Tony Black begins a weekly exploration of the short story anthology, ‘Secret Agendas’..
Written by John Gilstrap
Edited by Jonathan Maberry
Anthology number three of The X-Files from IDW Publishing, ‘Secret Agendas’, begins surprisingly in the first person from the perspective of, none other, than Fox Mulder himself. ‘Seek and You Will Find’ comes from John Gilstrap, nominally a writer of the Jonathan Grave series of political thrillers, and who here switches gears for a Mulder-centric tale of troubled adolescents, dark woods and mysterious doorways. It’s an X-File with a defiantly weird central conceit, yet presented in a rather straightforward, character-led manner. The result is a punchy, sprightly read, if somewhat lacking in the atmosphere that makes the show so memorable.
At first it feels a little jarring to be reading Mulder’s first person thoughts, and to my reading knowledge we haven’t seen this done previously in X-Files writing (that isn’t fanfic), but Gilstrap soon provides a really interesting insight into how Mulder may construct his thought processes when it comes to investigation. He’s curiously dismissive at times of Scully but oddly enough that makes an element of sense, given his focus on the cases before him. What he is, however, is dogged and determined once he finds himself in the kind of paranormal situation directly that he would normally investigate from afar, and Gilstrap has fun unpacking the repercussions of that.
If I were to connect this story to any previous X-File, Season 9’s ‘4-D’ might be the closest shout given Gilstrap’s tale, giving nothing away, has its roots in the concept of an alternate reality. To say any more would perhaps ruin the story but suffice to say there’s a hint of Stranger Things in this piece, that sense of youth in a small-town community being troubled by the unnatural. With a sense of pace, some earthy and honest writing from Gilstrap, who does a good job with Mulder’s internal monologue, it’s a solid start to the collection of tales here.
Check back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with John Gilstrap about his story!
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