wendelah1: (all the leaves are brown and the sky is)
[personal profile] wendelah1 posting in [community profile] xf_book_club
Julie Fortune's "The Ghost of You" is a casefic that is also an X-File, and a very creepy one, too. At only a little over 10,000 words, it's less daunting than some of the other fics sitting in the nomination post. In structure, it reminds me very much of the much earlier fic by Jane Mortimer, "The Sin Eater." Mortimer's fic might even have influenced it, who knows?

In any case, the prose is high caliber because the writer is a pro, who has published novels under several pseuds. She even published a tie-in for Stargate SG-1 under her fandom penname, "Sacrifice Moon." It's very good.

Here's a short excerpt from near the beginning of the fic. Mulder and Scully are at the crime scene in Restonville, West Virginia.

Strobe flashes from a wandering photographer lit up the interior. It was nothing more than more grass and mud, and in the middle –

Mulder blinked. "What the hell – "

Scully stepped forward, went to one knee next to the nude body. It was dug into the ground to a depth of nearly three feet, mud squashed up around it. It had been embedded in the mud, face down.

"Mulder." Scully gloved up and reached out to take hold of the woman’s hand, lifting it by the thumb.

Hands did not move that way. Not like – empty sacks, the fingers bending like rubber, no stiffness to it at all.

Boneless. Scully lifted higher. The arm followed the hand, a piece of dead spaghetti.

"Christ," one of the deputies said softly. Detective Harmon didn’t say anything at all, but his face paled. Scully carefully, almost reverently, let the woman’s hand fall back in place.

"Can we turn her over?" she asked.

"Yeah," Harmon said faintly. "We got all the pictures. Better you than me."

She looked at Mulder. Drafted. Nobody wanted to help – twelve deputies and forensic specialists crowded in the room, and every shoulder was pressed firmly against canvas. Mulder tried for a cool expression and took hold of the dead woman’s shoulder.

It felt like a cut of meat at the supermarket. Boneless. He swallowed hard as the body folded down the middle, like a paper doll. Scully helped him get her all the way over and in something like a normal position.

She had no face. Whatever bone structure had been present was obliterated, the face a mass of soft tissue, ruptured like something pulled up from the ocean too fast. No eyes. No teeth, either; the mouth, or what had been the mouth, shifted like jelly, and there were audible gulps from the others in the room.

"Scully?" Mulder cleared his throat. "I take it she’s real."

Scully has a theory, Mulder has a different one. There's thunder and lightening, reports of lights in the sky. They'll identify the body and...I don't want to give it away. It's a ghost story, but with a couple of twists.

You can the read the fic two different places. I like the link at the internet archive that's from her old website because I can copy, paste and print it for reading. I hate reading on computer screens.

At Fanfic for the Fearless via the Wayback Machine: "The Ghost of You" by Julie Fortune. You can find her other fic there, too, if you're interested.

And at the Enigmatic Doctor's site in one long narrow column: The Ghost of You.

She's deleted her non-fandom livejournal, and let her fandom website go down, but [livejournal.com profile] juliefortune is still there, and she left her gmail address on her last post.

The nomination post is always open for your suggestions. Thanks to everyone who helps keep this site running and (relatively) active, with your comments here, and your links on other social media sites.

Date: 2015-08-11 12:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] infinitlight.livejournal.com
I enjoyed this. I usually like the idea behind stories that are structured in a similar way to an episode of the show - I say "the idea behind" that kind of story because I have read a lot of stories like that, that leave me kind of unsatisfied. I think this is because many of those stories rely solely on plot and don't explore the characters much. I think I'm a "character" person over a "plot" person, although I prefer to have both, one feeding from the other. I thought this story was a pretty good combination of the two without being too mired down in character detail.

I always appreciate shorter stories because it means I can usually comment in a reasonably timely fashion, but now I'm going to contradict that by saying I think The Ghost of You should have been longer! I liked the spooky feel of it but I think the impact of the scary reveal would have been bigger if the story had spent a little more time sitting with it.

Date: 2015-08-16 10:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] infinitlight.livejournal.com
The story reset is really commonly used in this kind of story I think in part because it allows the stakes to be higher within the time loop. Terrible things can happen, characters can die, but they'll be safe in the end because the timeline will reset.

They could have investigated more (although I don't necessarily see the need for a hard sci-fi explanation - it's XF, sometimes weird things happen because this is a weird universe and it's not necessarily why or how it happens that is interesting), or there could have been more character reflection. Don't get me wrong, I liked that the story read fast, but I think I'm missing emotional resonance. Was anyone truly upset?

Date: 2015-08-14 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kate-11111.livejournal.com
I feel awful going into super-critical mode, but this story didn’t work for me at all. To me, the characters seemed dumbed down and their actions, thoughts and dialogue read like a cop-themed airport paperback (and at times didn’t even make sense.) The story itself was a bit all over the place – it had elements of intrigue, but didn’t have much structure or resolution. Why were there time-shifts and blue lights dropping people from the sky? Why was the course of space-time only corrected after the characters slept together? (That especially seemed contrived. As an aside, the sex-scene was cringe-worthy, in that it wasn’t honest to the characters’ relationship, and also inappropriate in the context of the story.) Anyway, we’re left to guess. The plot seemed an excuse for the characters to hook up, and wasn’t really fleshed out beyond that. It’s a shame, because a boneless body, time-shifts and ghosts are all promising premises. I know it’s meant to be a short, light read, and it was, but I just didn’t feel like there was much substance. Sorry! I’ll stop whinging now and get stuck into a deep-and-meaningful character study ☺

Date: 2015-08-16 10:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] infinitlight.livejournal.com
Super-critical mode is good! I often find it hard to clearly discuss what I didn't like about stories, but I think it's important if you want to know what makes a good story good (and I do).

I mentioned above I don't always need solid scientific explanations for weird goings on, but maybe some discussion of it would have helped the story become more solid. I enjoyed reading it but was kind of left hungry at the end, I think.

Date: 2015-08-20 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
I've read this, but must reread! Fortune is fabulous. Her "Fata Morgana" is one of the most subtle yet heart-stopping horror stories in our field.

The Ghost of You

Date: 2015-08-24 06:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
Hiya, I'm new here. Not new to fan fiction in general, but to X-Files, specifically. All this time... I never knew what great chemistry Mulder and Scully have! I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and thought that for the most part the author stayed true to the characters (certainly compared to some other fics I've read). I'm always impressed when someone can write an original x-File because all of my creative energy goes into imagining moments between Mulder and Scully. Suggestions on what to read next are welcome and appreciated!

RE: Re: The Ghost of You

Date: 2015-08-25 01:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
Thanks! I'm not going to lie though, I love #smut most of all.

Have you read #TheEleventhHour ? The beginning of that story was so emotional, it gave me chills. I've thought about rewriting the ending, though, because I'm not really a fan of AU stories. Obviously I'd need the author's permission, and I don't intend any disrespect.

RE: Re: The Ghost of You

Date: 2015-08-27 02:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
Maybe I like angst best after all? Strictly porn stories can get kind of monotonous.

Yeah, The Eleventh Hour was the story with the...strawberry. I liked the very beginning of the story, before the time jump.

Date: 2015-08-25 03:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
Hi there. Those who remember my attitudes--been absent a while--will know that I prefer brief and tight and understated prose to its opposite. I really like this fic, and part of that is that it doesn't waste time with over-explanation.

To revert to superficialities, it also provided me with some of my favorite things. There is the authentically terrifying (Scully's balloon body), plenty of sexual tension, and the displacement of realities which is so hard to do and which cannot really be explained. Not, at least, until they get quantum physics pinned down for the layperson. There is even humor. Anyone who cannot laugh at the impeccable Scully wallowing in mud has no soul.

As for the sex itself: pretty overheated and overspecific. But this dates from the days when CC the virginal prohibited what we were all thinking about, so I suppose it served a purpose.

I am piqued with Wendy's idea of the completed sex act putting the time aberrations back in order. To go more meta, this makes a kind of sense. For the majority of what became a monster fandom (no pun there), the chemistry thing was the motivation to watch a lot of nonsense about, well, monsters. Not that, in the right hands, that wasn't enjoyable. But somehow, at least before William and a rather boring non-FBI shackup, the sex seemed to be the entire end focus of the show. It is appropriate that hot coitus settled the universe down. The astrologer in "Syzgy" might appreciate it. And then that damn memory loss. What's that wonderful Syntax6 story in which Scully forgets all about doing Mulder in Puerto Rico? Wendy?

For the lady who likes smut, you might enjoy the work of Jess, Jess M, Jess Mabe. Her stuff must still be on Gossamer and she is recognizable by her shameless kidding around. Most of the time. And fictional use of, shall I say, a common physical indulgence.

Date: 2015-08-30 02:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
You are right. Big Mouth strikes again. Forget all about the spoiler and you will be pleasantly surprised when you meet again.

Date: 2015-08-27 04:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
Noted, thanks!

I just read "The Other Man" by Jess Mabe but I did not like that one. It was an emotional roller-coaster, and I didn't know what side to align to until the very end.

Date: 2015-08-30 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
I must reply to this because, first, I do consider TOM a difficult and painful fic to get one's head around. I disliked it the first time through, although I knew it was special. I have come to consider it a masterpiece of tragedy.

Second, it is VERY atypical Jess. I believe she wrote it when in a justifiably bitter state concerning the series, and as a goodbye to all that. Oddly enough, it appeared at about the same time as her "Beginning," which though not for the ladylike is quite a laff riot. And there is much earlier fic which is easy to take and fun. Try "University," in which undercover M&S pose as professor and student respectively. You can imagine Mulder's exploitation of his role and Scully's determination to solve the case despite his lollygagging.

Date: 2015-09-04 02:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
Thanks for the response, Estella. Strangely enough, I found myself thinking of TOM long after I read it. It was a clever story, so maybe I was too quick to judge it by my knee-jerk reaction. And thanks for the recommendation, I'll definitely check it out!

Date: 2015-08-31 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ledez-dreams.livejournal.com
I'm a bit late to the commenting, but just wanted to add that I really love this story. As someone else commented earlier, it's so rare for someone to write a really good x-file. I love case file type stories, and a lot of them feature nothing of the paranormal, probably because it's difficult to write well, but Julie Fortune nails it. She does this in all her stories (in my opinion) and she's probably one of my favourite writers, maybe even my favourite in the fandom.

I find the characterization spot on in both Mulder and Scully. The descriptions of both of their thoughts, actions, and most of all dialogue works so well. I especially like their interactions with the officers in the town. I thought there were some really good comedic parts, especially in the beginning before things take a serious turn. Once it does turn serious, I especially loved the description of the body and the disintegrated bones. The description itself and the characters reactions are downright creepy. It was a good blend of humour where appropriate and creepiness and suspense.

For me, I have very little to critique in this one, so my review is probably a bit boring in that way, especially for those who liked the story less. I think the romance aspect works well and maybe it's just me, but it seemed like a bit of a wink to shippers and frustration they felt, especially when the series was running. Since the story alludes to Mulder and Scully reliving these days on multiple occasion, I find it really funny that they literally exhaust every option before actually managing to express their love for each other and have sex, and then that's the solution that actually works, to save Scully from her death, and get them out of the time loop.

But then of course, it's ripped away from them and they have no memory of any of it. The last bit:

"Remember, the only safe sex is abstinence."

She couldn’t resist a smile.

"Then I guess we've safe," she said.

He sighed.

Those last lines just kill me. I don't know if Julie Fortune meant to lightly satirize the show with this last part because I found it hilarious even if the point is to be frustrated. Hope that makes sense.

Date: 2015-09-01 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ledez-dreams.livejournal.com
Haha thanks, it's nice to debate but also nice to agree!

I didn't really think about the AIDs epidemic. The "safe sex = abstinence" has always seemed so ubiquitous (in my small town Catholic school, it referred to teen pregnancy since we never learned any kind of protection… which is so insane. I wonder if it's still that way. Probably.) so I've heard it both in reference to STDs in general as well as pregnancy, depending on the context. Though taking into account this was based in the mid 90s, AIDs was more at the forefront than today of course.

I did however like when you point out the safe sex comment doubly references to the story itself and how they saved themselves, I hadn't read into it that much and that makes perfect sense to me. I like that it worked as a joke but also an unconscious reference to what they'd both forgotten.

I definitely agree there was a meta aspect to the ending. Both to fanfic and the show in general. As an aside, I always liked times when the show winks at fans also. I can still remember seeing the fox preview for "Small Potatoes" on TV. It very frankly featured the almost kiss part, they knew that was a hook to draw ratings, not to mention eventual ire of shippers everywhere. And it made me tune in with more excitement than usual that night. Only to be disappointed. But not really, because it was such a funny episode.

Anyways, back to this story. The little dig at the end works so well both because it's barely there yet so relevant, yet it does nothing to deter from the entire piece being a really solid work of story telling. I think it's my favourite of hers. That or Fata Morgana. Or maybe… just kidding (but seriously).

Date: 2015-09-04 02:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
"I think she's making a little meta-comment about fanfiction versus canon, don't you? They're sexing like mad in fic, yet every week, they're returned to the series timeline where they're celibate."

That's quite astute, [livejournal.com profile] wendelah1. Your statement is spot on, about the show vs fanfiction. It's something I knew but was unable to articulate. I will definitely check out Fata Morgana. Which leads me to my question: why are we drawn to angst? I've only recently identified that I love angst-y stories. It gives a new meaning to the saying "she just loves drama." I always wondered how anyone could "love drama" in their daily lives, but I never noticed that drama and tension are the very things that keeps me watching certain shows and movies.

And [livejournal.com profile] ledez_dreams, I went to catholic schools as well. To this day I resent some aspects of that particular education. But it's impolite for me to talk about religion, isn't it?

Date: 2015-09-05 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] addison zella (from livejournal.com)
"I think she's making a little meta-comment about fanfiction versus canon, don't you? They're sexing like mad in fic, yet every week, they're returned to the series timeline where they're celibate."

That's very astute, and is something that I've always known but wasn't able to articulate. It is frustrating how, episode after episode, there's so much sexual tension. How much of it was real chemistry and storyline, and how much was imagined by fans, I wonder?

And, Estella, you wrote about the previews being a hook. That's one of my biggest annoyances with television. I remember watching House and was almost as excited for the "Next Week, on House" preview as I was the actual episode. The powers that be would always twist clips from the next episode, often completely out of context. And even though I knew better, I fell for it every time. It kept me in anticipation for the next week's episode.


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