ext_20969: (Default)
[identity profile] amyhit.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] xf_book_club
Our second Halloween fic this year is "Through the Fire," a very distinctive AU that basically incorporates a little bit of everything into the mix.

In this universe Mulder has been imprisoned for several years on false charges, and Scully has continued their work in his absence. Now she must cope with a dangerous case - an MoTW with its roots at the heart of the mytharc - while also coping with a sudden change in Mulder's circumstances. It's a tense, unusual, and downright creepy fic with an M/S dynamic that's intense and quite lovely. Diana, Jeffrey Spender, and Skinner also have parts to play.

Through the Fire

Oh my god, you guys, I'm SO SORRY! Anyone who downloaded the text file of the fic missed chapter 6! My face is literally in my palms. I read the whole fic and didn't even realize I'd missed an entire chapter, and from the looks of things an important one. I only just realized it now.

That is, from what I can tell, the only place the fic is posted. If the format (which is seasonally cute, but also rather visually loud) bothers you, I've uploaded the fic as one complete Word file, which you can download here.

Happy Halloween, everyone! And season's greetings to anyone who doesn't celebrate.

Date: 2011-10-29 09:57 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
Thanks for the Word file. The format is cute but also distracting and difficult to read. I'm printing it out. It's just a little over 21,000 words, too, so not a huge commitment of time.

Date: 2011-11-03 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
Hey, the first to opinionate. I'm so proud of myself, after having played caboose for long time passing.

This is a feisty and quite interesting X-File adventure, and it displays some good writing with the promise of fine writing in the future. Wen and I both believe it is nowhere near the stellar orbit of Oyster.

Oddly, looking back at the poor mutated monster (which plays nice with canon), I keep snagging on the problems. There is an earnest, determinedly horrific, would-be-tragic push that is meant to help us pity Tom Hagen and *quiver* at the inexplicable hatred that Mulder displays toward his loyal partner. It doesn't seem to bond with the here-to-amuse Halloween chapter headings, as well as--I suspect--the provided visuals. That's the cute, tame side of Halloween. Tom and Mean Mulder are the dark side.

This was, of course, written on one of those dares that fandom used to specialize in as an aid to group cohesion. And with time constraints! I can't imagine. My respect for Jordan is pretty high.

But those sex scenes. I get the intent; a love so strong it overcomes all of Mulder's fears for Scully's safety (not to mention his prison time on the sexual bench). I get it but I didn't dig it. There's far too much describing of breathlessness and involuntary excitement and pushing up against walls and falling backwards onto mattresses. There's TOO MUCH DESCRIPTION. It's trying so hard to be exciting that it overreaches. I'm thinking, here, of Mulder's penis as a cucumber.

Anyhow, why is Mulder so damned *mad.* If there's a reason, I missed it. Wouldn't be the first time.

In Wendy's honor, I declare that Diana Fowley was somewhat mishandled. She was childishly jealous of the files and Scully's possible intrusion (quite ooc) and she faints. Faints! Neutral as my feelings for the woman remain, she certainly believed in the paranormal and had an honor and toughness beyond what she displays.

I liked Jordan's treatment of Skinner. She always liked him best. Which may be why her reputation is cultish.

Please read Oyster. You can look up the Club discussion near the beginning. Wendy was brilliant. (That's it for suckup, W.)

Date: 2011-11-04 04:26 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
Please read Oyster. You can look up the Club discussion near the beginning. Wendy was brilliant. (That's it for suckup, W.)

Thanks, babe. I used to be smart, didn't I? What the hell happened?

I admire Jordan, too, if only for taking on this challenge. The time constraints, the posting requirements, all of the elements that had to be included. No, thank you. I guess the group cohesion thing must have worked okay. I wish the story had held up as well.

I've read this a couple of times now. It's not always easy to tease out exactly what's happening and when because of the multiple points of view and the shifting time-line. The story begins October 18 with Scully down in Memphis, Tennessee investigating four mysterious deaths. She's with a fellow forensic pathologist, Tom Hagen, who gets injured partly because he's stupid and showing off and partly because there is an evil intelligence in the bones he's displaying to Scully, just like there's an intelligence in the black oil, waiting to infect and take over its victims. But we don't know any of that yet, we just think the guy is a klutz who's coming on to Scully.

Then Scully gets a phone call. Mulder's being released. She leaves. Well alrighty then, I mean heck, we didn't even know he was in prison, let alone why or for how long.

In the next chapter, we get switched to a Scully dream sequence. No date stamp but we do get to find out it's post-Mulder's release. Scully wakes up from the dream enough to remind herself to call Mulder in the morning. The dream is way creepy and since this is a Halloween story, it must have supernatural overtones. It's a vision! Scully doesn't know that so she turns over and goes back to sleep.

Chapter three moves us way ahead in the time line--thirteen days later--to Halloween day. Scully is driving to Mulder's residence. We get some details, nicely conveyed through a flash-back scene to Skinner's office three years earlier. A lesser writer would have resorted to an internal monologue info dump but she gets us right into the scene. Then we're back into the near past, with the Lonegunmen sitting in Scully's livingroom drinking tea and discussing why Mulder won't come back to the FBI, to the X-Files. Whatever. Then Scully is back in the car, driving to Mulder's place. As a reader, I am feeling a bit of psychic whip-lash, but at least we know the whys and wherefores of Mulder's imprisonment, and their estrangement. I do believe he would refuse to see her if he thought it was putting her in danger. And, I do believe she would wait for him, the full ten years if need be, carrying on in his place, playing Penelope to his Odysseus. This is a more passive version of her than I'd prefer, but at least she does keep investigating. I don't know why she had to do it without a partner or why she was taken off the X-Files in the first place, if she wasn't implicated in the fire or the disappearance of Gibson Praise. Leaving her on the X-files, pairing up Scully and Fowley--now that would have been an interesting mix. I agree, EC, Jordan doesn't write Diana well, and I can't imagine Diana fainting, ever.

Date: 2011-11-04 04:26 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
I do like how she handles Teena Mulder, however.

"I'm sorry about your mother," she said.

He made a slight gesture as he walked away from her, towards a larger room she presumed was the living room. "Skinner told me you were a great comfort to her when she was in the hospital."

Skinner. Scully ducked her head to hide her smile. It had taken this terrible thing to show Skinner for what he was, and the Gunmen, and Tina Mulder. And maybe her, too. Mulder's imprisonment had brought out the best in each of them; they had been tried by fire and found worthy. Skinner may have been right; she may actually have been a comfort to Mrs. Mulder, as she had called Mulder's mother right up to the day she died. But in her quiet strength there had been a kind of passion that had amazed Scully, a love for her son that wasn't manifested in hugging and kissing and family dinners, but rock solid in its own way.

She had brought the lawyers in, turned over everything to Scully in her living will, listed every last condition in case Samantha was ever found, and made completely sure that her son's assets were safe before she allowed death to take her.

"Some people make their peace with God," Frohike had said later; "She made hers with her accountant."


That sounds much more like the woman on screen than most of the writers in the fandom have managed.

I like the opening lines to Chapter One. "Sometimes the only thing the dead have left is the poetry of their bones. The exquisite architecture of the human form, speaking of the potential for grace and motion. The basic plot of the human story outlined in perfect detail, awaiting only the right person to come along and decipher its meaning." It sounds like it could have been written for the show, only better, and it even sounds like it could have come from Scully's brain. The story is very atmospheric, full of spine-tingling details, like the opening lines to Chapter Four. "Something red and demon-like darted from the shadows of the trees across the road, and Scully hit the brakes sharply. A small, agile child, not in a mask but in some kind of red makeup, cut an insolent look at her. It bobbed its head as if laughing, then scrambled up onto the curb and dashed away. It happened so quickly Scully almost thought she imagined it."

The sex scenes. I really dislike the Scully/Skinner sex scenes in her earlier work and I don't like these any better for being Scully/Mulder. I get what she was going for, too, but this version of Mulder is repellent to me and this version of Scully is way too swoony for my taste. I want her to walk out the door and come back in the morning with the notary, walk out again and get on with her life. Instead we get the distaff version of the healing cock. They have sex and look! It's magic! He's all better now! He's coming back to the FBI! I think Jordan found this scenario as ridiculous as I do, which accounts for the Mulder erection being described as a cucumber and rest of the over-the-top style and tone. Mulder and Scully having sex was a required element, not something she put in because she wanted it. For readers who like their sex scenes overly long and on the Gothic romance end of the spectrum, this probably worked just fine.

God, I'm cranky today. What a party-pooper I am.

Date: 2011-11-04 04:44 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (Mulder and Diana)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
So the structure is tricky and the style is--inconsistent. What about the themes? I think we are supposed to be drawing parallels between the plight of the human/alien spirit, trapped in the bones of its victims, since just as with the black oil even the host is a victim, and Mulder, imprisoned by an unknown element of the Consortium, now released but angry and psychologically damaged, perhaps irrevocably.

Scully cures them both. The spirit of the alien/human hybrid gets cleansed in the fire on the bridge, then the remains cremated down to ashes. Mulder gets healed by having sex with Scully, getting the better end of the deal. As for Jeffrey, he gets to see something paranormal for a change and then be transferred to an assignment more to his liking. Diana--gets nothing. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

Edited to add, yes, her Skinner was great. I do love her Skinner. And naturally, he gets the happy ending!
Edited Date: 2011-11-04 05:08 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-11-03 09:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
I just remembered that many of our members/lurkers have been stricken by electrical outages. What kind of excuse is that? Double down on your mental signals! Sigh. Where is the paranormal when you need it?

Date: 2011-11-04 12:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] write-out.livejournal.com
I did lose power, but my main excuse for not posting so far has been homework. School has been kicking my ass something fierce this week, hence my silence. I have read this story and I liked it enough, but that's about the limit of my critique. I read fairly quickly to get the gist, so I'm sure I missed a lot. My feelings run neutral-positive. I don't remember any strong reactions other than that I am glad M/S seemed to have figured it out by the end (eternal shipper that I am).

[livejournal.com profile] estella_c, I think Mulder's anger stems from being wrongly locked up for years and not knowing where he stands once he is released. He's missed so much, especially Scully since she never saw him in prison (right? am I remembering that correctly?). Then again, I did skim, so maybe I'm missing something myself. Because I definitely don't remember anything about cucumbers. Yikes.

Date: 2011-11-04 04:54 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: David and  Gillian in bed (David and Gillian in bed)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
I agree with you, Mulder is angry because he's been locked up away from the world, and away from Scully. She's always been his human credential so he's gone downhill since he's been shut away. It was his decision to keep her from visiting, and who knows except Jordan whether it was the right one. It damaged him, POOR BASTARD. Lucky for him, he got to have MAGIC HEALING SEX!

This was a good sex scene to have skimmed over quickly. I'll just leave it at that.

Edited to say, as much as I disliked the sex scene overall, she does give us this line at the end:

"How could I have never realized before, she wonders dreamily afterwards, with her chin tucked in his collarbone and her hand feather light on his sweating chest, that even falling is a form of flight?"

Now I'm swooning.
Edited Date: 2011-11-04 05:05 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-11-04 05:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] write-out.livejournal.com
YES. I love that line about flight too (I'm typing this on my phone so can't copy it).

I just read your other comments and when I am home and have access to LJ (stupid work filter), I want to respond to them.

Date: 2011-11-04 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
I agree that Jordan is capable of bad lines and also great lines, in this specific case. We know what she's capable of.

I can accept certain self-supplied reasons for Mulder's totally evil reception of Scully. I just wish they had been at least *hinted at* by the writer. Except maybe they were, because close reading of fanfic is HARD. Which is why I revere amyhit. (Hey, she's young and at leisure.)

Cucumbers are nothing. Visit Gossamer and find fics about salami and--stop there. (Didn't SeinfeldGeorge talk about salami as the "most erotic of processed meats"? Or it might have been pepperoni. I guess it depends on your cultural history.)

Date: 2011-11-07 04:19 am (UTC)
wendelah1: (*grins*)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
Although I think she had the bones (forgive the pun) of a great story here, the rush to post interfered with the end result. Well, that's my theory. Or maybe she was just having with her friends for Halloween? Which is fine, too. It's still an entertaining holiday read, even with the Mulder cucumber-penis. The website is a hoot, too.

Re: 1/3

Date: 2011-11-06 01:09 am (UTC)
wendelah1: ("I think you're wrong about that Scully")
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
She does do atmosphere well, which seems especially appropriate for Halloween. But, as you know I really don't like non-linearity in fic when it undermines the narrative, which I think it does in this story. It's a casefile, which implies it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It's fine to have a flash-back or two, but this was too mixed up for my taste. I shouldn't have to make a g-ded timeline on paper to keep track of what happened when in a fanfic story. Frankly, it doesn't work all that well when JET uses it either, most of the time.

But. It works brilliantly in "Oyster." So all is forgiven.

Re: 2/3

Date: 2011-11-05 11:57 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (*grins*)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
One of the things I like so much about this AU is that Scully is so strong and competent and independent. She carried on their work on her own, and she's done a good job. But with Mulder she's 'timid damsel Scully' more than 'dauntless agent Scully'. It's a shame, because it would only take changing maybe five short lines in the whole fic and I don't think there'd be a problem.

Yes. She undermines Scully at every turn as soon as Mulder comes back into the picture. She's a wonderful investigator and a strong presence, until he shows up. I don't know that it's Jordan worshiping Mulder or if she's just writing what she thought the readers had asked for in as annoying a manner as possible. Skinner is her favorite. She wrote Mulder out of every story except this one to pair her up with Skinner, didn't she? To me, it's more like she's parodying Mulder worship and Mulder-centric MSR. That cucumber--I mean I can't be expected to take a sex scene seriously that features any mention of penis-shaped vegetables. That had to be deliberate.

Re: 2/3

Date: 2011-11-07 12:33 am (UTC)
wendelah1: ("I think you're wrong about that Scully")
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
What about the sex scene bothers you so much (besides the cucumber, which I have already agreed was not the best choice of similes)? Quotes of parts you find particularly bad would help me to understand why this sex scene, which to me is vivid and pretty, though somewhat OTT, strikes you as so very unsatisfactory.

Okay, here are a few examples of things that made me roll my eyes. It's too long. It's too detailed. The details are icky (to me) rather than sexy. The metaphors don't work for me. Specific examples? Sexuality is so individual, and people's responses to erotica so unpredictable, I'm not sure how this helps but okay.

There are forces that can't be stopped, huge shifts of paradigms moving as slowly and inexorably as the drift of continents, that have placed them here at this moment, walking up the steps to Mulder's mother's house with their hands clenched together in a white knuckled grip.

This sentence seems more appropriate for describing the beginning of WW3 than a sex scene. "Huge shifts of paradigms"? Continental drift? That doesn't sound like a parody of MSR to you?

The brakes are on, but the car is skidding down the side of a cliff.

This doesn't sound like something Scully would think unless she were actually in the car that's falling off the cliff. I have a hard time believing this is something anyone would be thinking as they are heading to bed for the first time with someone they're in love with and have wanted for so long. To me, this sentence detracts rather than enhances the mood she trying to capture.

I like descriptions of kissing but this one is just icky to me. The wording seems awkward, too.

Mulder's tongue explores the mystery of her mouth, sweeps over her teeth, thrusts in and slides out in a way that makes her go rigid and relax, rigid and relax.

This isn't sexy to me. The sentence needs an edit, for one thing.

He has both hands fumbling at her blouse and she feels his knuckles on her breasts, brushing them with an accidental touch that is somehow more electric than when he had been deliberately groping her.

Plus, groping is not a sexy word. Not to me, at least. The connotation for me is teenagers in the back of a car.

You see how it is. For every phrase that works, there is one that doesn't. I'm sure if she'd had more time, she'd have smoothed this out, but I can only judge what's on the page.

Something doesn't have to squick a person out in order to be a poor choice of words. Obviously the point was that resisting the bond they felt for each other was futile. But there are things you just don't say during or about a sex scene, and "resistance is futile," is one of them. IMO it's not funny, it's not clever, it just strikes a really off note.

I have no idea when this was originally posted, but I'm assuming in the nineties? I think you have to consider the context. But maybe by today's standards, it's not funny, it's just in bad taste. I believe you.

It still made me laugh. I'm just a dinosaur.

I don't see how the non-linearity in TTF undermines the narrative. I like a fic that makes me curious and a bit confused, so long as I feel my confusion can be sorted out by paying careful attention to the narrative. To me that's often the most involving and rewarding kind of reading. I like being made to wait, and trust, and puzzle things out a bit.

Maybe you're just that much smarter than me.

But I have found with her writing and with JET's that their insistence on non-linearity makes it harder, and in the case of JET, sometimes impossible for me to tell what's going on and that detracts from the narrative, from the story they are trying to tell me. Atmosphere is all well and good but if at the end of the story, I don't know what happened and when, I think something went haywire, assuming they wanted me to know. With JET, I don't think that's always the case. But I think Jordan wanted more clarity and the narrative just got away from her. I think if she'd had more time to edit, it would have had better flow and probably better metaphors, too.
Edited Date: 2011-11-07 04:06 am (UTC)

Re: 2/3

Date: 2011-11-12 05:04 am (UTC)
wendelah1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
Thank you, but I didn't think you were being a bad sport; you asked for information, which I provided as best I could. I just wasn't sure how much it would aid in understanding. Back when we discussed "The Leap," I began to see just how disparate people's reactions to (fan)fiction and erotica can be.

I try not to take negative reactions to stories I love personally, but sometimes I do. I'm only a human being. And, sex is a touchy issue.

Mostly, I just want people to have fun discussions about fanfic.

I guess it didn't come across, but I enjoyed reading this story, too. The negatives didn't outweigh the positives for me, except for the sex scenes, and even there, I liked some of her lines. The one I quoted, for example. But I'm left feeling a little let-down, because I know how great Jordan's writing can be.

Re: 3/3

Date: 2011-11-06 12:08 am (UTC)
wendelah1: (*grins*)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
Resistance is futile.

Except isn't that what the Borg say when they plan to assimilate a ship or a planet? I think it was a line from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, too, before the aliens destroyed the planet?

It made me laugh. I'm pretty triggery when it comes to rape stuff. I'm certain it wasn't meant to be a serious line. Again, I think she is poking fun just a little at the requirement that "Mulder and Scully have to have sex" as part of the challenge.
Edited to add:
And why couldn't Scully's lighter have worked? She came on the scene like a total HBIC, and then she was robbed of her moment of ultimate capability because the lighter didn't work? Boo.

That was beyond annoying. See, she undermined Scully again. She's nothing without Mulder. Mulder's lighter would have worked. Skinner wouldn't have needed a lighter, he'd use his xray vision to light the gasoline. LOL.

I know I skimmed part six quickly the first time through before I downloaded the rest to look at it more carefully but it didn't register as anything special. I think you are right, it's a stronger story without it.
Edited Date: 2011-11-06 12:12 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-07-09 02:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tri-sbr.livejournal.com
I just read this story and enjoyed it on balance. Was kind of confused because of the non-linearity(as has been pointed out), but I'm glad I read the discussion here instead of reading the story again. I don't think I liked it enough to reread it right away, so reading the comments here was perfect.

I have to say, I was slightly confused by the ending; I was not expecting it to be so benign. I actually thought, when Mulder found Scully's injury after the s-e-x, that it was going to turn out that the bones had gotten Scully and the evil was now in her... I was really spooked for a few paragraphs anticipating the moment we would see Scully turn monster-ish, and then just sort of vaguely confused when that didn't turn out to be the direction things went. Oh well. I'm impressed by how well it came out overall given the time constraints.

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