April 20, 2024

This has something to do with computers, right? The Internet?

The first time I went on the Internet I searched He X-Files I was 16, on a week-long writing project, and discovered the Usenet group alt.tv.xfiles in a small room full of bricky PCs. When we got internet at home, I found the BBC Cult message boards where I spent many hours writing fanfics (which I still have saved on a floppy disk) and discussing the show with other fans from around the world.

In many ways, the story of The x files It is closely linked to the history of the Internet. X Files The ’90s fans, known as Philes, were young, highly educated, tech-savvy viewers who wanted to discuss the series with a like-minded audience, and it’s no surprise that the former X Files The online fansite was created in the Usenet newsgroup just three months after the pilot episode premiered in September 1993. For the first day, posts made to the alt.tv.x archives discussed the mysterious informant from Mulder’s Deep Throat debated Scully’s medical degree and discussed the show’s standing in the ratings for Neilson, a variety of topics that fans continue to discuss even beyond the show’s 2016 revival.

It seems strange to think of the 1990s as history; after all, it was only 30 years ago. But when we think about how much has changed since then, it makes sense to focus on what the decade can tell us about the early days of digital fandom. Brian Lowry suggests that “fan reaction to the series has become such an important part of The x files story as the show itself,” citing fan discussion on the internet as a key element. Fans created a presence for the show online before Fox; By the time the official website appeared in June 1995, there were already dozens of fan-created websites and message boards offering a variety of content that would take years for Fox to compete with. As Bambi Haggins suggests, The x files Fan pages arguably set the standard for awesome fandom sites:

. . . for lusty talk and sophisticated star worship, check out Estrogen Brigade David Duchovny [DDEB] website hosted by Sarah Steagall et al; for extensive archive notes, see Cliff Chen’s slightly dated but extremely comprehensive The X-Files FAQ; for a sample of The and to post messages to other X-Philes, check out alt.tv.x-files, which, even in this post-series era, remains an active space for online discourse.

Of course, Philes wasn’t the only one to talk about his favorite shows online; Nancy Baym details the Rats newsgroup, dedicated to the discussion of soap opera fandom, which has its origins in the Usenet group net.tv in 1984, while Francesca Coppa notes that the Knight forever The fandom can boast of having the first online mailing list, started in December 1992. There was also crossover between online fan groups. As Susan J. Clerc points out, “DDEB was created by a member of two similar organizations Star Trek groups, the Starfleet Ladies’ Baking and Embroidery Auxiliary Society and the Patrick Stewart Estrogen Brigade,” and actors from sci-fi shows were known to talk about their Internet fans in interviews.

The show’s writers were certainly active in the early online fan communities. Carter himself has acknowledged that the growth of the Internet came at a good time for the growth of the program, saying that the Internet was like an “interactive tool” that helped him measure the “pulse” of the audience, while Frank Spotnitz remembers how the Online fan discussions led him to write a season 3 episode:

I remember a specific instance where I was inspired to write an episode because of something I read on a forum. It was during the third season, and I was flying back from a fan convention in Minnesota when I read a comment pointing out that we hadn’t followed up on the death of Scully’s sister earlier in the year. I realized that this was not only true, but also a huge oversight. I thought about it all the way to the airport, and by the time my plane landed in Los Angeles, I had already summarized most of the episode that became “Piper Maru.”

While Philes is not the only fandom with an early and active presence on the Internet, dialogue between fans and writers continued throughout the series, reflected in implicit and explicit references to the fandom within the show itself. Langly’s comment in “One Breath” that “We’re all jumping on the Internet to spot the scientific inaccuracies of Land 2” is a clear nod to the detailed analysis of the episodes, while the names of online fans appeared on the “Little Green Men” passenger manifest. It took until season 7 for Fox’s online presence to begin offering news, episode guides, and eventually online chats with Carter, Duchovny, and Gillian Anderson, while X Files Fan practices, terminology, and behaviors had slowly been making their way into the broader world of Internet fan communities. Terms like “shipping”, commonly used today in fandoms of doctor who to K-pop, originated with The x filesas well as the popularization of show- and fandom-specific acronyms that are only understandable to those within the fandom (Alp, 2021).

The x files It was instrumental in linking fans, producers and texts in a way that had not been done before. The emergence of the Internet along with The x files It allowed for a new type of communication between consumers and creators, a communication process that continues in fandom to this day, facilitated by the Internet. Philes may not have foreseen this when we started posting fiction, sharing theories, and discussing the finer details of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, but we’ve maintained our place in fandom history, continuing to share even as new platforms like TikTok have replaced Usenet groups and mailing lists.

Bethan Jones received her PhD from Cardiff University in 2021 and her research focused on anti-fandom, toxicity and online dislike. She is currently a research associate at the University of York and has written extensively on fandom, participatory culture and cult television. Her book on The X-Files was published in 2023.

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