Tony Black looks at the fourteenth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Along the Scenic Route’…
Written by Lucy A. Snyder
Edited by Jonathan Maberry
The penultimate story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas is more of an aside from Lucy A. Snyder than a full-on case itself, as ‘Along the Scenic Route’ which Mulder & Scully take on their way back from events of the episode, ‘The List’ (placing this roughly around early Season Three), sees them stumbling in on problems in a small-town possessed it appears by strange visions with fatalistic results. Snyder from the outset presents this more as a consequence of Mulder & Scully constantly being drawn to the paranormal and has some fun playing up on the idea for once they’re not actually desperate to hang around and investigate.
Events spiral mostly around Susie Rainwater, a young girl suffering intense headaches, as the townsfolk in Tilton are seeing strange angels or devils or snakes across town, which could be hallucinogenic manifestations based on mold spores harvested from the Rainwater farm, but which could also connect back to Native American legends of sacred ground. Snyder’s story to an extent shares some DNA with ‘Teso Dos Bichos’ (don’t worry, it’s better!) or in some ways ‘Shapes’, that idea of the ignorant white man looking to stamp all over ancient tradition and culture. That lies at the heart of the story and while the pantomime thuggery of said white man is a little on the nose for The X-Files, the ambiguity behind what could be causing this is welcome.
It’s really Scully who cooks up most of the theory in this one, the scientific theory, for what may be going on, while Mulder doesn’t particularly leap to too many conclusions; Snyder just leaves dangling a few possibilities as to what the cause might be, and it’s not the kind of story which has a Mulder theory that ties everything up in a little bow. It becomes clear that Susie may be the primary catalyst for the weirdness but, again, the specific reasons are left open to debate. Snyder characterizes well along the way – she captures Scully’s scientific rigor & Mulder’s louche wit well, while Susie’s childlike approach, when written in her POV, helps alleviate some of the cliched elements of the story.
A simple, well-told and decently written tale, ‘Along the Scenic Route’, wedging itself within X-Files continuity without falling into the trap of needing too heavily to connect back to the overarching mythos or tap into the lead characters psychology. Lucy A. Snyder simply tells a solid, interesting and open-ended short story effectively, and that makes it a welcome addition to Secret Agendas.
Look out for an exclusive interview this week with Lucy A. Snyder about her story.
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