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Not My Lover by Deslea R. Judd - Author's Afterword
Summary: Author's commentary on Not My Lover.
Not My Lover: An Afterword
Deslea R. Judd
Gentle Reader - thank you for coming with me this far, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride. I thought I would take this opportunity to explain a little of what I was trying to do in writing Not My Lover. It could be argued that if you can't figure that out by reading it, I didn't do such a hot job; but one of the perks of writing is that as an author I can indulge in this kind of rambling post-mortem. You can skip it if you like - you're not missing anything vital.
For those of you who stayed, I've got to say, Not My Lover is probably my favourite work to date for a host of reasons. I've found it incredibly satisfying to write and read on a number of levels. First and foremost, of course, is the exploration of two incredibly complex, rich characters - not to mention ones which are hopelessly underused on the show on which this story is based! Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias, portrayed so richly by Nicholas Lea and Laurie Holden, are very complex characters - primarily due to the efforts of their performers. I consider this to be less a work based on The X Files, though certainly the X Files storyline is integral, and more a work based on the work of Lea and Holden.
This story veers radically away from my usual style. It deals with murky characters with very flawed motives. Nonetheless, it echoes my earlier work with Scully and Skinner in that, in this interpretation of the X Files canon, Alex and Marita are people who share a great love, and live that out in partnership while seeking that which is right as they understand it. You won't find dark-and-dirty Ratboy and Blondie here - rather, you will find radically flawed yet deeply convicted people who understand their own particular shade of grey as a kind of good. It is, in part, an exploration of what good and evil might really mean in the context of the colonisation threat. Is good, absolute good? Is it the greatest good for the greatest number? And is the only real evil that of doing nothing?
It was something of a challenge to me to write the kind of story that I wanted to write in the face of several on-screen betrayals between the characters, but it was important to me to remain consistent with what was portrayed. There are only two instances, as far as I can see, in which the work absolutely does not mesh with the established story. The first is the killing of X (on the show, he was killed by the Grey Haired Man), which I felt was both significant enough to the story and insignificant enough to the canon to warrant a little inconsistency. The second inconsistency is the age and gender of the Donovan children: the children seen in Fight The Future are a little too old to be Diana Fowley's children, and they are two girls and a boy rather than vice versa. A further inconsistency is the wearing of wedding rings by both Alex and Marita, which is not borne out in the show, but which I felt was an acceptable adaptation.
I especially like Not My Lover because it's a story that honours marriage. Alex and Marita marry very early, in the first chapter; and there's an ongoing theme to the effect that it's the strength and the permanence of their marriage that enables them to serve as a counter-Consortium. Their work and their family are so bound up together that they couldn't have succeeded otherwise. Although it's explored in a humanistic rather than a religious context here, the underlying theme is definitely grounded in my understanding of marriage as a Catholic. I am indebted to discussions with other Catholic authors as far as this aspect of my work is concerned, especially my dear friend Mary Mastrangelo, with whom I've discussed the issue of Catholicity in writing over several years.
I chose my language very carefully in creating this emphasis - for instance, Alexi and Mare refer to each other as "my husband" and "my wife" far more frequently in their journals and dialogue than people do in real life. That was quite deliberate. Both speak of marriage and lovemaking very strongly as owning one another, belonging to one another, possessing one another in a way which is somewhat antiquated - even offensive to some in the current era. I felt that this was acceptable despite its political-cultural connotations because of its mutuality, and because there is a clear undertone that their mutual ownership originates in each partner's allowing that ownership. For each of them, the decision to marry meant embracing an identity of mutual belonging which was otherwise missing in their lives, and which ironically they weren't able to live publicly until their separation in Chapter 6. This accounts in some way for their emphasis on the fact of their marriage in their words. Similarly, Marita's embrace of her husband's name, and their wearing of wedding bands even at times when that was unwise, were not in the story for sentimental purposes (neither character strikes me as likely to indulge in conventional sentiment). They are there because my perception is that both characters found something genuinely meaningful in those symbols above and beyond the arbitrary symbolism passed on culturally. I think all of this is quite in character. I see Marita, in particular as a quite conservative young woman in many respects, bordering on old-fashioned; and Alex strikes me in the same way. This is borne out on the show by such details as the clothes they wear and the language they use.
Flowing on from this is the issue of children. Children are immensely important in Not My Lover - Mare is pregnant three times, and the couple adopt four children over the five year period covered by the story - but I wouldn't class Not My Lover as 'babyfic', as that genre has become known in X Files fandom. It is not until the final scenes that they are able to live as a family with their children. I had several reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest is the existential question: why, when so many died, did these two remain standing, able to go forward with their lives in the safety their actions created? Aside from the fact that the writer wanted them to, it seemed to me that there needed to be some natural justice that allowed it. In the end, I decided to use the light/darkness in Alex to create that justification. It has always seemed to me on the show that this is a profoundly convicted man who has his own cause and is committed to it at all costs. Alex has been seen in only a handful of outfits. There is nothing to suggest that he has a home, a car, or personal effects. His prosthesis is not the most aesthetic or high-tech available by any means. All that is despite the fact that he clearly has access to great amounts of money - from selling secrets on the digital tape, from working for the Tunisians. This is not a man in it for the money. He's in it because he has an agenda, and he will do whatever is needed to get what he believes in. The same fundamental generosity and commitment in his personality that allows him to choose poverty and homelessness for what he believes in also leads him to darker deeds - the killing of those who stand in the way of his cause. I decided that these same traits should lead him to take care of Gibson Praise and the Donovan children when they crossed his path, though not necessarily in a way that was paternal. That would come later, in the unseen period in Tangier. In this way, Alex and Mare's generosity set the scene for the future they longed for, as well as in some way justifying their survival. I felt this was in character because, as extreme people, neither would shirk at extreme acts of kindness. These are not people afraid of commitment - rather, they thrive on it, in all its guises.
I tried to make the characters as three-dimensional as possible by giving them character quirks and habits. Mare smokes and cusses when she's under stress. Alex likes Dom Benedictine, and he's more likely to cuss when he's amused. Mare wedges the telephone between her shoulder and her ear, even when it's not strictly necessary. Alex likes to tuck Mare's hair behind her ear, which I think is a benignly possessive gesture. Gibson and Alex tease one another mercilessly, and Gibson is endearingly misguided in his scheming to reunite the couple in Chapter 6, while Mare struggles to teach him to trust her to take on the adult responsibilities. This mirrors her own struggle, and Alexi's, to surrender her need to try to take on the world and with humility allow the world to assert its natural order. I also like their friendship with Skinner - it's a very normal thing, one partner disliking another partner's best friend, or vice versa, and although this was on a grander scale, the principle remained. The image of Alex and Walter chatting stiffly by the Christmas tree because they both cared for Marita amused me a great deal, as did their amicable drunkenness after Walter got the best of Alex. I'm not sure how in character this would be in the American context, but certainly in my country, this would be a natural response to a ceasefire among men with a long history.
I see Marita as a very strong woman. I like her in Chapter 6 very much, where she finds herself alone and bereft, but still finds it within herself to face her future with, I think, a great deal of dignity. I liked the themes I pulled in about her becoming strong again, and the whole picture of her being very desolate but still being her own person who has a lot of inner power and ability to do things. I see that chapter as balancing the terrible ways in which she was used and coerced in earlier chapters, and most especially in her sexual encounter with the Cigarette Smoking Man. This is only described in retrospect, and I think that was important: it was not, in my opinion, an encounter to be viewed, in that it was very ugly on many levels. I didn't want the reader to picture the physical reality of Spender and Marita naked together on a hospital gurney. What I wanted was for the reader to picture the incredible strength of will possessed by Marita, both in enduring the event and in facing the reality of what she had done. For both Spender and Mare, it was consenting intercourse, and Mare's sense of shame is magnified by the fact that she proposed the encounter. It is Alex, later, who is able to pinpoint that Mare's actions were forced, if not physically by Spender, then by the reality of her situation, and that in that sense it was more akin to rape. I think Mare redeems the humiliation of what was done to her, by outsmarting Spender to become pregnant so that she would be allowed to live, by willingly nurturing the resulting child, and with her dignity in the aftermath.
I was actually a little torn about this storyline. As I wrote to Rachel Anton, I'm not convinced that it's in character for Spender, who I consider to be rather old-fashioned, both on the show and in the story. In an earlier version of the chapter, Mare got pregnant to a guard because a pro-life scientist was smuggling out pregnant test subjects to protect them from forcible terminations. I liked that story, but it didn't seem to gel - it seemed to require too much freedom of movement within Fort Marlene, and too much involvement with other captives and the scientists. In the end, what really tipped the scales was that Spender called her Marita in Requiem; and he is not someone who often uses people's given names - previously he had called her only Miss Covarrubias. The other reason I pursued this explanation for her pregnancy was that Alex had been growing more and more scrupulous about the taking of life. He reported a body count of thirty-nine after One Son, and when he came out of prison eighteen months on, that had risen only to forty-one (two victims in Amor Fati). He already had ample reason to make Spender his final kill, but I wanted to emphasise the idea that killing Spender was, to his mind, an act of justice rather than strictly one of murder, though he does still include it in his final body count of forty-two. The realisation that Mare's child was fathered by Spender formed the impetus, and I think the difference between him killing and not killing, given his growing qualms. Alex discussed as early as the first chapter his feelings about killing, and it's clear that he doesn't do it lightly; but I think he thought a lot about that during his unseen period in prison in Tunisia. I suspect that he has a dossier for each person he's killed, and that he tortures himself sometimes, reading them - just one of those images that occurs to me.
There were several scenes that I wanted to write but which the points-of-view narrative, or else the plot emphasis, would not allow. One of these is Skinner meeting Alex at Dulles with the news of Marita's miscarriage. Another is Marita visiting Gibson at Fort Marlene immediately after her sexual encounter with Spender, whereupon I imagine she attempted to shield her thoughts from him but failed. Others relate to Alex dealing with the loss of his arm in the six months or so following the event, and the introspection I imagine he went through in the penal colony in Forj Sidi Toui. There were other scenes which I deleted, including one alternate scene in One Son, where Marita gave Mulder a note for Alex in which she told him what she had done, and Mulder giving Alex the note in an alternate scene from Requiem. In the end I felt it added little to the plot or its expression, and I omitted it. Another scene that wound up on the cutting room floor was one where the couple worried that an ill Marita had cancer as a result of her exposure to the alien craft in North Dakota, unaware that she was in fact pregnant. In another missing scene, an imprisoned Alex befriended a Jesuit priest who had stolen food for his villagers, and the priest told him a hypothetical moral problem from his theological studies, that of Mrs Bergmeier. Mrs Bergmeier was a German POW in World War II with a sick husband and children at home. She learned that pregnant women were sent home as liabilities and was faced with the dilemma of whether to break her marriage vows and attempt to become pregnant. In this version, Alex had not yet made peace with Mare's second pregnancy, and he was bothered by the story; but I decided in the end that it was more powerful for Alex to understand and forgive Mare almost immediately, and abandon her solely out of his own overwhelming guilt.
It won't surprise most of my readers to learn that my background is in moral theory, and this story is definitely a tug-of-war between utilitarianism and virtue ethics. To grossly generalise the issues, utilitarianism is an end-justifies-the-means, greatest-good-for- greatest-number ethic, and that's very much the ethic Alex and Marita pursue in this story. But as time wears on, they become more and more aware of the truth of virtue ethics, which allows only for good ends and good means. Their concrete situation, at least in their perception, does not allow for the living out of that ethic until the colonisation threat has been averted, but they each speak of a vague longing for a better path - one which, in the end, they are finally able to embrace. I hope that you, Gentle Reader, can see the richness and complexity of Alex and Marita that I have come to embrace in the course of writing this protracted little morality tale. Thanks for reading.
All my love, Deslea
Watch for a Not My Lover prequel, Not My Lover: Enigma, and for missing scenes, over the coming year. When these are complete they will be bundled together as a special edition. In the meantime they will be available at my website, http://fiction.deslea.com.