wendelah1: Scully and Mulder at the lake (lake okobogee)
[personal profile] wendelah1 posting in [community profile] xf_book_club
What a nice response we got to "Oak Leaves in October." It's good to remember that there is more to this fandom than just the canon ship.

"Every Sparrow Falling" is a case file that is also an x-file. This is Mulder and Scully doing what they do best, investigating the paranormal. It's been some time since I last read this, but I remember being scared out of my wits. There is no summary from the author so here's the one from Raiders of the Lost Fanfic, Maybe Amanda's old rec site: "Casefile, paranormal, religion, madness. And hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jack."

For Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, it began with a sparrow.

More precisely, with a flock of sparrows. Or, as Agent Mulder had put it, a *fall* of sparrows.

"Clever turns of phrase aside, I imagine this must have been quite painful," Scully murmured, hunkered down by the body. The dead man was sprawled out peacefully, save for the bloodied mats of hair and the bird feet dangling out of his skull. Scully surmised she'd find the rest of the bird buried within. "Looks like it fell beak first, but still...given the impact, the rate of speed had to have been tremendous."

"Indicating a long fall from a high point of origin," Mulder agreed. "Consistent with the recent evidence of lights in the clouds, odd humming noises--"

"Mulder--" she protested.

"Come on, Scully, this isn't the first unexplainable 'deadly rain' recorded," he argued. "You've seen the reports. Hell, you've *written* the reports."

She nodded. "Frogs, rocks, crickets, seas of blood, and the inexorable sacrifice of the first-born..." she trailed off. Mulder was first; Samantha had been second-child. "No, Mulder," she said. "This rain is man-made. Or at least sent by aliens with terrible penmanship."

"What?"

Latex-sheathed fingers plucked one of the birds from its chosen spot of ground. "It's been stuffed," she said. "Hardened with a shellac-like coating. And Mulder--the writing is a dead giveaway." She rotated the bird to face him. Ignoring the blind, dead eyes, he focused his attention on the scrap of fabric sewn to the sparrow's chest.

"Wife beating," Mulder read. Scully could almost hear the gears grind as Mulder shifted from alien-chaser to manhunter. "Scully, pass the gloves."


Read "Every Sparrow Falling", then come tell us what you think.

The link is to IOHO's archive, but if their bandwidth runs out, you can also read it on her old site via the Wayback Machine or at Gossamer.

Date: 2012-02-12 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
Initial response: wow!

Date: 2012-02-12 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
This is a wonderfully crafted case-file, full of good things: a genuinely suspenseful and frightening plot, good oc's (the McCormicks, Theadra), wisecracks and moments of friendly partnership, fast twists, excellent control of language (by the woman who wrote "All the Mulders"), subtle twists and turns. And popcorn and hot dogs, naturally.

It answers the question of what might happen if Mulder doesn't stop exposing himself to alien goo. It isn't quite as fan-engrossing as when "will they make love"? But it's persistent and far less addressed by the talent.

There are two things that still mystify me:

1) Why have I never read this before?

2) What exactly happened there at the end. Damn that subtlety; I must reread. But not tonight.

ATM proved that this writer is capable of doing hideous things to our heroes, And doing them well.

Date: 2012-02-13 01:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badforthefish.livejournal.com
I've read a third of it, and I'm enjoying it very much sofar. More later.

Date: 2012-02-14 09:23 am (UTC)
ext_20969: (Default)
From: [identity profile] amyhit.livejournal.com
I almost never use the notes I’ve previously made on a fic in the comments I make on that fic if it comes up at the book club, because my opinions on a fic often change over time and I always want to be going with a fresh impression. However, in this case I find that my original impression of this fic sums up my current impression of it almost exactly:

"***This is a pretty good casefile fic. The details are a little patchy and I spent most of the fic trying to figure out how one plot element was related to another, but all in all, as a casefile it plays out very similar to the show in its pacing, tone and the way it approaches the characters and their relationship. A more fleshed out plot and a more character-based narrative (the latter especially) would have given it more impact. But I’m not sure that's what the author was going for."

I'm not sure what exactly Alloway was going for. This fic has a lot of good material in it, yet it feels a bit stilted to me. It never quite gels. I’ll try to go into a bit more detail tomorrow.

Date: 2012-02-15 11:10 am (UTC)
ext_20969: (Default)
From: [identity profile] amyhit.livejournal.com
I need to do a plot reconstruction, for my own benefit if nothing else. If the plot does not strike you as the least bit baffling, then you may as well skip this bit.


Okay, so strange Maria Nicholson and her autistic son Stephen used to fling sparrows - sparrows carrying messages of the sins of the world - up into the air, because it was Maria’s idea that if god saw them he would get rid of these sins.

And then Maria got Gathered by the orange and disappeared.

Years later, adult Stephen built a flying machine so that he could take sparrows up to god, like he did with his mother. Except one of Stephen’s sparrows accidentally hit a man in the head and killed him, thus bringing Mulder and Scully into town to investigate.

Stephen’s statement about Clovis Hill sent Mulder and Scully out looking for the existence of such a place, and what they found was the starved and stranded remains of what was once a whole colony (plague, really) of orange. The orange reached out to Mulder, but he shook it off. Mostly.

All the weird stuff Mulder and Scully found at Clovis Hill had basically vanished the next day, but Mulder put this strange incident together with a letter he’d gotten from James LeBlanc, from another state entirely, who had since committed suicide.

They question James’ brother, Harris, and figure out that his memories have been altered around what happened to his brother. Harris and James were actually on some kind of secret squad that was trying to eradicate the orange. Except that James was sympathetic to the orange’s zombie people, and was letting them go. That was a major fuck up on his part, and eventually he went on a solo suicide mission, trying to right his wrong.

While Scully works on recovering Harris’ true memories (as above), Mulder goes to investigate Theadra, the girl James was supposedly trying to woo shortly before he died. But when he gets there Theadra puts the orange’s version of the whammy on him, and buries him in the orange’s special pit for sucking the humanity out of people.

Scully gets James to call in his special team of “Sparrows” to fight or cleanse or weed-whack the orange, or whatever it is they do to it. She digs up Mulder, who seems okay, even though James tells her the orange will have already leeched the humanity out of him.

Except the orange has gotten to him, and now he is likely on the road to becoming either insane or murderous.

Date: 2012-02-15 11:18 am (UTC)
ext_20969: (Default)
From: [identity profile] amyhit.livejournal.com
*deep breath*

Okay, I think I get it. It took almost an hour of scrolling back and forth through the fic to check different parts, and then writing the whole thing out, though, before I felt like I actually knew the plot and wasn't just guessing about things.

It’s an x-file built on some truly ghastly and interesting concepts, I’ll give it that. I think my main problem with it is that it’s all a bit too tenuously connected. The death that brings Mulder and Scully into town turns out to have little to do with the x-file. The man’s death is an accident, and his accidental killer just happens to be connected to what turns out to be the real x-file. There is all this talk about sparrows: the first man dies from being hit by a sparrow, Mulder and Scully get pelted by sparrow guts, and James’ team were called “Sparrows” – yet there doesn’t seem to be any actual connection between these very notable elements, just coincidence. Not to mention there is just too much going on with the actual x-file. It’s called orange, it’s some kind of malevolent essence, it forms totems out of dirt when something rouses it, it eats people’s humanity to sustain itself, it can call out seductively to certain kinds of people, it also turns them into zombie vessels for itself, and it uses bugs to help it eat people somehow? Or it just makes them crazy. And it travels around in the guise of a fair or a carnival or whatever. And there is a secret (government?) operation whose job it is to exterminate the orange, somehow, and mind wipe people when necessary. And James’ essence is still lingering around, somehow, communicating with Mulder (and Scully?) while they’re not entirely conscious.

It just—it’s too much. I’d really like a bit more cohesiveness.


On the other hand, there is quite a bit I like about this fic. It’s creepy, it’s inventive, the ending is chilling, the Mulder/Scully dialogue and behavior is spot on, plus Scully rescues Mulder and bosses around secret ops. dudes.

On the other other hand, I do wish the fic had a bit more of a character focus. I like my fanfic to give me more of Mulder and Scully than the show typically does, and most fanfic does. I think Every Sparrow Falling is notably the most case-focused casefile I’ve ever read. I admire it for that – for being different, and true to the show. But I find it difficult to get emotionally interested in this fic, without the emotional in that a bit more character focus usually brings.

Date: 2012-02-16 01:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] infinitlight.livejournal.com
I thought the ending, also, rang particularly true in terms of the show. Early seasons especially had a lot of "and then everything was resolved--OR WAS IT" (cue Jersey Devil children crawling out into the sunshine/Tooms staring intently at the meal tray slot in his cell door/whatever).

I'm not a big fan of that kind of ending, but I guess it's a good way to get you to tune in next week. I liked the story but thought the ending was just okay.

Date: 2012-02-16 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
Thanks again, amyhit, for the plotwork. Give the girl a raise. It's hard stuff, and helpful when crafting some kind of opinion. I should reread this, but...never mind.

I admire this fic extremely--it's a hard one to love--because as noted it's very faithful to the underplayed, elliptical, nonshippy casefile adventures of the early years. There's banter, there's suspense, and the plot twists and turns in a genuinely mystifying way. I think of it as circling, spiraling through various characters and times and places to a blunt, still understated conclusion. That it takes a certain laissez faire attitude to feel that the plot points cohere does not bother me. Partly I am willing to trust a writer who demonstrates such obvious control. Partly I don't mind being mystified. In a sense the love of horror fiction is a temporary submission to the Dark Side, which is always beyond our understanding and will usually defeat us. Good horror fiction--oh, hell, all of it--has a quasi-religious quality. We are in over our heads. We might drown.

I'm looking at that ending. Mulder is doomed. It is *very* fast-and-over. I felt unprepared for it because, well, our heroes are hardly every doomed in fanfic. Not in fanfic with detective work. Not in fics with banter! That can't be right.

Mulder is going to become a Mulder-monster. The idiot encountered the goo and lost. Scully tried to, did, save him, but it doesn't matter because they're never going to get to that FBI ball. They'll never have sex. The casefiles are over.

It's awful. I hate it. But only a writer this good could make me thrill to it at the same time. Those dead and madness-manufactured sparrows: I can see them falling and it's poetic. (And how often does an actual poetic allusion of a title play out in literal terms? Cool.)

ESF makes me think of "The Crouching Thing." But bigger, plottier, and...with banter. The combination of light and heavy tones sells the horror.

Oh, coincidence? Without it fiction couldn't exist, though critics still dislike it. Lately I've become convinced that we encounter coincidences every day but seldom slow down enough to notice. Whether they are part of a great underlying plot, who can judge?

Date: 2012-02-18 10:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badforthefish.livejournal.com
I was away for half term so although I read the fic, I missed the discussion. But basically my opinion is: what Amyhit said.

I too found the story hard to follow, it lacked 'linkage' for want of a better word, and I had to go back a few pages now and then, to try to figure out what was going on. There were too few "stage directions" to anchor the characters in particular surroundings, except when the 'sandcastles' were described.

I didn't quite get what was going on with the Orange at first, but it sure was creepy.

Also the characterisation was good but a bit dry emotionally. I didn't really feel much warmth for these two M&S, the way it was written didn't really make you care what happened to them.

It was a creepy tale but its universe could have used some further development.

Date: 2012-02-18 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
I actually think that the things you object to are what made it creepy. It's hard (though possible) to comprehend, and the treatment is cool and clinical. It's not exactly a punch in the gut; it's more as if after noticing odd but minor symptoms you're told that you have a terminal disease.

We don't see many like this around here.

Date: 2012-02-18 04:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badforthefish.livejournal.com
Very well put, but I wonder if there had been more warmth in the M&S POV, more developmnent in the M&S dynamic, the contrast with the strangeness of the Orange wouldn't have been even more interesting.

Date: 2012-02-18 04:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badforthefish.livejournal.com
Isn't caring about the characters a given?

Well yeah, up to a point. I don't know...IIRC I cared more for the M&S of Lacadiva's 'Type 51', which is not a relationship story either. I guess I found these M&S lacked substance. They do their jobs following the clues and that's about it. Or maybe I was distracted and missed all the under currents, which again would not be a remote plausibility.

I used to read lots of horror stories so this kind of atmosphere is not particularly new and exciting for me - even if I have to admit it was indeed a creepy tale.

I still think it's a good, well written story, but it didn't really grab my guts.
Edited Date: 2012-02-18 04:11 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-02-19 08:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badforthefish.livejournal.com
Ah, I was one type wrong. *G*

I can't remember there was much in terms of romance in "Type 52", I thought it was more UST than anything else. But as I have just proved with LoTF, my memory isn't an accurate tool, so I could be wrong.

There does not need to be a romance to keep me interested in a story, but there needs to be some depth to M&S, some emotional resonance to their interaction whatever the nature of it is, otherwise you might as well have cardboard cutouts playing the roles. I'm not saying it was the case to this story but I don't know...they felt a bit 'meh'.

Date: 2012-02-19 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estella-c.livejournal.com
Night of the LD??? Count me in!

so so creepy

Date: 2016-06-18 07:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bmerb.livejournal.com
short, satisfying, disturbing, thought provoking. YES

Re: so so creepy

Date: 2016-06-19 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bmerb.livejournal.com
Good grief yes, it IS terrifying and creepy and GOOOOOD. Although I wondered when the paramilitary Harris guy in/part of the Orange said to Mulder that he was a lucky guy, if that was because he knew Mulder was going to actually escape, or what. Thought provoking and yes, definitely season 1-2 in that creepy unresolved feel. So much packed into such a short story!

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