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14 June 2010 @ 12:58 pm
Story 117: "Dreamcatcher" by dtg  
There is still plenty left to say about "To Carthage Then I Came", and "Ceremony", too, for that matter.

First, I have a confession to make. I love stories with amnesia as a plot element. You could even call it a kink, I love them that much. No, I have no idea why this issue carries such a charge for me. Looking over the list of stories we've discussed here, there have been a disproportionate number with amnesia at the center of the storyline.

That's one of the reasons I dithered for so long about whether or not to post this here. For another thing, it is the second part of an unfinished WIP, which I suspect will never be completed, although never say never with XF fanfiction writers. But I think the second section, "Dreamcatcher," can be read as a standalone, especially if you start with the epilogue to "Tabula Rasa." After that, if you liked "Dreamcatcher," you might end up reading the entirety of "Tabula Rasa." I did. I read the sequel "Footsteps of Angels," too, until she stopped updating it in 2007. Yeah, it's totally a kink.

"Dreamcatcher" is also a variation of the Profiler!Mulder genre, except this Mulder isn't exactly our Mulder. Scully is definitely our Scully; of course, you'll have to make your own mind about that. The timeframe is "the present, but without the baggage of any episodes past Je Souhaite. They're still with the Bureau, Mulder does not have a fatal brain disease and Scully has no interest in artificial insemination. I live in denial. *g*" Me, too. So, 2003. AU.


Anyway, I will be the first to admit that these are not perfect stories, plus there is that unsolved mystery lurking in the background. I love unsolved mysteries, though. Maybe you do, too. Good, bad, or indifferent, I'd love to know what you think of "Dreamcatcher." The links are to the 2004 Spooky site, and to her website, since for some reason, this story never made it to Gossamer. Suggestions for next time can be made at the nomination post.

Epilogue to "Tabula Rasa," which she suggests be read before tackling "Dreamcatcher."

"Dreamcatcher" at Spookys 2004 (archived version).

"Dreamcatcher" in textfile format at dtg's site. There is a prettier html version but the links go wonky after chapter 11, and though you can get to the rest, it's a hassle.

Have fun.
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Marion Ravenwood: Mulder sewagemarionravenwood on June 15th, 2010 11:29 am (UTC)
First, I have a confession to make. I love stories with amnesia as a plot element. You could even call it a kink, I love them that much.

Have you read "Possessions" by R.J. Anderson?
All the letters I can writewendelah1 on June 15th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, though it's been a number of years. I can't remember who recced it to me. Maybe I read it off the Lost and Found list. I'm rereading it now. I can't believe it was written in 1997.
estella_cestella_c on June 20th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Dreamcatcher is a solid, involving piece of work. As a shipper I find casefiles dull unless there is some form of relationship volatility. I was occasionally impatient reading this, but I wasn't bored.

Mulder and Scully are in a holding pattern here, with Mulder the amnesiac profiler cleared for government work but not ready to resume a love relationship he can't bring to mind. It should be awkward and it is, though maybe not awkward enough.

The problem with D is that it's a transitional piece that doesn't transition, and everyone knows it. I've never been a fan of the idea that a writer might give someone permission to conclude a WIP. In this case, however, the frustration factor may be high enough to inspire bribery.

The final chapter of this fic, in which Scully has an epiphany about Mulder's insecurities and ends up in bad with him explaining "feelings," may actually function as a resolution for many. Possibly it did for the writer, whatever she may have planned. It didn't work for me. The anger and epiphany and panic moods jostled each other, and it all seemed to devolve into a lot of words about talk. If that isn't too opaque.

One other problem is our murderer, who though a satisfyingly hateable character was really underexplained. Daddy issues? A dreamcatcher fixation? Female serial killers are so rare in life that they take a lot of selling. There are several in X-File ficdom--at least one other created by dtg. Maybe it's an idea that fascinates a largely female fan base.

All the letters I can write: Partnerswendelah1 on June 23rd, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
Response part one
I think the rarity of female serial killers is certainly part of what makes them appealing to writers. I haven't read much of dtg's other work so I hadn't realized she's written another female serial killer story. This is The X-Files, so spirit/demonic possession can't really be dismissed as laughably implausible the way it could be if this was NCIS fic.

Mulder tilts his head at the sheriff. "They agree with Sheriff Kessler that the change in her was dramatic and very abrupt. It's only in retrospect that they were able to pinpoint the time." Mulder gives the sheriff a nod, passing the verbal baton.

Kessler nods, "We didn't really put it together until this morning. She went to New Mexico to do research just before Carl had the stroke. She was living in New York at the time, and we only heard about it after she'd been living here for a while taking care of her dad. We think that's where she got involved with the dreamcatchers."

Mulder is giving her a significant look. New Mexico. She lifts one brow. "And...?"

"Michael was researching serial killers who claimed insanity as a defense." Mulder tips his head at Kessler. "Will helped her set up some interviews at the state prison we drove by when we first got here. Those interviews formed the basis of her paper. It's how she obtained the grant to pursue it."

"I told Agent Mulder about the dreamcatchers I found, and he told me what they might have meant to her. About how they could have affected her."

Scully decides that following this conversation is a lot like watching a tennis match. "And that is...?" She turns to Mulder. This ought to be good.

"More than just a totem," Mulder begins. "The common belief that dreamcatchers trap the user's nightmares has a basis in Native American religion. There is a belief that the dreamcatcher summons an entity who not only traps dreams, but can make them come true-- and not always in a way the dreamer would like."

The two men have moved from their original positions to face, her standing shoulder to shoulder. Scully crosses her arms and studies their eager expressions for a moment before responding. "An entity. So... you're suggesting, what? That she was possessed?"

Two pairs of eyes fix on hers. Two heads nod. "Yes." They even say the word together.

There's something reassuringly familiar in this debate. Scully drops her head to hide a smile. When she looks up at them again, her expression is carefully neutral. "Okay. Say that were true. How would you prove it, and what possible difference would it make if you could?"

Kessler looks both disappointed and surprised. "Would it make a difference to you whether Agent Mulder here was a monster or a victim?"

"The jury's still out on that one," Mulder chuckles, but without a hint of humor.

Scully starts to respond, but the sheriff holds up both hands, warding her off. "I know I'm asking a lot, after what she did to you. You have no reason to want to find an excuse for her, but that's what I'm hoping you can do." He shrugs, looking once more in Mulder's direction. "Either you will, or you won't." He looks at his watch. "I won't keep you any longer. You've got a plane to catch."


The ending isn't the only place the etiology of Micheal's psychosis is discussed. She brings in that other demon possession case, the one from Grotesque, earlier in the story, where Scully investigating the death of the first victim.

As a shipper I find casefiles dull unless there is some form of relationship volatility. Of course, as a noromo, I feel exactly the opposite. One has to be a very talented writer to get me interested in pure romance, and if that goes on at any length, the writer will still lose me. I need some plot to get me involved in the MSR, which might be why Tesla's "This House is Burning" works for me.

I think one interesting element here is the New Mexico connection. Michael was in New Mexico, Scully and Mulder were in New Mexico. I can't remember that much about "The Footsteps of Angels" at this point but my hope was that dtg would bring the first two stories together by the ending.
All the letters I can write: Partnerswendelah1 on June 23rd, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
Response part two
Mulder and Scully are in a holding pattern here, with Mulder the amnesiac profiler cleared for government work but not ready to resume a love relationship he can't bring to mind. It should be awkward and it is, though maybe not awkward enough.

It seems pretty awkward to me, not to mention painful, at least for Scully. The plot ending as it begins with emotional pain and no hope for a resolution is undoubtedly why I like this story as much as I do. Crazy as it sounds, I might like it less if it had been finished, especially if I wasn't happy with the ending. I suspect one of the reasons it wasn't finished is that dtg couldn't conceive of a way to bring it all together. I'd still be thrilled if she did resume writing.

Because I am a masochist, I found what she had written on Wayback and reread it. "The Footsteps of Angels". God, I'd forgotten what a cliffhanger she'd left us with.

marionravenwood recommended "Possession" which I did read. It's well-written, but it ends too quickly and too predictably for my taste. I also found the emotional aspects utterly inconceivable. Mulder when he's an amnesiac is first attracted to Scully and as the story progresses decides he's in love with her, but when he gets his memory back declares he's not in love? WTF? It's like the writer pushed a reset button. I was pissed off, frankly. I also objected to the idea that liking to watch porn is a sexual perversion, but maybe that was the consensus in 1997? I do not remember.

The final chapter of this fic, in which Scully has an epiphany about Mulder's insecurities and ends up in bad with him explaining "feelings," may actually function as a resolution for many. Possibly it did for the writer, whatever she may have planned. It didn't work for me. The anger and epiphany and panic moods jostled each other, and it all seemed to devolve into a lot of words about talk. If that isn't too opaque.

You always dislike this kind of scene.
estella_cestella_c on June 23rd, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Response part two
When I wrote "in bad" I really meant "in bed." But you probably know that.

I persist in thinking that The X-Files flew as it did because it was *really* about relationship. And I like fics that are about the Ship, but that doesn't mean I prefer "pure romance." The very phrase makes me feel clammy. Relationship is a big term, an umbrella term, and that's (for me) what the R in MSR stands for. No one ever explained the acronym to me, so I did it all my own self.

You know this too. Anyhow, I'm off topic.

Fact is, I forgot the possession explanation, which indicates it didn't ring true to me. It didn't show up in Michael's personality or in the writing style.

Also forgot "The Footsteps of Angels." Probably should have checked on that.
bmerb on June 7th, 2016 07:17 pm (UTC)
apparently also having a kink for amnesia plots
Ok so I started with the epilogue to Tabula Rasa and got so sucked in I had to read the entire thing. TOTALLY. SUCKED. IN. Perturbing and mytharch-ish with subtlety to relationship and emotion. Ahhh... Hoping Dreamcatcher is as interesting and disturbingly satisfying. I'm assuming you have read Fugue by Rivkat? It's somehow reminiscent of this, or rather this of that since Fugue was written earlier. I like this post Je Souhaite AU more than CC's canon, disturbing as it is.

I'll get back on here after reading D!
All the letters I can writewendelah1 on June 8th, 2016 06:34 pm (UTC)
Re: apparently also having a kink for amnesia plots
I love "Fugue." I'm obsessed with "Fugue." In fact, my first fic was inspired by "Fugue."

"A Shared Obsession"

And, one year I asked Rivkat for a better resolution to the fic. That scene at the end with Scully on the floor after her encounter with the CSM haunted me.

"Devoutly to be wished"

I'm sure there's an amnesia fic list somewhere.

I think I said in another comment that I might like "In the Footsteps of Angels" better for being unfinished, especially if it turned out I wasn't happy with the resolution. This way I am free to imagine an ending that I'm happy with. It would be tricky to come up with something that tied the three stories together, resolved the serial murders (if that's what they turn out to be, jury's still out on that), and got Mulder back his memories without destroying him in the process. I think they'll have to go back to New Mexico again...





Edited at 2016-06-08 06:37 pm (UTC)
bmerb on June 9th, 2016 12:34 am (UTC)
Re: apparently also having a kink for amnesia plots
wow, YOU are the reason she wrote Devoutly to be wished??? OMG thank you! I read Fugue back in the day and was SO disturbed, seriously, that I haven't been able to bring myself to read it in its entirety again to this day.

I HAVE read the new resolution piece you asked for, as well as the alternative version where Mulder never regains his self, but Scully does (which of course suits me better since I'm a ridiculously devoted Scullyist despite never being an official member of the OBSSE back in the day). *Whew* How cool that you were the reason she wrote that??

bmerb on June 8th, 2016 06:33 am (UTC)
ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
I read and enjoyed Dreamcatcher quite a lot. The casefile, the M/S interactions, the amnesia, all of that works for me. It felt like the case itself was wrapped up a bit abruptly for my taste. I couldn't quite buy or perhaps even follow the author's underlying reasoning for Michael's serial killings and how they connected to those from Grotesque, BUT... overall I enjoyed the whole thing so much that this was fairly minor. Went on to read the available chapters of In The Footsteps Of Angels and now of course I'm in pain since there is no conclusion in sight. The author left a note on her website from 2013 claiming she was going to finish it, but nothing. Any chance she finished it and its archived elsewhere???
All the letters I can write: here's two frank hearts and the open skwendelah1 on June 8th, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
No. It was never finished. This story is the reason I no longer read WIPs. (You can see my reasoning. This cliffhanger was so painful. I thought about it for months afterward.) As I periodically do, I sent her an email recently telling her I was thinking about the story. I'm still hoping she'll find her way to completing it. I haven't heard back. Some time ago she told me she has a complete outline but who knows what happened in the interim? She actually took the chapters down at one point and put them back up when she began working on the fic again. I don't know what happened.

But you never know. For the 20th anniversary, Syntax6 came back and finished "Original Sin," and that was after five years away from the fandom. It could still happen.

You are not alone in feeling the resolution of "Dreamcatcher" was unsatisfying. It was, however, atmospheric and scary, with Mulder and Scully stuck on the ice, and the last minute rescue. The symbolism of the dreamcatcher worked for me, too.
bmerb on June 9th, 2016 12:40 am (UTC)
Re: ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
That was one helluva cliffhanger, and I see how you could think about it for months afterwards. I have theories, and then theories of theories. And I'm not at all sure I like the psychiatrist. Maybe. ARGH! I want to see what she would have come up with, but I too am a little afraid. Maybe if many of us wrote to her it would be an encouraging nudge??

Not sure that the symbolism of the dreamcatcher worked for me. Its a bit too appropriated, people love to just say that something is "Native American" without specifying culture of origin (hello? over 550 current existing Native nations here in this country?), and I still found it too much of a stretch. BUT... It was definitely atmospheric and scary, I loved the cracking ice/last minute rescue part, and (sucker that I am) I totally got into the flashback connection Mulder was having to Antarctica while they lay there on the ice at the end too.

I'd love an opinion on this, was there some kind of psychic connection thing going on in there at any point? It seemed like there was quite a bit of responding verbally to what the other was thinking, although I think maybe it was mostly Mulder responding to Scully's thoughts, buy maybe a little the other way round as well. Was that just my confusion?
All the letters I can writewendelah1 on June 13th, 2016 08:15 am (UTC)
Re: ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
I have suspicious feelings about the psychiatrist and the young FBI agent. It's unethical for the psychiatrist to disclose anything that Mulder confided, unless he believes that Mulder is a danger to others or has committed a dangerous crime. What is he up to? There's a problem with continuity, too. At the of "Dreamcatcher," they're sleeping together and seeming very connected but in "Footsteps" they seemed back to square one. No mention of returning to New Mexico although they talked about it in "Dreamcatcher." Instead Mulder has left BSU because he feels like he failed as a profiler and now he is leaving Scully?

I think there is a psychic connection between M and S at the end of "Dreamcatcher." He's unconscious and she's reading his mind.
All the letters I can writewendelah1 on June 14th, 2016 05:37 am (UTC)
Re: ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
I don't think the problem with the dreamcatcher symbolism is cultural appropriation, exactly.

"Michael was researching serial killers who claimed insanity as a defense." Mulder tips his head at Kessler. "Will helped her set up some interviews at the state prison we drove by when we first got here. Those interviews formed the basis of her paper. It's how she obtained the grant to pursue it."

"I told Agent Mulder about the dreamcatchers I found, and he told me what they might have meant to her. About how they could have affected her."

Scully decides that following this conversation is a lot like watching a tennis match. "And that is...?" She turns to Mulder. This ought to be good.

"More than just a totem," Mulder begins. "The common belief that dreamcatchers trap the user's nightmares has a basis in Native American religion. There is a belief that the dreamcatcher summons an entity who not only traps dreams, but can make them come true-- and not always in a way the dreamer would like."

The two men have moved from their original positions to face, her standing shoulder to shoulder. Scully crosses her arms and studies their eager expressions for a moment before responding. "An entity. So... you're suggesting, what? That she was possessed?"

Two pairs of eyes fix on hers. Two heads nod. "Yes." They even say the word together.


One problem is that as far as I can find out there is no such belief in the Native American community. I find no mention of an entity at all, let alone one that is summoned and can influence dreams and make them come true. Attributing that nonbelief to a specific tribe wouldn't make a difference.

I think dtg wants to tie these serial murders into Michael's trip to New Mexico because of what happened to Mulder and Scully in New Mexico, and to the case from "Grotesque," which also involved serial murders where the murderer claimed to be possessed. Scully's memories have been altered. Mulder is having nightmares--comprised in part of flashbacks, fragments of memories of a life he no longer remembers. The psychiatrist who is allegedly treating him is using some form of hypnotic suggestion, to what end is unclear. Mulder is falling asleep, waking up somewhere else, not knowing how he got there--having blackouts. Maybe the psychiatrist is supposed to be like the evil entity in dtg's imaginary dreamcatcher mythology, manipulating Mulder's mind. The theme that our actions and choices are not necessarily our own runs through the entire saga. It works least well in "Dreamcatcher" because it's not as completely developed as it could have been. Apart from the dreamcatchers, there is no evidence of an outside influence on Michael. It's more believable that Michael is a stone-cold sociopath than that she is possessed, whatever Mulder might think.
bmerb on June 14th, 2016 03:14 pm (UTC)
Re: ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
Hmmm... I don't think I realized they were sleeping together at the end of Dreamcatcher. How did I miss that?
All the letters I can writewendelah1 on June 14th, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: ARGH! CLIFFHANGER!
When I said "sleeping together," I meant that literally. They were sleeping in the same bed. She was telling Mulder about their lives together, about what it felt like to work with him and be with him, in every sense, which implies a level of emotional intimacy, if not sexual intimacy, that seemed to be missing in "Footsteps."

Edited at 2016-06-14 03:21 pm (UTC)