How The X-Files Influenced Novel Novice

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What does a TV show from the ’90s have to do with a book blog covering contemporary young adult literature?

That’s probably what you’re thinking right now. Along with, Hey, I thought your blog got it’s start because of Twilight?

Well, yes.

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If you know our origin story, you know that we got our start as a website chronicling one teacher’s use of the Twilight series in her classroom to engage students, improve test scores, and get them interested in the books and subjects she was required to teach. Novel Novice was a natural spin-off, in which we continued to showcase top notch young adult literature and how it could be used to inspire students to connect the books they wanted to read with the books they had to read, or the other subjects they had to study in class.

Part of what I love so much about this concept is that, in a sense, I’ve seen and experienced it in practice myself.

But when I was in high school, I wasn’t relating my classroom subjects to Twilight. I was relating them to The X-Files.

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I discovered The X-Files when I was a freshman in high school, and it was my parents who actually introduced me to the show. I very distinctly remember coming into the family room one night after studying for finals, and my dad was watching the season 4 episode “Tunguska” — which was the first of a two-parter. I got sucked in immediately, and the next night I raced through studying for my physics final so I could catch the part two episode, “Terma.”

tunguskaI. Was. Hooked.

The show itself was in the middle of season 5 — but the first four seasons were airing nightly on FX (at the time, a fairly new network), so I caught up quickly by watching the reruns during the week (two episodes per night; ten episodes per week), and watching the new episodes every Sunday night when they aired live. (Life before DVR was so hard!)

That summer, the first movie The X-Files: Fight the Future hit the big screen, and my obsession really took off. I think I saw the movie ten times in theaters that summer. In the fall, my parents took me to “The X-Files: EXPO” in San Francisco, where I saw Mitch Pileggi, Nicholas Lea, and the Lone Gunmen actors all speak. I crushed so hard on David Duchovny; I had pictures and posters covering every inch of wall space in my bedroom. I started collecting little green men alien figurines, and my mom even made a custom shelf that looked like a UFO to hold them all. (Life regrets: getting rid of said collection in college.)

mulder scully hugI owned every magazine with Mulder and Scully’s faces on it; bought and devoured the companion novels; recorded countless VHS tapes of new episodes for repeat viewing; had marathon overnight slumber parties with my friends to re-watch our favorite episodes; carried sunflower seeds in my pocket daily, just like Mulder. Read and wrote so much fan fiction. In tenth grade, I even dressed as Scully for Halloween — and convinced one of my classmates to dress up with me as Mulder. Scully is the original reason I started dying my hair red! (Most people these days think it’s my love of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and she certainly influenced my current hue. But my red hair dye obsession began with Dana Scully.)

But I didn’t stop there. When we started reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in English class, I convinced our teacher to let us watch the season 5 classic episode “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” which is an homage, of sorts, to Frankenstein and features a multitude of references to the novel. I wasn’t a huge fan of Frankenstein as a book; but once we were able to discuss it in context with my absolute favorite TV show, I was far more dedicated to reading the text and engaging in the subject matter. (I later wrote an essay about this episode and how it relates to the book when I was in college.)

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My biology teacher — a 60-something Benedictine monk from Hungary, no less! — let us watch an episode that covered one of the subjects we’d been covering in class. (For the life of me, I can’t remember which one — there were a lot to choose from! I want to say it was “The Host,” aka the Flukeman episode, but I could be wrong.) Later in the semester, when the same teacher told us we would be performing dissections on fetal pigs — I was excited, rather than grossed out. It was just like when Scully performed autopsies, and I thrilled at that very first Y-incision.

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The X-Files — and teachers willing to indulge my obsession — helped get me excited about subjects I would normally have snoozed through. The teachers let me connect something I loved and was hugely passionate about to the subjects they were teaching. And it didn’t hurt that I was the one making those connections — critical thinking skills, analyzing subject matter, etc, and they appreciated my ability to make those correlations. But I never forgot how much more fun learning was when I could relate it back to something I loved.

So when Novel Novice got its start, and I saw what Tiffany Truitt was doing, using Twilight to engage her students, I had a very immediate reaction — remembering with fondness, when my own teachers let me bring VHS tapes of The X-Files to class.

I knew that using something teens loved was absolutely the perfect way to engage them in school. I knew because I’d already experienced it for myself.

And that is why Novel Novice owes a lot to The X-Files.

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With the recent revival of The X-Files currently airing on FOX — and re-igniting my teenage fangirl in a MAJOR way — I can’t help but reflect on what an influence that show had on my life.

I mean, The X-Files was essentially my first fandom — and “fandom” wasn’t even a thing back then! It was fairly unique that fans of the show had a nickname (“X-Philes”). The Internet was still fairly new, and fansites were poorly cobbled together pieces of HTML code. Long before Novel Novice, I got my start running a website — on Geocities! Fan fiction was new and mostly unknown; if you know where to look, you can find some of my crappy stories still online at my favorite X-Files fan fiction archive, Gossamer. To “ship” something was a new phrase. In fact, the term actually COMES from The X-Files; fans who wanted Mulder and Scully to be in a romantic relationship were known as “shippers.” In many ways, The X-Files helped pave the way for modern fandom. (Yeah, yeah, I know, the Trekkies will tell you otherwise. But we X-Philes did our part! I mean, we gave you the term “ship,” for crying out loud.)

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In any case — the new episodes have reminded me how much I nerded out about the show in school — and how my teachers indulging my obsession made me a better student. It’s that influence that is really behind my passion for connecting YA literature to the classroom here on Novel Novice.

So whether you’re a fan of The X-Files or not — a new fan or an old fan — credit must be given. Novel Novice wouldn’t be what it is today without The X-Files.

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