Lexicon Exclusive

Report from Dragon Con 2015 X-Files Anthology Panel

Personal account by Sarah Stegall of her panel appearance 9/6/2015.
Introduction by Matt Allair
Page editor: Liz Tray

We have been a long time supporter of Sarah Stegall for many years, and she has been a friend to The X-Files Lexicon; we interviewed her back in 2012, and her insights have always been refreshing from as far back as the mid 90s. In 2008 she was one of a handful of people who really got I Want To Believe, and I have managed to gain a personal connection with her, being that we both live in Northern California.

We are very pleased to officially announce that Sarah Stegall has agreed to come on board The X-Files Lexicon as a special correspondent, which means you will be seeing her presence frequently.

Often, events come our way when we least expect it. Sarah personally informed me that she was invited to appear as a panelist at DragonCon 2015, along with Jonathan Maberry, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Kevin J. Anderson. But the development occurred a week too late to secure the level of press access I would have preferred. Undeterred, we did find a fan who was going to attend the convention, but it didn’t work out within a day before Sarah’s panel appearance. So, Sarah offered up something unusual, her own personal account of that panel, per se, from a third person outlook, which you can find below.

But there was more to DragonCon that just the Maberry panel. The day prior, September 5, saw a panel with actors Jerry Hardin and Nicholas Lea, a press report of which can be found here. The essence of that panel offered up some interesting insights from both Lea and Hardin, “Acting is a career of dealing with the unknown”, Mr. Hardin offered. Mr. Lea offered that the unexpected surprises of opening up and reading a new script when he would appear on The X-Files meant, “You never knew, so it was a real adventure.” Hardin described going in for a brief amount of work with David Duchovny, and admitting to wanting to stay around as he loved to work with the writing, “Such good material is unique.” Both actor’s marveled at the quality and intelligence of the fans, and Hardin cited a fan from the Ukraine who really impressed him. Lea described an encounter with a child from Northern Ireland, who asked him if Mulder and Scully could save their country, Lea noted the great responsibility to being on a show like The X-Files: “People believe in it.”

But Jerry Hardin’s appearance at DragonCon led to the fortunate hunch that resulted in our exclusive interview, which you can find here. But to no longer digress, the panel with Jonathan Maberry seemed like it was a great success, and Sarah offered up her own personal, and excellent, account of the day… - Matt Allair

It’s too bad Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files, was not in the room at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Atlanta last Sunday. DragonCon 2015 was in full swing, and the room was packed for a panel showcasing the new X-Files short story anthology, Trust No One. Editor Jonathan Maberry led three of his writers, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Sarah Stegall and Kevin J. Anderson, in a discussion of their stories, and contributed one of his own about how the anthology came to be.

IDW Publishing had been putting out a series of authorized X-Files comics called Season 10. Over a year ago, before the return of the TV show was confirmed, the CEO of IDW approached Chris Carter with the idea for an anthology of X-Files stories. Carter was skeptical, believing there would be no fan interest in a show that had been off the air for 13 years. The CEO persuaded Carter to give him a few days to round up some interested authors. He told Maberry that if he could get six writers to commit to writing stories, Carter would greenlight the book. Maberry says, “Two hours later I had enough people for three volumes.” Finally convinced, Carter gave the go-ahead for the anthology. Maberry was given a completely free hand, since the TV show was off the air and there had been no mention of its return. The stories went through several rounds of approvals to get the final imprimatur, but Chris Carter said that these stories will be considered canon, that is, to be as “legitimate” as the television episodes. At this, high-fives were exchanged around the convention table, and the audience applauded. They applauded again when Maberry announced that the initial print run of Volume I, Trust No One, had already sold out. If Chris Carter needed proof, here it was: not only is fan interest very high, but there are plenty of writers happy to meet that demand.

Keith R. A. DeCandido discussed his story, Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless. He wanted the point of view character to be a normal FBI agent who had to work with Mulder and Scully, “the two nutjobs in the basement”. He also wanted to address the question: why hadn’t the FBI shut down the X-Files again? DeCandido noted that there is “an inverse ratio between how popular a show is and how much crap they give you when you’re writing about it.”

When Sarah Stegall announced that her story (which will come out in Volume II in February 2016) was based on the Bigfoot legend, there were whoops and applause. Stegall noted that in over 200 episodes of The X-Files there had never been an episode which directly addressed the Bigfoot legend. Also a fan of Agent John Doggett, Stegall was interested in pairing up Mulder and Doggett in a remote and hostile location.

Kevin J. Anderson revealed that his story was originally approved by Ten Thirteen Productions and Fox as a comic, but then shelved. “Statues” is set in Death Valley, a locale he is familiar with, remote and empty and forbidding. He got to recall his many trips, the ghost towns he’s visited, and the many odd characters he’s met there. He also noted that writing The X-Files as a comic book is more difficult than writing prose, because most X-Files are pretty static, there’s not a lot of action going on.

Maberry discussed upcoming stories in future volumes. Dean Haglund, the actor who played Langley on the show, contacted him and asked if he could write a story, “as long as it was not about the Lone Gunmen”, which drew laughter. Recently he was also asked by Laurie Holden, who played Maria Covarrubias, if a writer could be requested to write a story with her character.

Maberry acknowledged that the initial cover art for Trust No One was pretty awful: “I threatened to kill someone if they used that cover.” He prevailed, and instead of a drawing the cover now sports a photograph of Gillian and David. Maberry stated that the cover for the second volume would hopefully include more cast members, but would follow a similar theme. Other questions involved the upcoming electronic version of the book and Maberry promised it would be coming soon. The audio version is already available. Maberry said that IDW is already in talks to bring out some more original X-Files novels.

The audience was full of questions by now. In answer to a question about what fandom the writers grew up on, Kevin J. Anderson talked about writing Star Trek stories as a young boy. When Gene Roddenberry and Paramount refused to let him publish them, he started writing his own original tales. Sarah Stegall (and Jonathan Maberry) remembered Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, a cheap Fifties TV serial which was re-run on Saturday afternoons. She also watched re-runs of Star Trek, but on a black-and-white elevision. This made for increased suspense: since she could not see the red shirts on the crewmembers, she had no idea who was going to die! Keith R. A. DeCandido grew up watching Star Trek and reading Heinlein, Tolkien and P. G. Wodehouse, “which explains a lot about me now”. Maberry wrote his own plays for Land of the Giants and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; his first full-length sequel was for Blake’s 7.

Indeed, the momentum we have witnessed this year, due to the announcement of the six new episodes that will run starting in January, had been an unexpected surprise and dream for the majority of fans, but the fact that IDW has been providing some surprising good publications is something else to celebrate, and only helps to enrich this period of the fandom. It’s pretty rare to see the stars aligning to this to degree for a series that has been off the air for over a decade, but again, nothing has ever been predictable in this phenomenon known as The X-Files. – Matt Allair

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