I don't have any poetry or the like to show for myself, but this start for a book about THE X-FILES will give you an idea of the kind of writer I am. I was rather surprised so see that XF was favored by some of you here. I hope those will enjoy my approach to the show. --J.J.P. In Dangerous Purpose: Mulder and Scully and the Greatest of Journeys By John J. Pierce [Kipling] was farther from being [a Fascist] than the most humane or the most "progressive" person is able to be nowadays…. No one, in our time, believes in any sanction greater than military power; no one believes that it is possible to overcome force except by greater force. There is no "law," there is only power. I am not saying that this is a true belief, merely that it is the belief which all modern men do actually hold. --George Orwell, "Rudyard Kipling" Tragedy is not the hard part. The hard part is when you don’t quite succeed and you have to keep on fighting. When you must keep going on and on and on in face of really hopeless odds, of real temptations to despair. --Cordwainer Smith, "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul" Prologue It is August 19, 1953, at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital. As the tape rolls on an old RCA Victor recorder, a sailor dying of radiation sickness cries out for justice to a team of investigators. We don’t know what agency they represent, except that it isn’t the Navy. But as we are soon to learn, it is who these people are that matters. "I'm the last man who knows who killed the men aboard that submarine, who knows it was a suicide mission – but I'll burn in hell before I tell the murderers who sent us there," the sailor tells them. "That's why we came here all the way from Washington, sailor, to hear your story, to make sure that justice is served," replies one of the investigators. It is Bill Mulder, later to be the father of Fox Mulder, and his concern for the sailor seems genuine. It is the first scene of "Apocrypha," second chapter of a two-part episode of The X-Files that begins with "Piper Maru." The two-parter is probably best remembered for introducing what was later called the Black Oil to the X-Files mythology, and the dying sailor’s story is that it was this "enemy" rather than a missing atomic bomb that doomed him and nearly all his fellow crewmen. We see flashbacks of panicked sailors and the captain – black oil leaking from his mouth, nose and eyes after they knock him out. "Whatever it was, we were sent to guard it," the sailor tells Bill Mulder. "Before it slithered away, back to where it came from, back into the sea, back into who knows what." Bill Mulder has heard enough, but clearly not because he considers the sailor’s story incredible. Quite the contrary. He reaches to switch off the recorder, but the sailor grabs his hand. "That thing... is still down there!" he protests. "The Navy will deny it... but you've got to make sure the truth gets out. I can trust you to do that, can't I, Mr. Mulder?" Bill Mulder says nothing, but glances – as does a second investigator – towards a third man, who is lighting a cigarette. He may be 40-odd years younger, and played by a different actor than the familiar craggy-faced William B. Davis, but there is no mistaking Cancer Man. "You can trust all of us," Cancer Man assures the sailor as he takes a puff. Cancer Man was surely not the mover and shaker in 1953 that he later became. Yet Bill Mulder seems helpless against him – or, more precisely, against the idea he represents: that there is no moral law, only power. He knows that he is betraying the dying sailor, but can see no way out. Decades later, Cancer Man and the terrible world view of Darwinian expediency he embodies are unchanged. A French expedition has investigated the site once visited by the U.S. submarine Zeus Faber, and the French sailors have met the same fate as the Americans. One has been possessed by the Black Oil, and the rest are dying of radiation sickness. As he visits their death ward, Cancer Man is pitiless: CANCER MAN: Have the bodies destroyed. DOCTOR: But.. but sir...these men aren't dead yet! CANCER MAN: Isn't that the prognosis? Yet the prognosis for humanity may have changed – because of Fox Mulder and his partner Dana Scully. As we learn years later, Fox is not even Bill Mulder’s biological son – but he is the son Bill hoped for. A poster on his office wall reads "I Want to Believe." But what he wants to believe in is not just the paranormal, but the possibility of truth and justice and decency. Mulder is a man obsessed, a man who believes that his sister Samantha was abducted by aliens years before. In pursuing that obsession, however, he risks becoming as callous as those he fights in order to learn the truth. But there beside him is Scully, once described by David Duchovny as his "human credential." For all her skepticism about aliens and the paranormal and conspiracies, she is absolutely essential to his quest – because only she can enable him to hold onto his own humanity. In "Piper Maru," Scully is similarly able to reach out to Johansen, the retired Naval commander who in his youth led a mutiny against the seemingly insane Captain Sanford aboard the Zeus Faber. Johansen never saw the Black Oil; he doesn’t know that it wasn’t radiation from a lost atomic bomb that doomed his men ("The madness we planned to unleash on the Japanese...we ended up setting it loose on ourselves."). At first, he denies knowing anything about the Zeus Faber incident, let alone having been part of it. But then he changes his mind, and we sense that it isn’t only because he was friends with Scully’s father, and that she played as a child with his son Richard – since killed in a Gulf War training accident. It is because her honesty and humanity have touched his heart that he can finally unburden himself of the guilt that has haunted him for decades." "I knew mutiny was our only chance for survival," he tells her. "But I also knew, by sealing that door, I was sealing the fate of the men I locked behind it… When they opened that door, those who weren't dead were dying. There were 144 men on that boat, only seven of us had survived. Whatever killed then, I was allowed to live, to raise a family, to grow old. None of us ever got an explanation why." But the dialogue between Johansen and Scully speaks, not just to the fictional incident of the Zeus Faber, but to the all the true crimes of the Twentieth Century, committed out of a pitiless Darwinian struggle for power: JOHANSEN: We bury our dead alive, don’t we? SCULLY: I don't know if I understand. JOHANSEN: We hear them every day, they talk to us, they haunt us, they beg us for meaning. Conscience... it’s just the voices of the dead, trying to save us from our own damnation. In The X-Files, Earth is threatened with an alien invasion that would at best mean enslavement and at worst extermination for the entire human race. Conspiracies at the highest levels are devoted to concealing that threat, and even cooperating with the aliens if no means can be found to forestall them. It is the ultimate expression of social Darwinism, of the conviction that nothing matters but force. Although it revolves around fears for the future, The X-Files is shaped by the past – a century in which tens of millions were slaughtered and hundreds of millions enslaved in the name of one cause or another, from ideological fanaticism to religious frenzy and outright racism. It was a century in which even the leaders of the democracies were not always able to rise above the temptations that consumed their adversaries. Franklin D. Roosevelt thwarted the admission of Jewish refugees to the United States when there was little doubt of Nazi plans for the Holocaust, sanctioned the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans, and – even before the atomic bomb – ordered incendiary bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities that cost more innocent lives than the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With Winston Churchill, he approved the devastating and militarily pointless fire bombing of Dresden. Some of the crimes that followed have been incorporated into the background of The X-Files. There really was an Operation Paper Clip that brought Nazi scientists to America to work on military projects, lest they fall into the hands of the Soviet Union – in what seems at once ironic and cynical, Operation Keelhaul simultaneously forced two million ordinary Russian refugees back to the Soviet Union to face execution or the Gulag. Japanese biological warfare researchers were indeed spared punishment as war criminals, in return for sharing their knowledge with the U.S. military. The fate that humanity faces in The X-Files is no different, really, from the kind that some humans have inflicted on other humans in the past, and continue to even today. The mind-set of Cancer Man and the other shadowy adversaries Mulder and Scully face is no different from that of the men who have sanctioned such true crimes. As in the real world, the struggle against their Darwinian expediency often seems futile. At the end of "Apocrypha," the truth is literally buried – in an old missile silo, to which Cancer Man has consigned the bodies of the French sailors, along with a UFO that was the actual goal of both the French mission and the American one 50 years earlier. Yet Mulder and Scully remain defiant, even as they are led away by military police working for Cancer Man. SCULLY: We saw bodies in there. Men with radiation burns! CANCER MAN: You saw nothing. MULDER: You won't get away with this! You can't bury the truth! Only the truth is buried – for now. In a parallel story, Scully can find no justice in the death of her sister Melissa, murdered by Cancer Man’s henchmen five months earlier in a botched attempt to assassinate Scully herself. When Assistant Director Walter Skinner tries to keep the case open on her behalf, he gets a bullet in the gut for his trouble. And Skinner’s assailant – who was also one of Melissa’s – is captured, but murdered himself before he can talk. Yet Mulder and Scully carry on, with a courage and perseverance that seems almost superhuman, armed only with the conviction that there is, after all, some sanction greater than power. 1. Invaders from Space There is a war raging….. a struggle for heaven and earth. Where there is one law: fight or die. And one rule: resist on serve. -- Alex Krycek, in "The Red and the Black" It all goes back to H.G. Wells. There were other alien invasion stories before The War of the Worlds (1898), but Wells’ novel set the dominant pattern. Forty years after it first appeared, Orson Welles created a nationwide panic in the United States with a Halloween radio adaptation, and the story was later adapted by George Pal for the screen. Still later, there was a short-lived TV series. Welles and Pal may have taken liberties with the details of the story, moving the action from England to the United States and updating the technology. But they preserved the grim Darwinian essence of the original: faced with an invasion by a more advanced species, humanity doesn’t stand a chance. Only the Martians’ weakness to infection by Earthly diseases saves us. Darwinism was still new to public imagination when H.G. Wells wrote his novel. Thomas Henry Huxley, "Darwin’s bulldog," had carried the day for the theory of evolution not long before in a debate with Bishop Wilberforce. Yet Huxley was hardly a social Darwinist in the sense used pejoratively today. In an 1893 lecture, "Evolution and Ethics," he argued that while human life might have emerged out of some blind and amoral cosmic process, humanity need not remain a cog in a cosmic machine: “Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest … but of those who are ethically the best.” Russian anarchist Pyotr Kropotskin made a similar argument in Mutual Aid, which put the case that ethical behavior is itself the greatest survival value. But others with ulterior motives seized on Darwin and the "struggle for existence" as a handy justification for things they already believed in – like a ruling class at home and imperialism abroad. If they could no longer claim that God was on their side, they could claim that Nature was. Might made right, and the mighty were the "fittest," were they not? Of course, they never dreamed that there could be others in the universe mightier than themselves, who could claim the same justification. The irony of the situation was hardly lost on Wells in the first chapter of The War of the Worlds: “The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them. “And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?” In genre science fiction – the kind written, published and read by dedicated fans as opposed to that familiar to the general public – the invasion story has taken any number of turns since Wells. Some are grim, like Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters (1951); others comic, like Fredric Brown’s Martians Go Home (1955). Both have been adapted for the screen, albeit poorly. Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers (1955) has fared better, but most of those who have seen one or more of the movie versions aren’t familiar with the book. Genre science fiction likes to build on ideas, and in that sense the greatest post-Wells invasion epic may be David Gerrold’s still uncompleted The War Against the Chtorr (1985-) in which Earth is invaded by an entire alien ecology a billion or more years older than our own. Gerrold works new variations on the tropes of Wells, Heinlein and others, and one of the most frightening things in his series is that nobody knows for sure whether there is any intelligence behind the invasion or whether it is simply a mindless cosmic plague. But genre science fiction, beyond the kind of space opera that went from the E.E. "Doc" Smith serials of the 1930s to Star Wars, rarely has much to do with the sci-fi that we see on the large screen or small. The mass audience wants to see Independence Day, not The War Against the Chtorr. The Arrival, a more imaginative and ironic film in which the invaders are adapting the world to suit themselves by accelerating the global warming already begun by humanity, found a limited audience. In any case, any possible influence by genre sf on the invasion story as seen on screen has long since been eclipsed by the modern mythology of alien visitors or invaders that began with the first headlines about flying saucers in 1947 and has since metastasized into an elaborate belief system that includes involves not only contemporary UFO abductions and cover-ups of alien visitation, but the bio-engineering of the human race by aliens some 300,000 years ago, ancient astronauts fathering the first human civilizations and so on. For true believers, the Grays are only the tip of the iceberg. There are also the Aryans, Reptoids, Mantids and others. Some are living among us, but invisible because they live at a higher "frequency," whatever that means. New Age channelers claim to dispense advice from aliens as well as spirits of the departed, and tell us that the Delphic Oracle of ancient Greece was manned by visitors from the Pleiades. Not that the true believers agree on everything. One thing they can’t seem to agree on is whether the aliens are here to save us or destroy us. In "Patient X," Cassandra Spender speaks for the first alternative, in a dead-on parody of New Age prophets. CASSANDRA SPENDER: During my last several abductions I have experienced no fear whatsoever. And it was the absence of fear that allowed me to communicate with them and them with me. They've told me that I am an apostle, here to spread the word of the dawning of a new age of supernatural enlightenment. Of course, she sees things differently after her final abduction, during which she is turned into a human-alien hybrid – the culmination of a project agreed to by the aliens’ collaborators, the Elders, who hope to win immunity for themselves and their families from the Black Oil that will enslave or destroy the rest of the human race. CASSANDRA SPENDER: I told you that the aliens were here to do good and that I was being used as an oracle to spread the word. Only now I know what the aliens are here for and it isn't good. MULDER: What are they here for? CASSANDRA SPENDER: To wipe us off the planet. They're taking over the universe. They're infecting all other life-forms with a black substance called Purity. It's their life force. It's what they're made of. By the time of Cassandra’s revelation in "Two Fathers," it’s hardly news to us, or to Mulder. The Black Oil may be Chris Carter’s invention, and the Grays borrowed from UFO lore, but the story that incorporates them is still Wells’ story. And it is only the Wellsian story that justifies what would otherwise be nothing but a hodge-podge of half-baked and even pernicious ideas cribbed largely from previous TV series like The Invaders (1967-8) and UFO (1969-70) as well as UFO-New Age mythology. Genre sf writers like David Gerrold carefully develop their ideas. Carter is more like a pack rat, ransacking popular culture for whatever ideas he can use while throwing in a few of his own. Just as the monster of the week scenarios (q.v.) use Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-5) as their inspiration, the alien invasion mytharc takes its basic premise from The Invaders. David Vincent (Roy Thinnes, who later starred as Jonathan Smith on The X-Files), a prototype for Fox Mulder, would find new evidence of the invasion each week – but could never convince the authorities and never had more than a handful of supporters. One reason was that the Invaders (human to all appearances) would simply dissolve when killed – an idea Carter picked up for his shapeshifting hybrid clones. Although he doubtless had a general idea of where the mytharc was going by the end of the first season, Carter never seems to have been bothered by the details. An alien fetus (Purity Control) that appears in "The Erlenmeyer Flask," for example, suggests that the grays reproduce much as we do. But in the first X-Files movie, we get a chest burster like the one in Alien (1979) – except that it somehow emerges full-grown without using up its host. Purity Control, consigned by Cancer Man to a Pentagon storage room (where there are already many others like it) at the end of "The Erlenmeyer Flask," somehow turns up again in "One Son" at a lab controlled by the Elders, and is seemingly the only one of its kind – the alien rebels send an agent to retrieve it at any rate. Again in the movie, the Elders make much of the Black Oil virus having "mutated" to gestate alien monsters instead of merely taking control of its human hosts. But the Black Oil from the Texas cave is obviously a far older version than those encountered by the Zeus Faber and the Piper Maru in "Piper Maru" and "Apocrypha" or used for research on a vaccine by the Russians in "Tunguska" and "Terma." Perhaps Carter later realized that there was a problem here, for in "Vienen," it is only the mind-control version that is encountered by Mulder and Agent John Doggett at an oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico. One can poke all kinds of holes in other ideas from the mytharc. Those hybrid clones have green blood, for example, but their skin is human (Well, Caucasian human) in color, rather than greenish. And why can they be killed only by a stiletto (dubbed a plam by fans, after Mulder’s mother left him a message leading him to find one hidden in a lamp) to the back of the neck? Maybe Carter got bored by the whole concept; during the final two seasons, the clones were replaced by alien replicants/super soldiers. In "Two Fathers" and "One Son," the Alien Rebels wear Mission Impossible masks to disguise their faces, which they have mutilated by sewing shut their eyes, mouths and other orifices – for protection from the Black Oil, the Elders had theorized in "The Red and the Bkack." Yet at the climax of "Two Sons," the Rebels reveal that they too can shapeshift. In any case, the X-Files movie had already shown the Black Oil entering a Texas boy through his feet. With the borrowings from UFO-New Age mythology, it’s practically chapter-and-verse. The very first case that Mulder and Scully investigate together involves abductions in Bellefleur, Oregon, with the familiar elements of electrical interference and lost time – and ends with Cancer Man hiding the evidence in that storage room at the Pentagon. We soon learn that Mulder was drawn to the X-Files by recovered memory of the abduction of his own sister Samantha in 1974. Over the years, further abductions – including those of Scully and Mulder themselves – figure in the unfolding story. So do alien implants, secret experiments with human-alien hybrids, and the whole apparatus of the conspiracy. Even the matter of Ancient Astronauts is raised by Scully’s discovery in "Biogenesis" of an alien spacecraft covered with inscriptions (somehow a fragment from such a ship, and even a rubbing from it, have supernatural powers, and the inscriptions themselves include scriptural references). That lead was followed in the final season in "Provenance" and "Providence" – in which an alien-worshipping cult that has found a similar craft kidnaps Scully's child as an offering to the gods. One can readily understand why secular humanists like Carl Sagan pilloried The X-Files for pandering to such stuff. Yet while the logic of the mytharc cannot stand up under close scrutiny, its human meaning seduced us from the start and kept us watching to the end. The real story was never the truth, but what that truth meant to those who sought it – or fought to conceal it while exploiting it to their own ends. The X-Files is an epic of good versus evil, courage versus cowardice, hope versus despair.