Deslea Judd

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One of the most engaging fanfic authors in the XF Fandom is Deslea Judd. An unabashedly “Alternative Phile”, Deslea has numerous (and we mean NUMEROUS) awards for her writing. She is also quite prolific in her XF video making. We are very proud that she has granted us the honour and pleasure of answering a few of our questions…Find Deslea’s fic at literatti: fiction by deslea.

When did you start writing XF fanfic? How did you start?

I started writing X Files fanfic in 1996, when Piper Maru/Apocrypha aired in my country. At that time, I was not online and didn’t know what fanfic was or that others wrote it. I only knew that I had written it about various television shows as a child and teenager, but that had given way to the pressures of work and study in my teens.

That changed after Piper Maru/Apocrypha. That double was my favourite episode for a long time, and it left me full of questions about open story threads. To be perfectly honest with you, I can’t even remember what all those threads were now, but they consumed my attention at the time. I do remember that one of them was what appeared to me to be clear Scully/Skinner UST. Given the show’s insistence at that time on avoiding romance, I figured that this would only be included because it fed into a greater story. As we now know, that wasn’t the case. But the theory I came up with was a Scully/Skinner sci-fi story grounded in the radiation-related capabilities of the alien race demonstrated in the episode, the eugenics leanings hinted at in Colony and Paper Clip, and a few twists and turns related to Scully’s abduction. It was just a protracted effort at dealing with the loose ends in my mind, as I had done with other episodes as well, but this one ate away at my brain. So I wrote it out, all fifty thousand words of it, mostly just to purge it from my mind. It’s called Offspring, and it’s not a bad story, although it has a few newbie mistakes – adverb abuse is probably the worst flaw, along with an unnecessary subplot. But I did my research about the scientific side, and I think it holds up as a reasonably good sci-fi/mythology work for its time. It’s not in the league of my stories today, but I was proud of it back then.

Roll on a few months, and I won some internet access in a competition. I searched USENET for XF-related newsgroups, and I came across I looked at a few posts, and thought, hey, I know what this is! That was how I found out that what I did had a name, and readers, and a structure for sharing it. So I posted the story I’d written, and it all went from there.

What else do you write?

XF makes up the bulk of my writing at present. However, I have written a fairly acclaimed original erotica series under another name. On the non-fiction side of things, I have an academic background in philosophy, ethics, and theology, with specific interests in queer issues and in applied ethics. I’ve written for the academic press, I’ve been a columnist for a Catholic magazine, I’ve written freelance for the gay press, and I wrote an essay on ethics in journalism that won the Australia Press Council prize in 1994.

Do you have a writing process?

I do, but it varies a little depending on what the story is trying to do. I’m a planner for longer, more complex stories – I write synopses and outlines, and these can range from simple scene breakdowns (Concessions and Eschaton) through to very complex timelines and reams of supporting material (Enigma and XFVCU, both of which have 50+ pages of support documentation). How complex the supporting material needs to be depends on things like how many characters are involved, whether there are any scientific or real-life political angles to be incorporated, whether it needs to tie in with on-screen scenes, and exactly how much detail needs to be conveyed.

As contradictory as this may sound to non-planners, I find this a very freeing way to write. My story threads tend to be cleaner, more thorough, and more coherent as a consequence of thorough planning. I invariably make further insights into the material as a result of the planning process, and if I make further insights again in the course of writing, the established story is integrated enough to sustain their inclusion. This also means that I can write out of order, and that can be helpful at times. There will be times when I need to write a pivotal scene before its prelude in order to get a handle on the mood that I’m building up to.

But not everything has a plan. Sometimes I’ll begin with a theme, a basic idea, a fragment of text or a visual glimpse of a moment, and see where it takes me. That works, too. I think that there is a spectrum of methods and processes, and there’s no one right way to do it. The right way is always the way that best serves the story I want to write at the time.

Has the series ending affected the way or what you write?

Not a lot. Alternative philes are very resilient – we’ve had to be, in order to stick with the show for characters and arcs that only got a few episodes per season. We were never really reliant on the week-to-week fix of the show. So the impact of the end of the show was far less among us than it was among fans of the leads. We did lose a few authors, sadly, but far fewer than were lost from MSR and DRR. For myself, I don’t really find the end of the show problematic in terms of inspiration and source material – there are more mythology threads than I could pursue in a lifetime. I have over a dozen stories I want to write now, and it frustrates me that I can’t get them down fast enough. I’m writing now much as I did back then – I look at an arc, and I turn it over in my head from the point of view of this character or that one, and try to work out what they make of it and where that might lead them.

You are primarily known as a non-MSR writer, do you think this reputation has allowed you more freedom or “typecast” you?

Definitions will always typecast us to a certain extent, even when they’re true. It’s true I’m a non-MSR writer, but unfortunately that description carries inferences in some peoples’ view about what I think and what agenda I have in writing, and those inferences are not always correct. I get the distinct impression that a few people believe I write the various antagonists’ POV as a mouthpiece for my own POV on Mulder and Scully, and that isn’t the case. Mulder and Scully’s perspective seems incomplete and unsatisfying to me, and for that reason it doesn’t interest me, certainly not enough to write about it. Many if not most of my stories do not mention them at all. Nor is it really about objective right and wrong, although I admit that my sympathies fall more with the antagonists. In truth, I think they’re *all* wrong, in varying degrees, but the antagonists and their more developed ideology are much more interesting to me, given my background.

Another definition that people use about me is that I’m a Krycek/Marita writer. This is an identity with which I have a love-hate relationship. I love that pairing, and it’s a very personal one to me, at least in a philosophical sense. But Krycek/Marita – while a major interest – still makes up less than half my work. I’ve written everything from Mulder/Diana to Krycek/Diana to Jeffrey/Samantha to Yves/Jimmy to Doggett/Reyes to Knowle/Shannon. Anytime people call me an [insert pairing here] writer, I feel that they’ve missed the point. I don’t write about pairings. I write about journeys. Many of those journeys take place in partnership, but the point isn’t the partnership. The point is why they formed that partnership, and what they do with it once they have it.

That said, I can’t say that my various reputations have particularly curtailed my freedom. At worst, they’ve deterred a few people from reading my work, and that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t affect what or how I choose to write. And I’ve attracted more readers than I’ve lost. I’m fortunate to have reached a level of profile where many people will give my work a chance even when the subject matter is not what they would normally choose to read. The Concessions series, which dealt with consensual sibling incest, is a case in point. That’s given me a certain liberty to take chances without losing my audience at the headers, in a way that many authors don’t.

I suppose one way in which it’s limited me is that it’s made me more conscious of my “light” stories. There are a few little stories I’ve written that are perfectly good stories for what they set out to do, but they aren’t really very cutting-edge. Three Times A Lady is a good example of this – it’s a little Doggett/Fowley story I wrote for a list challenge, and the basic aim was to come up with something for this pairing that – as difficult as it may sound – didn’t contradict canon and was based on a coherent picture of their characters. I really enjoyed writing that, actually. Romance and sex between middle-aged people appeals to me. There’s something refreshingly mature and settled about it. But beneath the unusual pairing, it’s still just your run-of-the-mill smut biscuit. And I guess I wonder, when I post things like that, are people going to feel like I’ve lost my touch because I’m not doing anything powerful and cutting-edge with this? I still post, because it’s ridiculous to aim to be avante garde for its own sake, but I’ll admit that it enters my thoughts from time to time. I just have to keep in perspective the fact that I’m not writing to
be avante garde. I’m writing to honour my characters’ truths, and some truths are extraordinary and some are mundane.

Because MSR tends to be the most popular genre for XF fanfiction, do you find that your stories and other non-MSR writers do not get the attention they may deserve? Or do you think that good writing will shine through?

It’s a bit of both. Alternative philes tend to stand out more, and when people do give our work a chance, they tend to remember it. It’s harder for us to get lost in the crowd. But equally it’s harder to get people to look at our work in the first place. So I think there are pros and cons.

I’d like to be able to say that good writing will shine through, but that’s only true to a certain extent. There are people who would rather read a mediocre MSR than a good alternative fic, and vice versa. But that doesn’t really matter, as long as you can find ways of getting your work out to the people who *are* open to it. Those structures weren’t there when I needed them, so I made them, with a lot of help along the way. And in time, alternative fans came together. We were always there – we just didn’t have ways of finding each other. And I have to say, many if not most of the people who helped us find each other were shippers.

But it’s been a long road. A few years ago, if you wrote a story about Marita – just Marita – there was nowhere you could post it and find an audience. If you could work in a mention of her relationship with Krycek, you could sneak it in on the Krycek lists, where it would be ignored. But if it was just about her – her feelings about the conspiracy and what led her there – there was nothing. And if you entered it in the Spookies, it would go up against stories about Diana Fowley, Susanne Modeski, Agent Pendrell, Kim the secretary – stories doing vastly different things that simply can’t be compared on fair terms. Supporting character fic used to be thought of as “all that weird stuff that isn’t MSR,” and a lot of it still is thought of that way, but it’s at least no longer acceptable to say so in polite circles in the fandom. The legitimacy and diversity of alternative fic is no longer in question, but – as odd as it may seem – that’s only recently become the case.

What’s your favourite XF pairing to write about?

I don’t know whether I can answer this in “favourite” terms. I like them for different things, in different ways. But the one I’m gravitating to the most right now is Knowle Rohrer/Shannon McMahon. I’m interested in the idea of invincibility, or perceived invincibility, and what that does to a person’s belief systems. I’m interested in their seemingly genuinely belief that they were products of human technology. I’m interested by Shannon’s self-image and her image of Knowle as her distorted mirror – what was behind that disdainful, “I’m a bio-engineered combat unit”? Behind, “I hate what I am”? What was behind that flicker of *something* in her eyes when Doggett told her Knowle was dead? What history was behind that faraway look when she spoke of them as Adam and Eve? I’m interested by the idea that you could accept such a risky procedure, and that when it worked, when you reached a point where you could do anything with impunity, you might go back into the service of the people who did it to you. That you could be reduced enough as a person to be able to decapitate someone with your hand, and yet be capable of sustaining a seventeen-year friendship. I’m interested in the play between light and dark in the face of such a legacy, and the inevitable urge to bond to the only Other who is like you. It’s been an amazing ride.

Any upcoming stories or projects to look out for?

Quite a few of them, actually! I have a Knowle/Shannon backstory that I’m working on between other things. It’s not my first Knowle/Shannon backstory, and to me Eschaton will probably always be the definitive one, but this one comes at it from a different direction. That one extrapolated from the things that they didn’t say, whereas this one draws squarely from their stated accounts. It casts them in a whole different light, and I’m finding it very challenging and very poignant. I haven’t settled on a firm title yet, but it spans the period from 1983 to The Truth, from both their points of view. I’m still working out how much to tell and how much to show, but the really pivotal moments are in place already. I’m very excited about it.

However, that’s taking a backseat to another project. I’m spearheading a virtual series called X Files: VCU ( XFVCU is set eighteen months after The Truth, and it reunites Mulder, Scully, Doggett, Reyes, Krycek, Fowley, Spender, and Follmer as a team, and they’re not playing very happily together, I can tell you! The basic premise is that what we saw onscreen was the surface layer of a deep cover operation to fight the conspiracy. Now, it’s all come out, and the various fugitives and so-called corpses have emerged from witness protection to handle the fallout. The character conflicts we’re used to are still there, but in some cases they have different situational origins. The idea is to explore these characters and their dynamics as a group on the job. I’m responsible for continuity and the mythology, and I’ve just finished writing about fifty pages of support documentation for the casefile writers. We wanted to develop a true ensemble where every character’s idiosyncrasies came into play, with a coherent backstory to support it, and that meant getting to know them all over again in the light of this modified context. It’s been a huge job. I’m also writing the pilot episode, Midnight In The Firing Line – that’s the most pressing thing right now – plus two more mythology doubles. The pilot is very demanding because not only does it need to hold up as a casefile, it also has to introduce this new context and how the characters interact and why, without swamping the reader. It’s a huge challenge.

I have a few others on the backburner that probably won’t come into their own until next year, when XFVCU’s first season is finished. One is a Krycek/Marita story called Anamnesis. It’s a post-Requiem AU in which Marita has lost much of her memory in the tests, and she has to rediscover and come to terms with the person she was before them. It deals with themes about the impact of our environment and our influences on the people we become. I also have a Mulder story on the backburner, set in Season 2, which I’m not talking too much about. It’ll be pretty controversial, and it’s a bit risky, but I think I can pull it off. Another is a Mulder/Diana post-col called Metanoia, and another is a Concessions prequel that’s been on hold for a while. There’s a Follmer/Reyes NIHT post-ep I want to write that I might try to squeeze in between XFVCU commitments, and I’ve also promised a friend an Ice post-ep, Scully/Nancy Da Silva novella for a multifandom zine.

I’m also busy sketching ( and vidding ( A couple of my music videos were shown recently at Vividcon, and I’m now working on a Knowle/Shannon vid and also a couple of Simon/River ones for the defunct series Firefly. I’m still maintaining my X Files news site ( and a number of subsidiary sites, as well. I’m also designing an automated voting program for the 2002 Spooky awards and, outside fandom, a MySQL application for a school.

Clearly, I need more hours in the day.

Is there’s anything else you’d like to tell readers out there?

Writing isn’t about skill, and it isn’t about talent. It’s about knowing your characters and their world, and caring for them, and seeing their dilemmas and their beauty and their flaws laid bare. It’s about heart. The skills, the work, the spelling, the grammar – all that stuff is important, but the reason it’s important is that it takes all that heart and makes it speak to the hearts of others. Don’t resent the work. Love the work, because it brings the heart to life.