Though there are hundreds of fanfic authors out there, there are *thousands* of readers, who seem to have an insatiable appetite for well-written XF fic. Every month Working Stiffs contributing editor Megan Reilly will profile a reader of fanfic who is *not* also an author. We hope that readers and authors alike will enjoy getting to know the lurkers and quiet fans of fanfic.

Name: Sonja
Sex: Female
Age: 30
Location: Germany
Profession: translator for English and Spanish

What shows do you read fanfic for?

I'm only reading X-Files fanfic regularly because the X-Files is the only TV-show that really got me hooked. I liked Star Trek a lot when I was younger and lately I filed through some Star Trek fanfiction on the net, because I was curious and wanted to compare the amount of torture the character of Mulder is subjected to to other TV characters. But to say that I'm reading fanfiction of other shows would be exaggerated because I don't. It's more or less only X-Files fanfiction. But I think I would have when I was younger if the Internet had existed then. As I was never in a Star Trek Fanclub it was kind of difficult to get access to fanfiction which nowadays is a lot easier. I have read some fanfiction for Star Wars when I was a teenager so the whole concept of fanfiction wasn't new to me. But as I already wrote I'm currently only reading X-Files fanfic because the X-Files is the only show I watch. I don't watch a lot of TV and I have to admit that personally I find most shows rather dumb. The X-Files really is an exception. Well, for me at least.

Do you still watch the show/those shows?

I'm still watching the X-Files, although I have to admit that I'm not interested in shows from the 8th season without Mulder. When they will finally be aired in Germany I'm sure that I won't watch them. I watched some on the Internet and Scully and Doggett simply can't hold my interest. I also don't understand all the fuss about that theme on the net. My opinion is, if you still like it, still watch it, if you don't just stop. The character which got me hooked on the X-Files was Mulder. I'm not interested in the monsters of the week and never was. Mulders quest and the mythology, his obsession and passion and his underlying sadness and slightly melancholic depressing nature spoke to me.

I don't watch Star Trek anymore.

What kind of books do you like? Do you have any favorite authors?

I'm reading a lot. My interest is fairly widespread. I read everything, fiction, non-fiction, classical literature, modern literature, whatever, but mostly modern literature and mostly American and Canadian authors. There are a lot of authors I like, too many to mention them all, but my all-time favourites are Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Laurie Moore and Michael Ondaatje.

How long have you been reading fanfic?

I have been reading fanfic for about three years.

How did you get into it?

I started searching for episode guides of the X-Files on the net because I started watching the show when it was into its fifth season in Germany and I didn't know anything about the past seasons. I watched the current shows and reruns and didn't understand a lot of the things going on (one day, I saw for example how Mulder glued the X on his window and I was just sitting in front of the television and thought: "What is he doing now? Why is he doing this?" I didn't know who X was and for what the X on the window stood!). Of course later on I learned that there is no real continuity and that it doesn't matter if you have seen all the old shows or not, but at that time, I thought it would help me, so I searched the net for X-Files pages and sooner or later I stumbled over fanfiction and started to read. So basically I just clicked myself through the pages. The left mousebutton was my best friend!

How much time do you spend reading fanfic in a week?

Oh, that's a tough question. I can't say exactly. It depends on how much time I have. Sometimes I don't read fanfic for weeks and then I spent the whole weekend on it. In average you could probably say 4 to 5 hours.

Where do you get your stories from? (Mailing lists, newsgroups, web sites, friends?)

I get my stories either from the websites of my favourite authors or from recommendation websites.

Do you read online, save to disk and read offline or print stories out to read them? Do you ever save stories?

I always read stories offline. I usually save them on disk and read them. Stories from my favourite authors or stories which on first sight seem to be good, I print out in order to read them in a more comfortable place like in my bed or while taking a bath. Sitting in front of the computerscreen is not my favourite place on earth for reading. Besides, I'm a little bit old fashioned and I like to have actual paper with little printed black letters in my hand instead of staring at the computerscreen and scrolling up and down. I keep the paper as well as the stories on disk afterwards if I liked it, if not, I throw it away for recycling or delete it.

Why do you read fanfic?

I think like a lot of others I read it because it is a way to learn more about the characters than the show can actually give me. Or you regret that a particular scene wasn't more detailed and then you stumble over some fanfic and the scenario you wished to learn more about is taken to a new level. When the author is really good and manages to stay in character it can be like a prolongation of the show. In general, I simply want to learn more about the characters.

What kind of stories do you like? Why do you like them? What are your favourite stories?

I read a lot of torturestories, slash stories and consensual BDSM stories. I like stories particularly where Mulders psyche is analysed, where authors are giving him a dysfunctional family background, are trying to analyse why the abduction of his sister became like an obsession for him and how that whole scenario effected him. The reasons for that? Firstly, this is the way I always saw Mulder. I am a noromo and I always thought that Mulder is a difficult and complicated person. Someone you don't get to know easily and someone who carries a lot of emotional baggage around. He is an outsider from the beginning and in those rare scenes with his parents it was obvious for me that he cared a lot for his mother and may be had taken on the role of an adult when he was very young after the abduction of his sister and that the relationship to his dad was very tense. I don't want to go so far to say that his father abused him, that is entirely the invention of fanfic authors. In how far those authors write about their own experiences or experiences from others I can't say. Fact is for me that there are authors who write for certain genres. Some analyse Mulders past, some squeeze the character into BDSM stories, others into torturestories and others into romantic relationship ones. I assume that when you do that as an author, for example, writing a story about Mulders dysfunctional past, you either just try your hand on it or it is something that you are curious about or fantasize about or may be you draw back on your own experience. I don't want to say that all authors write out of their own experience, this is certainly not the case, but I also don't believe that you get hooked on a certain genre when it has absolutely nothing to do with you and your mind, your wishes, dreams and desires. I assume it is the same mechanism like when you like to read such stories. Something about it is fascinating. Secondly, those stories seem to speak to a certain need in me and to my own past and my own little traumas. So I'm very well aware of the fact that the reading also is a little bit like self therapy, which is something I'm very careful about.

Why do I read slash or BDSM stories? I'm asking that myself all the time! No, just kidding. I assume that one reason is simply that I get turned on by it. It's the same mechanism with guys getting turned on by two women doing the "naked bretzel". I mean that's the very obvious reason and I don't have a problem admitting that. I remember the first time I stumbled over slash stories and read the warning, you must be over 18 etc. and I just thought, what's slash? I did not have a clue but as I was far over 18 and I'm curious by nature I read my first one (which was so bad that I can't remember the story!) but afterwards I knew what slashstories are and I read some more and I liked it. The same happened with BDSM stories but here applies the same as to the torture stories. A story can't hold my interest if it is only about sex and violence. The characters simply hitting each other is not interesting for me. Again, I need some psychological background and a storyline which makes sense. The best ones are those which try to give more information on the mechanism of S + M. I think that a lot of people have totally wrong preconceptions about S + M and a lot of the stuff I read gave me a clearer picture about the whole concept. I even started to read non-fiction books about it because the psychological mechanisms of it faszinated me. For me it doesn't mean that the author is necessarily a player or that the readers are. It is just an exploration of erotic images and fantasies and again, the good ones try to explore the psychological side of it and not only the various sexgames. How far people go in their sex lives is certainly everyones own business. But some things are great in your fantasy and they aren't that great in real life.

And in generall I like to read erotic stories, simply because like a lot of women, I don't like watching porn but I like to get stimulated by reading. And it seems to be that women prefer a more intelligent approach towards porn than simply watching other people having sex. I lead a lot of discussions with either friends in real life or cyber friends about your imagenary sex life and your real sex life. I was more or less the only one with the opinion that people kind of have two sex lifes. An actual one (with their partners, husbands, one-night-stands whatsoever) and one in their head. It is called autoeroticism and has nothing to do with a bad real sex life. But I also try not to overanalyse the whole thing. I'm very good at that! (G) Hey, my Mum fantasized about Burt Reynolds from whom she had a frontal nudity picture out of a playboy magazine and a lot of women nowadays surely would cut off their right hand for having the same picture from David Duchovny! (G) And last but not least I like BDSM stories because I have the soul of a bottom (G). But, yeah, don't we all like to be passive occasionally and let someone else do all the hard work?

What kind of stories do you avoid like the plague? What is it about them you don't like?

I don't read MSR stories or even more worse, stories where Mulder and Scully are married. Ahrgh! Terrible! I deeply believe that Mulder and Scully should never ever be involved romantically. I'm certainly interested in the dynamics of the relationship and I also believe that the relationship is one of the most interesting factors of the X-Files but exactly because they are not romantically involved. Let them do the "naked bretzel" and you destroy everything. From the beginning I never even thought about a sexual relationship of the two. They are great friends, behave a bit like brother and sister but I never saw them romantically involved. Even the things they do that shippers see as sure signs are for me normal things you would do for a good friend. I would even consider it okay if they had a relationship with someone else. It especially annoyed me that Scully has no implied sexlife whatsoever. Mulder has at least his porncollection. So the viewer knows that he has at least some kind of desire in that direction but Scully·.. Her part is dependent from him but he is independent from her.

Apart from that I read some MSR stories and they very often describe Scully in a very motherly role towards Mulder which I think she doesn't have in the show. And I don't like that kind of typical female roledistribution. MSR stories have a tendency, for me at least, to describe a very conservative male-female relationship and just leave me sitting in front of the computer asking myself why my mother fought for womens rights and equality throughout the 70's and 80's? They for example more or less always assume that Scully can cook and Mulder not. Why? Why should Scully be good at cooking? She has never time for cooking to begin with and it is possible and totally okay that a woman can't cook. This is just a small example of the things that annoy me in conventionell MSR stories and I could give a lot more, but I think I made clear what I meant. I just think Scully deserves better than that.

What kind of stories would you like to read more of, but there just aren't any out there? Why do you think there aren't many stories of this type?

Oh, to be honest I think there are enough stories out there of any type and I think you would need years to sort out the good ones from the bad and then again years to read them all. So, I'm quite satisfied with the type of stories out there. Just one thing comes to my mind. I would like to read a story where Scully is satisfyingly portrayed for me. Neither like a übermother towards Mulder nor like a torn catholic (I have my problems with the religious connotations they gave Scully in the show) but like an independent woman with normal passions and desires. Up until now I didn't find such a story. The reason for that is certainly my picture of women which is less conservative than the picture of women of most authors is.

Do you send feedback to authors?

I have to admit I am a bit lazy at sending feedback. I do send feedback and if I do it is usually long because I just can't bring myself to simply write: "I enjoyed your story!". When I write feedback I write a little bit more, like what I enjoyed of the story particularly and why but I know, I should write more feedback and I can understand that it is important for authors. I mean what is the point of putting your story on the net when you don't get any reaction. But sorry, I'm as lazy as the woman next door!

Do you think you'll ever try your hand at writing fanfic?

Surely not. I do write stories and poetry but they are dealing with real life and have my own invented characters in them and I never tried to use characters from TV shows. I have been writing since I am nine years old but always my own stuff. And I would never ever put it on the net. It's simply to personal. I belong to those people who deal with their inner self while writing and it is my own form of therapy but nothing anybody, besides my boyfriend and my sister, will ever read. Mulder and Scully belong to an unreal world I don't write about but surely enjoy to read about.

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Last Revised Friday, March 2, 2001