "X-Files" *fanfic.* The real question is: do elements of self-awareness, some which could be classified as satiric make the whole story a satire? And ultimately, are satiric elements in a story that is not an *obvious* satire somehow "unforgivable?" Should such a story really be dismissed as "just a silly sex story" or something not to be taken seriously?
Okay label me a sick, twisted person, but I rather liked it. There's been a lot of discussion about metaphores (and I mean a lot. You people know who you are.... Good job. Much more entertaining than listening to me LA teacher... That means.. dammit! I learned something!). I found that some of them were a little annoying and cringe worthy, but gave good mental pictures. And I suppose that's all that really matters. About the.. sex. *Shiver* I admit, I read this without really Iolokus (and I refuse to do so before I can prenounce it.) I have a low tolerance for people getting at it like bunnies. For me, after reading some fanfic, pretzels make me blush and run screaming from the grocery store. There's also been a lot of talk about the gratious sex. For me, I saw the sex as another type of metaphore for the kind of different types of parralel universes. From the sadoist/masochist, to violent, to threesomes, to lesbian... You could write a whole self help book on sex with this story. I didn't exactly enjoy the Hunter/Mulder/Scully pairing and found it disturbing and useless. *Meek glancing around for the flame thrower she's expecting to get in the face* But on the story level, the sex was a big driving point in the plot. The more screwed up things got, the more things got screwed. After finishing it though, I had to admit, that I really liked it. Only because the point was that it was so damn confusing. Damn, damn confusing. I almost dished my soup onto a plate. If you pay damn good attention to everything, you can really see it evolve. Complex was the word to discribe it. There's been talk at the end, it turned bad, but I think at the end, it just wound down. Well, there it is, my opinion. I enjoyed it on a *shudder* thinking level, but I wouldn't exactly recommend it to my fourteen year old sister. Lavinia Premonition *Who thinks that MustangSally and Rivka are going to have the last laugh*
In the case of "Iolokus," I think the answer is yes. But this isn't a hard and fast rule that can be applied to all writing. Not even to all satirical writing. From the very beginning of the "Iolokus" series, the two writers succeeded in breaking down much of the sacred mythology so beloved by 1013 in it's treatment of individual characterizations and depiction of relationships on the series. The most obvious example for me was the cluster bombing of the overly-romanticized view taken by CC, Spotnitz and the rest of the merry men about Mulder and Scully as individuals, as well as their personal relationship with each other. And they went on and on from there -- right through to the final book -- which not only parodied 1013's vision, but also popular characterizations in fanfic as well. I can't even venture a guess as to whether this is what the authors intended or not. But I kind of hope it is, because it makes their accomplishment that much more deviously skillful. Furthermore, just because a piece is satire, that doesn't mean it can't function as a serious piece of dramatic fiction as well. I often refer to these two as the Jonathan Swifts of XF fic writing when it comes to "Iolokus." That's *my* metaphor and I'm sticking to it ;... Satire, if executed properly (and "Iolokus" most certainly falls into that category for me), is as serious a writing technique as you're ever going to find. We already have a name for writing that isn't to be taken seriously -- badfic. (And there are some very talented writers out there who do a very good job at writing, well...bad <eg>.) "Iolokus" isn't badfic. It's satire. Satire by definition (and excuse me for being didactic, but it's late <g>) is, "a literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit." Anyone who doesn't get what I'm saying should go back and take a look at some of the more serious fan critique of 1013's foibles (the train-wreck of characterization known as "Emily" is a good example), and compare it to the portrayal of individuals and their relationships in "Iolokus." Then tell me that these two women weren't having a hell of a time writing this story at 1013's expense! Whether or not satire was their only motivation (or their only accomplishment) is a whole 'nother argument entirely. But as a work of irony, I think it's second to none in XF ficdom.)
I'd have to completely disagree with you about comparisons between TO and Iolokus (with the proviso that I may be talking complete bollocks - like I was yesterday when I said TO was far inferior <g>) I enjoyed both but I still think Iolokus is better. Overrated perhaps, but better. Neither TO nor Iolokus are flawless by any means. Both have parts that don't work and parts where the writers are just trying too damned hard for effect. Both suffer from sections where the writers clearly thought the story was getting in the way of the hot rumpo sex action (although both use sex as a means of revealing story also; in TO that is a central device, in Iolokus it's used as a means of revealing how a lack of communication is scuppering chances of a healthy relationship) But I think TO suffers more from that particular vice. Both stories are certainly over the top in the best possible way: over the top like the rollercoaster in that second when you know gravity's about to get its act together. They are long, lairy, daring and scary.... (Warning: Here's the bit where I may be talking a load of old clarts) I agree that for some people Iolokus was the ultimate ride. It had a bit of everything: case files, angst, 3D supporting characters, violence, hospitals, torture, it was dripping with sex and, best of all for most, it had a happy ending. With babies and everything. Blimey 8-) But IMO the reason I ended up thinking Iolokus was so splendid – and what constituted its major imaginative leap - was the way it tackled M and S. It had an incredibly dark reading of the characters that could also be grounded in the show you had seen - a pessimistic and downbeat rendition but a faithful one nevertheless. It was the ultimate daring extrapolation played out to its absolute extreme. I hadn't seen that before. (If it had been done before, then I apologise for showing my ignorance but if I tried to catch up on every bit of fic I'd missed for the last four years I'd have even less of a life than I do now)... TO was tighter yes, relentless, "pounding" to use one of the favourite words of these authors ;-). But one of the pleasures of Iolokus was its vast, busy sprawl. More unique - well not in terms of plot. Shifting universes caused by minor changes a character has made in the timeline is not an unknown device in sci-fi. Expressing those changes through increasingly outrageous sex scenes may be unique though (or it could be that I'm just not reading the right kind of sci-fi <g>) I also thought the post-invasion world could have been more sharply rendered. Perhaps I lack perspective here but sacrifice a few of those sex scenes and you could have got in a bit more about little things like, say, the fate of the entire bloody world. I also thought Iolokus had some wonderful supporting characters: chiefly Zippy and smart renditions of the old faves (like Margaret Scully, in which we are shown where Scully gets the control freak thing from) More clear and universal themes? Well I thought Iolokus was a more personal story to be sure but its themes - stated further up – were universal.
[Carrie Sullivan]:
What I got from the ending was Mulder was more accepting and respectful of Scully's life and he wanted to spend time with her i.e. eating with her instead of going to work and calling her during confessional. The other, well, seems they do like sexual situations. I made many faces as I read it.

2008 Discussion at xf_book_club

Comments from a 2008 discussion at xf_book_club [8]:

[frey at last]:
Maybe I shouldn't start off the discussion, because I only read the first 1/3 or 1/4 before I got tired. But I will! I stopped because I guess I could just tell where it was going -- a dark trip to a world where none of the characters actually like each other and everything unravels in ugly and violent ways. "Interesting" and "a mindfuck," maybe, but at some point I can't recognize the characters as themselves, and I know things will just get worse and worse (so the tension of "will they fix this? CAN they fix this?" dissipates), and I might as well be reading something else... I realize that other people can be sustained in it, however, and maybe at one time I would've had the interest/patience. It's too bad, because these two authors can teeter on the line between "edgy" and "too much," and still produce very engaging stories, but I think they fell off on this one.
...at some point I can't recognize the characters as themselves...

This is always one of the tipping points for me, and unfortunately I'm picky enough that I hit this point much more quickly that most readers. When I read fic, it's because I want to peer more deeply into the characters I know so well, and care about. Once they morph into variations, I lose interest... which makes me pretty unfit for fic reading, for the most part, I guess. I'm not out to spoil anyone's party, btw; it's just how it hits me personally.

Even when I'm up for some XF theater-of-the-absurd, as I was the other night when I reread the Krycek humor classic My Little Demons (wherein Krycek is visited by God, who insists that Krycek clean up his act and turn his life around), lack of clear canon characterization grates on me. If only Krycek sounded like, well, the real Krycek, I was thinking as I chuckled my way through the story, this would be perfect.

I'm hopeless, I know.
emily shore:
I read fic for two reasons, I think. The first is exactly as you say, "to peer more deeply into the characters I know so well, and care about." The second is a little more complicated, and has to do with wanting to see the way other people see the show, with taking a basic source text and seeing it infused with a different authorial vision. If that vision is strong and consistent I am willing to forgive shifts in characterization that would be unforgivable in a weaker text. Think of the many ways that Arthurian legend has been told and retold over the years; think of the way that good cover versions of songs bring out qualities that you never would have noticed in the original. In my more grandiose moments I want to see fanfiction as the modern equivalent of myth; as Henry Jenkins once said, "fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations [instead] of owned by the folk." So looking at the genre in that way, I expect writers to use the original text as a jumping-off point, as the departure rather than the destination.

There are many different ways of writing fanfic. I get the feeling that you and wendelah1 are far more interested in canon-compliance than I am. You both are concerned to write stories that can help to justify the twists and inconsistencies of the show, and tie it more closely in a consistent whole. I am more likely to just say, "oh, I never believed that episode anyway." So our philosophies are sort of different!

Hope I haven't gone on for too long; I didn't mean to lecture. I just wanted to explore how it was that I was willing to forgive stories like this, given that I view characterisation as being very important to me. The answer seems to be that I actively like alternate versions of an original text. I like those changes in mood and style that show a really strong author has got hold of the reins. I like thinking, "it could have been like this."
When I am writing, I am very concerned with trying to stay close to canon. Although I do have some ideas for AU, they are more plot-driven, than character-driven. I will read anything, though, as long as it is entertaining. This story was certainly that.
Personally, I'm not just interested in canon-compliance; it's an absolute pre-requisite for me. Which I guess explains my puzzlement when I first read fic and couldn't quite understand why people were enthusiastic about stories that I just couldn't get into because they presented the world of the XF (and more importantly, the characters) as, well, not the ones I'd been watching on-screen.

All of which explains a lot, I think, about why I rarely read fic. The vast majority of authors and readers are, I believe, like you--interested in alternate approaches to the subject matter.

All this doesn't mean, of course, that I don't have my own selectivity when it comes to canon. I have not just episodes, but entire seasons that I'd prefer not to believe, which is why my Sanctuary series begins in early Season 6 and veers off in its own direction. Likewise characters: to me, the Seasons 2-5 Krycek who intrigues me (by turns nervous, cocky, manipulative, terrified) is a very different animal than LateSeasonsKrycek, who is inscrutable, calm, always in control... and who holds no interest for me at all.

Anyway, thanks again for your explanation. All this just goes to show how very many approaches there are to fic, and how that translates into preferences and trends within the fandom.
[ leucocrystal ]:
Very interesting stuff! I'm more in tune with bardsmaid though on this one; canon compliance is the sticking point for me. I suppose that's why so few of the fandom "classics" don't appeal to me at all (which would explain, as we've probably discussed before, why I can't drum up half the enthusiasm or interest it would take to ever finish, say, Iolokus). I can admire those, I suppose, who try to veer from the norm and pave their own way, even if I don't have any interest in reading such things. I wish I could simply be entertained by this approach, as Wendy is, but there's always that niggling bother in the background that snags for me, every time.
I would rather have stories that were told well, than stories that complied with canon. I just want the writing to be great. I want to have my brain explode. My favorite writer on livejournal, who does not write in this fandom, by the way, is synecdochic. Her story for Stargate Atlantis, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose is the best story I have ever read in any fandom. I don't even like the show, but I love this story. I certainly don't ship the pairing, and I don't care if it is canon compliant, because that is not what this writer is about. She is about the language and the story, and the characters she is creating, which are infinitely more interesting than what the show was doing, anyway. I guess I love good writing and good story-telling more than I love any television show, even The X-Files. I will read anything if the writing is terrific. I don't just mean fan fiction, either. I read widely in any case, it is my favorite hobby, my first love. I need books like some people need water.
[emily shore]:
It is definitely a dark journey and there is definitely a lot of unravelling along the way. I'll confess that I didn't read every scene with scrupulous attention and indeed there were some scenes where the scroll button never stopped moving. Having said that, I still thought it was a very fine story. RivkaT and Mustang Sally have always teetered on the brink of out-of-character, at least as I read the characters, but their writing is so interesting that I suppose I've been willing to grant them possession of their own X-Files subuniverse. They are out-of-character in a very consistent and pointed way, so that their alternate Mulder and Scully are (to me) worth approaching on their own terms. (By this I mean the basic Mulder and Scully in their works, not the AUs that appear.) The plot of the story is actually surprisingly tight. Both the way it unravels and the way it is fixed end up being tied in very well, so when you get to the end you don't feel like you've been taken on that wild ride for nothing. That's my two cents anyway. Not that I'm trying to convince you to read the rest of it; just saying.
[emily shore]:
Now that I think about it, I didn't get that attached to the characters either, and that is especially interesting because in "Iolokus" I really was. Even, or arguably especially, the original characters in "Iolokus" were compelling creations. You did get attached to them. My surmise is that the characters weren't really the point of this story. It was all about the moral shape of the world, and like the sex, the characters just acted as bellwethers to demonstrate exactly how bad it had gotten. The story draws heavily on "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," and that play was not exactly about the characterization either.
This was really good. It wasn't what I expected from the discussion thread. I expected something incoherent and disorganized. I certainly didn't have any trouble reading through it. I thought the plot seemed to weave itself pretty consistently in and around the sex scenes. I didn't think that the sex was the plot, exactly. The sex functioned as more of a marker or a sign post, for if things were going badly in the bedroom, one could be assured that things were really going to hell outside it.

The story starts with an unusually gruesome murder that unless I missed the solution remains unsolved by the end. In the course of the crime investigation, Mulder gets a chance to play God. He meets a sexy scientist who has discovered a way to go back in time, via the conscious retrieval of a memory.(I know, but just go with it) He decides to try to fix something that went wrong in his world. One would think he would go back to try to prevent Samantha from being taken. But no, instead Mulder decides to try to save Scully by alienating her back at the very beginning during their first case together.

Instead of saving Scully from her fate, he wakes up to a world in which she is dead, killed in her apartment at the hands of Tooms, because Mulder wasn't there to save her. Do you recognize that plot? Bingo! Yes, It's A Wonderful Life. So, he goes back in time again to try to repair the damage to their partnership, and this time he wakes up to a universe where Scully is fucking Krycek. And things only go downhill from there. Mulder goes on to betray Samantha to save the world or Scully at least two other times (how biblical!).
there are certain types of darkness that i like, but mostly i stay away from stories that aren't MSR because they just don't mesh with my view of the world, even an AU world. and from prior experience i know that MustangSally and RivkaT's view of the world is not my own.
[emily shore]:
Does "Tikkun Olam" or "Iolokus" represent the more grueling read? Arguable. "Iolokus" is longer, but "Tikkun Olam" has that very special going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket feeling to it. wendelah1 made the analogy to "It's a Wonderful Life." A good analogy and one which makes a lot of sense. The difference is that in "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey only makes one different choice and the rest of the movie follows from that. In "Tikkun Olam," Mulder keeps choosing, choosing, choosing... choosing better, choosing worse... and a great deal of the tension in the story comes from the uncontrollable shifting, the uncertainty of never knowing when something truly horrific is about to come into focus and the uncertainty about what the next bad choice will represent...

The worst present-realities in this story are shown only in short bursts, which somehow makes them all the more powerful.

The title of the story refers to the Jewish concept of "repairing the world." Yet interestingly, at the end of this story Mulder returns right back to where he started. Perhaps this is the best of all possible worlds after all? (See "Cunegund's Restoration" for a very different take on that idea.) It also parallels the moral of "Je Souhaite," where Mulder learns that reckless wishes are worse than no wishes at all, and that it is much better to sit back, eat popcorn, watch "Caddyshack," and be happy enough with your life as it is.

The opening of the story is riveting. It stayed with me and I found myself thinking about it on and off, even after I had forgotten which story it belonged to. Apparently when it was first posted, a lot of people wondered if it was an uber-dark sequel to "Iolokus." As it is, it does a much better job with the encountering-doubles concept than "Fight Club" could even have dreamed of. The authors manage a very good slow dawning, as they do with Mulder's slow realisation that things are changing around him. The unfolding at the beginning is very well handled.

My attention wandered slightly during the last third of the story, the part at the beach-house where they just seem to be waiting around and having sex while the world dies around them. Nothing wrong with that, at least in this dark, twisted universe, but I did wonder whether the realities of survival when civilisation is falling apart could have been brought to the fore a little bit more.

Hunter... well, I didn't like her, but then I didn't expect to like her. She is much less like Mulder than Robert Rothstein is, despite the fact that she grew up in Mulder's family of origin and Robert didn't. For one thing, she has very little of Mulder's vulnerability and I think that vulnerability is a big part of the reason why we tend to forgive him his craziness.
leaving aside any issues of the plot making sense (i maintain that no story with time traveling or alternate universes -- let alone both -- ever makes sense), i'm still not sure how i feel about this one. i committed two full days to getting through it, and there just wasn't enough payoff at the end to make me feel like it was worth it. i may be biased (i'm a hopeless shipper), but after all that cruelty i wanted to see a little more warmth. the mulder and scully of the first and final scenes--theoretically, the "real" mulder and scully--were far too mean-spirited and self-centered to be the characters i know. it didn't seem grounded in truth, at least characterwise. and one more thing: good lord, could there have been any more similes in that thing? it was driving me crazy.
[emily shore]:
I agree that it wasn't an all-out MSR love-fest, but I liked the subtlety of Mulder's change of heart in the final scene. RivkaT and MustangSally's view of the X-Files universe in general is always a dark one, and it doesn't necessarily ring true for everyone. But for me, that quiet shift in the final scene said more than a big, dramatic love scene would have. Mulder and Scully are never going to be perfect, but at least Mulder is trying. It's the trying that's interesting, at least to me.
as for the payoff, it was partially that i wanted mulder and scully to profess their undying love for one another (when do i ever want anything else?), but mostly that after what felt like an oppressive few hours reading about all this torture and cruelty, i wanted to feel something a little fuzzier. i'm sure the intent was to leave the reader feeling unsettled, and i get the merit in that, but it doesn't mean i like how it feels. still, i'm glad i read it. it was nothing if not interesting.
It took me a long time to get through this fic. For one thing, I didn't start actually reading it when it was posted; I skimmed the first few paragraphs and wasn't really sure I wanted to keep going. But then I went with it, and I'm very glad I did. I ended up skipping a lot of the sex (not because it offends me or anything, there just was so much of it, even if a lot of it was at least in some way plot-advancing). Related to that though, the build-up to the Hunter/Mulder/Scully section was amazingly well-written, I felt. Ideas of multiple universes, and of those universes bleeding over into each other is very intriguing to me, and I kind of enjoyed the fact that in places it was hard to follow who's point-of-view the story is being told from. I'm pretty glad that I made myself read it over the course of several days, because I don't think I would have appreciated it as much if I'd tried to digest it in one sitting. Also, the fact that I drew out the reading process made my finishing coincide with a close friend of mine telling me that I reminded her so much of another friend of hers that she believed he and I were two separate parts of the same person.


  1. alt.tv.x-files.creative, October 24, 1999
  2. alt.tv.x-files.creative, May 12, 2000
  3. alt.tv.x-files.creative, May 28, 2001
  4. alt.tv.x-files.creative, August 9, 2001
  5. who me, obsessed? by jmtorres, March 20, 2003
  6. In other words, this is the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern one. by amy hit
  7. from alt.tv.x-files.creative; archived link, July 26, 1999
  8. The reading group for X-Files fanfiction - Story 7: "Tikkun Olam" by RivkaT and MustangSally, Archived version