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26 January 2008 @ 09:33 pm
Story 7: "Tikkun Olam" by RivkaT and MustangSally  
Since we had a rather long interlude with no story at all (my fault!), wendelah1 and I have chosen a special bonus story. So here it is, "Tikkun Olam" by RivkaT and MustangSally, one of the controversial classics of the fandom. Hopefully it will provoke some discussion.

This story is rated NC-17 and is not for sensitive or impressionable souls. I'm not kidding. But it's really good.

"Deaths and disclosures, universal and particular, denouements both unexpected and inexorable, transvestite melodrama on all levels including the suggestive. We transport you into a world of intrigue and illusion ... clowns, if you like, murderers -- we can do you ghosts and battles, on the skirmish level, heroes, villains, tormented lovers -- set pieces in the poetic vein; we can do you rapiers or rape or both, by all means, faithless wives and ravished virgins -- flagrante delicto at a price, but that comes under realism for which there are special terms."

NEW LINKS: http://www.rivkat.com/index7896.html?p=78
AO3: http://archiveofourown.org/works/39100

Interesting discussions:

Usenet thread on prologue

Spoilerific Usenet review thread
Tags: ,
 
 
 
frey: XF Mulder hand off gun // mefrey_at_last on January 26th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
Maybe I shouldn't start off the discussion, because I only read the first 1/3 or 1/4 before I got tired. But I will!

I stopped because I guess I could just tell where it was going -- a dark trip to a world where none of the characters actually like each other and everything unravels in ugly and violent ways. "Interesting" and "a mindfuck," maybe, but at some point I can't recognize the characters as themselves, and I know things will just get worse and worse (so the tension of "will they fix this? CAN they fix this?" dissipates), and I might as well be reading something else... I realize that other people can be sustained in it, however, and maybe at one time I would've had the interest/patience. It's too bad, because these two authors can teeter on the line between "edgy" and "too much," and still produce very engaging stories, but I think they fell off on this one.
bardsmaidbardsmaid on January 27th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC)
...at some point I can't recognize the characters as themselves...

This is always one of the tipping points for me, and unfortunately I'm picky enough that I hit this point much more quickly that most readers. When I read fic, it's because I want to peer more deeply into the characters I know so well, and care about. Once they morph into variations, I lose interest... which makes me pretty unfit for fic reading, for the most part, I guess. I'm not out to spoil anyone's party, btw; it's just how it hits me personally.

Even when I'm up for some XF theater-of-the-absurd, as I was the other night when I reread the Krycek humor classic My Little Demons (wherein Krycek is visited by God, who insists that Krycek clean up his act and turn his life around), lack of clear canon characterization grates on me. If only Krycek sounded like, well, the real Krycek, I was thinking as I chuckled my way through the story, this would be perfect.

I'm hopeless, I know.
(no subject) - emily_shore on January 27th, 2008 08:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 08:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardsmaid on January 27th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - leucocrystal on January 28th, 2008 07:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 28th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - leucocrystal on January 28th, 2008 08:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 28th, 2008 08:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - leucocrystal on January 28th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emily_shore on January 28th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 28th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Naraht: xf-WWMDemily_shore on January 27th, 2008 08:27 am (UTC)
It is definitely a dark journey and there is definitely a lot of unravelling along the way. I'll confess that I didn't read every scene with scrupulous attention and indeed there were some scenes where the scroll button never stopped moving. Having said that, I still thought it was a very fine story. RivkaT and Mustang Sally have always teetered on the brink of out-of-character, at least as I read the characters, but their writing is so interesting that I suppose I've been willing to grant them possession of their own X-Files subuniverse. They are out-of-character in a very consistent and pointed way, so that their alternate Mulder and Scully are (to me) worth approaching on their own terms. (By this I mean the basic Mulder and Scully in their works, not the AUs that appear.)

The plot of the story is actually surprisingly tight. Both the way it unravels and the way it is fixed end up being tied in very well, so when you get to the end you don't feel like you've been taken on that wild ride for nothing. That's my two cents anyway. Not that I'm trying to convince you to read the rest of it; just saying.
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 09:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emily_shore on January 27th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
All the letters I can write: girl with spaceshipwendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 05:43 am (UTC)
To Repair and Transform the World
This was really good. It wasn't what I expected from the discussion thread. I expected something incoherent and disorganized. I certainly didn't have any trouble reading through it. I thought the plot seemed to weave itself pretty consistently in and around the sex scenes. I didn't think that the sex was the plot, exactly. The sex functioned as more of a marker or a sign post, for if things were going badly in the bedroom, one could be assured that things were really going to hell outside it.

The story starts with an unusually gruesome murder that unless I missed the solution remains unsolved by the end. In the course of the crime investigation, Mulder gets a chance to play God. He meets a sexy scientist who has discovered a way to go back in time, via the conscious retrieval of a memory.(I know, but just go with it) He decides to try to fix something that went wrong in his world. One would think he would go back to try to prevent Samantha from being taken. But no, instead Mulder decides to try to save Scully by alienating her back at the very beginning during their first case together.

Instead of saving Scully from her fate, he wakes up to a world in which she is dead, killed in her apartment at the hands of Tooms, because Mulder wasn't there to save her. Do you recognize that plot? Bingo! Yes, It's A Wonderful Life. So, he goes back in time again to try to repair the damage to their partnership, and this time he wakes up to a universe where Scully is fucking Krycek. And things only go downhill from there. Mulder goes on to betray Samantha to save the world or Scully at least two other times (how biblical!).

There are some terrific moments along the way:

She was a bruised peach with thick mascara and she was obviously still fucking Krycek. It made me wonder what I had done for this to happen. Hey, universes may pivot, it's always my fault; my guilt is an art form.

Then there is the universe where he is having threesomes with Scully and Krycek: "this must be the oral sex universe." And so on and so forth.

Now, this would all seem very improbable and OOC, but what universe does all of this happen in? Why ours, dear reader, the universe of fan fiction. There is no sexual permutation or perversion in this story that I have not previously read or at least read about in many other stories. In fact, compared to some fan fiction, this was fairly tame. At least all of the kinky sex in this was consensual and served a thematic purpose.

The story does come full circle, right back to the opening scene. The only thing that has changed is Mulder. Now, he knows the truth, that he sought in vain through so many universes and episodes and seasons.

You don't get to choose who you love. You only get to choose how.

And this time, you have the feeling he is going to do it right. Besides, as this story conclusively demonstrates, things could always be worse.

Edited at 2008-01-27 05:46 am (UTC)
asymptotetree on January 27th, 2008 10:48 am (UTC)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World
i'm really glad i read your comment before reading the story. now i know that i don't want to read it. *s*
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - wendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - tree on January 29th, 2008 02:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - wendelah1 on January 29th, 2008 02:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - emily_shore on January 29th, 2008 08:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
Naraht: xf-Silhouetteemily_shore on January 27th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World
The story starts with an unusually gruesome murder that unless I missed the solution remains unsolved by the end.

I thought that the idea was that Robert Rothstein had done it, or had somehow been forced to do it by his implant? If you go back and read the prologue again, it certainly looks like it's him.

...a universe where Scully is fucking Krycek.

Which clearly can't be the right universe, isn't that so? The very nature and fabric of the universe leads us inexorably towards the Mulder/Scully OTP, and all else represents a deviation from the path of truth and righteousness. While I thought I was kidding when I typed that, on reflection I think that RivkaT and MustangSally--despite the unsentimental nature of their stories--do lead us to that conclusion in a way.

Why ours, dear reader, the universe of fan fiction.

What an interesting concept. Some people in the Usenet thread did see "Tikkun Olam" as a kind of satire, and I wonder if that isn't right. Mulder journeying through the many stories of his life and trying to choose the right one. The one with Scully and a picket fence and a house in the suburbs. The one that doesn't end with a brutal quadruple muder (quintuple if you count the cat, sextuple if you count the unborn baby).
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - wendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - emily_shore on January 27th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: To Repair and Transform the World - wendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Naraht: xf-Outsidersemily_shore on January 27th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Does "Tikkun Olam" or "Iolokus" represent the more grueling read? Arguable. "Iolokus" is longer, but "Tikkun Olam" has that very special going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket feeling to it. wendelah1 made the analogy to "It's a Wonderful Life." A good analogy and one which makes a lot of sense. The difference is that in "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey only makes one different choice and the rest of the movie follows from that. In "Tikkun Olam," Mulder keeps choosing, choosing, choosing... choosing better, choosing worse... and a great deal of the tension in the story comes from the uncontrollable shifting, the uncertainty of never knowing when something truly horrific is about to come into focus and the uncertainty about what the next bad choice will represent.

When I was little I read a children's sci fi novel called "The Green Futures of Tycho," which had a similar premise to this. Boy finds time travel gadget, boy uses time travel gadget, and finds subtle changes when he returns to his own time. Subtle changes that become more and more horrifying the more than he uses it. That novel stayed with me for a long time; when I was an adult I spotted the library copy being discarded for ten cents and picked it up to read once more. I expected that it would be less scary than it had been ten years ago, but no, it was still chilling. There is something really scary about having reality shift around you, and having it be your fault.

The worst present-realities in this story are shown only in short bursts, which somehow makes them all the more powerful.

The title of the story refers to the Jewish concept of "repairing the world." Yet interestingly, at the end of this story Mulder returns right back to where he started. Perhaps this is the best of all possible worlds after all? (See "Cunegund's Restoration" for a very different take on that idea.) It also parallels the moral of "Je Souhaite," where Mulder learns that reckless wishes are worse than no wishes at all, and that it is much better to sit back, eat popcorn, watch "Caddyshack," and be happy enough with your life as it is.

The opening of the story is riveting. It stayed with me and I found myself thinking about it on and off, even after I had forgotten which story it belonged to. Apparently when it was first posted, a lot of people wondered if it was an uber-dark sequel to "Iolokus." As it is, it does a much better job with the encountering-doubles concept than "Fight Club" could even have dreamed of. The authors manage a very good slow dawning, as they do with Mulder's slow realisation that things are changing around him. The unfolding at the beginning is very well handled.

My attention wandered slightly during the last third of the story, the part at the beach-house where they just seem to be waiting around and having sex while the world dies around them. Nothing wrong with that, at least in this dark, twisted universe, but I did wonder whether the realities of survival when civilisation is falling apart could have been brought to the fore a little bit more.

Hunter... well, I didn't like her, but then I didn't expect to like her. She is much less like Mulder than Robert Rothstein is, despite the fact that she grew up in Mulder's family of origin and Robert didn't. For one thing, she has very little of Mulder's vulnerability and I think that vulnerability is a big part of the reason why we tend to forgive him his craziness.

[Ending this post now so I don't go over the character-count limit...]

Edited at 2008-01-27 08:54 pm (UTC)
All the letters I can write: Because I could not stop for deathwendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
Yet interestingly, at the end of this story Mulder returns right back to where he started. Perhaps this is the best of all possible worlds after all?

But does he? Because he doesn't sound like the same man to me, at all. Look at how different his reaction is to his morning.

She was going to leave me for Heaven. And for some reason I couldn't bear to have that happen.

He doesn't even know why he feels this way.And then this:

Why didn't I tell her I loved her? Even when she was dying I couldn't choke it out. I could imagine a scenario in which it happened, and I suppose imagination was my enemy. When I said it in my fantasies, it always sounded like an accusation.

Wow. Fox Mulder, profiler extraordinaire, tries to understand his own life. And he doesn't run away. This time he stays. He tells her he will drive her to church. Now, I can tell you as a Believer who is married to a Non-Believer, when your skeptic partner tells you he will go with you, hang around on a Sunday waiting for the end of Mass, and then take you to lunch, afterwards, That is love. (Yes, my skeptic has, and it is.)

"Your choice." We were going to have to work on Scully's trust issues. If nothing else, it seemed that appeasing them would be expensive.

You mean there are ways of working on trust that don't involve handcuffs?

This is not the same universe, it is a better one. The only thing that has changed, so far, is Mulder. The rest will have to be imagined.

(no subject) - emily_shore on January 27th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 27th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emily_shore on January 29th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 29th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Caridictatorcari on January 29th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
leaving aside any issues of the plot making sense (i maintain that no story with time traveling or alternate universes--let alone both--ever makes sense), i'm still not sure how i feel about this one. i committed two full days to getting through it, and there just wasn't enough payoff at the end to make me feel like it was worth it. i may be biased (i'm a hopeless shipper), but after all that cruelty i wanted to see a little more warmth. the mulder and scully of the first and final scenes--theoretically, the "real" mulder and scully--were far too mean-spirited and self-centered to be the characters i know. it didn't seem grounded in truth, at least characterwise.

and one more thing: good lord, could there have been any more similes in that thing? it was driving me crazy.
Naraht: xf-Bette Davisemily_shore on January 29th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
(i maintain that no story with time traveling or alternate universes--let alone both--ever makes sense)

Sounds like you're not instinctively a sci-fi fan!

i may be biased (i'm a hopeless shipper), but after all that cruelty i wanted to see a little more warmth. the mulder and scully of the first and final scenes--theoretically, the "real" mulder and scully--were far too mean-spirited and self-centered to be the characters i know.

I suppose it depends what sort of MSR you're looking for. I agree that it wasn't an all-out MSR love-fest, but I liked the subtlety of Mulder's change of heart in the final scene. RivkaT and MustangSally's view of the X-Files universe in general is always a dark one, and it doesn't necessarily ring true for everyone. But for me, that quiet shift in the final scene said more than a big, dramatic love scene would have. Mulder and Scully are never going to be perfect, but at least Mulder is trying. It's the trying that's interesting, at least to me.
Caridictatorcari on January 29th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you're not instinctively a sci-fi fan!

haha, that's the first time anyone's ever said that about me. it's not that i minded the alternate universes, it's just that there are paradoxes about them that really just can't be explained. so parts of this story just won't make sense no matter how you think about it.

I liked the subtlety of Mulder's change of heart in the final scene.

oh, me too. but after many hours of reading, a couple of subtle paragraphs weren't enough for me. besides that, scully was still mean. why were they that way in the first place? the canonical mulder and scully would never treat each other with such disdain for such an extended period of time, at least in my opinion.
(no subject) - emily_shore on January 29th, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dictatorcari on January 30th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 30th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dictatorcari on January 30th, 2008 12:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 30th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dictatorcari on January 30th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 30th, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dictatorcari on January 30th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 30th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dictatorcari on January 30th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wendelah1 on January 30th, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
deathwatchlove on February 15th, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
This comment is super-late to the discussion, but oh well. It took me a long time to get through this fic. For one thing, I didn't start actually reading it when it was posted; I skimmed the first few paragraphs and wasn't really sure I wanted to keep going. But then I went with it, and I'm very glad I did. I ended up skipping a lot of the sex (not because it offends me or anything, there just was so much of it, even if a lot of it was at least in some way plot-advancing). Related to that though, the build-up to the Hunter/Mulder/Scully section was amazingly well-written, I felt. Ideas of multiple universes, and of those universes bleeding over into each other is very intriguing to me, and I kind of enjoyed the fact that in places it was hard to follow who's point-of-view the story is being told from.

I'm pretty glad that I made myself read it over the course of several days, because I don't think I would have appreciated it as much if I'd tried to digest it in one sitting. Also, the fact that I drew out the reading process made my finishing coincide with a close friend of mine telling me that I reminded her so much of another friend of hers that she believed he and I were two separate parts of the same person.
All the letters I can write: davidandgillian: workingwendelah1 on February 17th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC)
Hey. Better late than never. And, welcome.

Also, the fact that I drew out the reading process made my finishing coincide with a close friend of mine telling me that I reminded her so much of another friend of hers that she believed he and I were two separate parts of the same person.

Spooky.
Naraht: other-Bubbleemily_shore on February 18th, 2008 08:39 am (UTC)
Related to that though, the build-up to the Hunter/Mulder/Scully section was amazingly well-written, I felt. Ideas of multiple universes, and of those universes bleeding over into each other is very intriguing to me...

Yes, I'm with you here. And somehow the concept seems to fit very well into the X-Files universe. Maybe it's that whole post-modern concept of never being sure what really happened? It seems only a short jump into the other ways that things could have happened.
bmerb on August 19th, 2016 06:07 am (UTC)
So so late
Years too late here, nearly a decade in fact but... And WOW this xf bookclub has been going on for nearly a decade. How awesome is that?!?! But I digress.

So Hunter and Fox. Or Hunter IS Fox. Clever use of names there. I think Wendy is right, this HAD to have been something of a crack at or parody of the overlapping and multiple worlds of xf fanfiction as well as a bizarre slipping of universes and times within plot.

I don't have much intelligent to add other than I really thoroughly enjoyed this one. Dark but well plotted, confusing, interesting, thought provoking, and oh-so-twisted. I love that there is an alternate universe Krychek who is nice and mostly normal and does dinner (and sex of course) with Scully. And the variations on Samantha. And Hunter, oh geez what a screwed up character, the epitome of what Mulder's could have become without any scruples. Her only love is self love, which is also love of Mulder who is herself. And my doesn't he learn a lot about himself through her, his deep base desire to be humiliated and shamed and redeemed all at once. So dark but somehow that aspect seems just only slightly off the edge of canon to me. I love that Mustang Sally and RivkaT write M and S as though they actually have to cope with all the traumas of their lives, WITHOUT the weekly reset button!