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XmagicalX is a talented author who came to us from the X-files fandom where she began writing fan fiction. As her readers know, she is famous for her love of angst and smarm and using those concepts to get at the core of Jim and Blair's friendship and discover how high it can go. A convert to the The Sentinel thanks to her sister, G9, XmagicalX began writing a couple years ago after she discovered the sci-fi element of Jim's sentinel senses, integrated into a show with a partnership with lots of potential. Xmag has 17 completed stories available on the web, as well as one in-progress and two published in fanzines. XmagicalX's Cascade Library story listing currently includes long drama stories, shorter light-hearted comedies, crossovers, and unique stories that can't be categorized! Xmag's stories are located at her webpage, XmagicalX's Fan Page.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Xmag!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Let's see, right now I'm a senior at Bowdoin College in Maine, majoring in Psychology and Art History. What am I going to do after I graduate? (In less than 7 months - AHHHHHH!) Er...that's still up in the air. I would love to write science fiction novels, but I'm not quite idealistic enough to think I can do that for a living...not at first, anyway... (Though believe me, when I do get a novel published, everybody and her sister will hear about it!) When I'm not in class or sleeping, I write, read, go online, draw, watch TV (not that much, really), go online, do homework, sing in chorus, crochet, go online, work at the library...did I mention being online?
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
It's all my sister's fault! When it comes to fandoms, it usually is... Sis has a genius for seeking out shows, movies, and books with what we term "potential" - partnerships, friendships, h/c, and smarm. She was watching The Sentinel on and off from the start; if an ad for an ep looked like they'd be *worrying* about each other, she watched it. But I don't watch as much TV, and I tend to go more for science fiction shows than cop shows, so I didn't catch it often.
Sophomore year I was into The X-files (also sis's work), and one day I happened to read a TS/TXF crossover. I honestly have no idea whose it was; all I remember is thinking, hmmm, Sis is right, these boys *do* have potential, wonder if anybody's done anything with it. So I did a quick websearch...
And by golly, people had done something with it! Man oh man, had they ever! And having the Sentinel senses more fully explained was just the science-fiction touch I needed to tip me over the edge. I read all of Kris William's stories in a week, then hit Guide Posts and didn't stop. I also made sure that sis kept the few eps she had on tape (the two she did have were Cypher and Dead Drop -- I tell you, she's got a gift for detecting these things!) and a couple fans were nice enough to send me copies of crucial others. It took me about fifteen minutes into the pilot to fall head over heels for Blair, and until Jim's smile at the end of Flight to fall for him, and, well the rest is history!
My favorite eps are those named, but as an angst-lover my favorite scene is the last two minutes of Sentinel Too part 1 - I'm never going to admit how many times I've watched those final moments (I've lost count as it is...and Jim's "NOOOOOO!" still gets me every time!)
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
By reading fanfic every waking moment for two weeks straight, and telling myself over and over, 'No, I am *not* going to start writing for this fandom.' I'd been writing X-files fanfic for about a year by then and was determined not to get into anything else - gotta curb these obsessive tendencies of mine! Then after seeing a couple eps on break, I went to bed one night with a scene that would not leave my head, and started writing the story for it the next day. When I got back from break I joined the senfic list - for reading, not really planning to post.<
And then I got the idea for Restored, and I had to share that one, just the beginning. I only hoped someone would read it - I wasn't expecting the response that opening got! Folks seemed to like it (not to mention threatening dire punishments if it didn't continue) so of course I had to send out another part, and then finish it, and by the time I did there was this terrible cliff-hanger finale to deal with and a show to save. Next thing I knew I had a webpage (thanx, 'Leya!) and a dozen stories to my name. Wow!
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
Though I don't think it would ever happen, I would love for Jabberwocky to be made into an ep. Because it's so twisted (I like weird! It'd be a *different* ep, certainly!), because it's one of my more visual stories (at least I think of it as such; for me it has a fair amount of action), and because I am dying to see Blair save the day, exercise those shamanic muscles of his and take control of the situation to rescue Jim!
Which story are you most proud of?
Hmmm, decisions, decisions! Probably either Restored or Jabberwocky. Neither are run-of-the-mill (I'd like to think, anyway!) for senfic or for me in particular, and they both stretched my imagination to different places....plus they were so much fun! Restored is probably the senfic I'll be remembered for; I think it does something different with Blair and Jim's relationship, maybe something that hadn't been done before. But Jabberwocky is the story I'd most want a non-Sentinel fan to read (I'm notoriously embarrassed by my fanfic among my real life friends, of which none are fans of any shows except my sis...they tease me about my obsessions all the time!) despite the fact that it would make no sense to them--or maybe because of that!
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Who is your least favorite?
Most favorite/easiest is probably Blair, being closest to me in age and occupation (student of psychology, student of anthropology...definite parallels, anyway!) But Jim is a close second; he's got a lot of interesting qualities, of which the senses and the whole Sentinel mythos are no small part. And of course I'm fond of Simon, not to mention the rest of the Major Crimes crew...
Least favorite, ummm, I'd say Cassie Wells or BOTW, except that I've never written them!
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
I don't really use betas, but I must mention my sister, who is the first to read anything I write and goes above and beyond the call of duty in encouraging me to write more with constant e's and indefatigable begging. I'd hardly ever complete a story without her!
Your series of stories, Destroyed, Restored, and Protected, is considered a favorite angst AU by many fans. What inspired this series, and do you see it progressing beyond the three stories you've written so far?
The funny thing is, when I started Restored, I didn't think of it as an A/U. It was just a story. It's a theme I've done in three different fandoms now, exploring the effects of long-term separation. I am an angst lover, and a friendship lover; exploring relationships thrills me. And I find something terribly appealing in the idea that someone can be so changed by losing another that they all but become a different person--and beautiful when in that regaining that one they regain themselves as well. I wrote Restored because I had a mental image of what Blair would be like without Jim, and Jim without Blair, and what they would be like when they got each other back.
So much for theme. The mechanics of the plot, well, I mentioned I was into X-files. There's a couple of allusions to X-files in Restored, and the conspiracy is definitely a close relation to Mulder and Scully's eternal foe. But not entirely the same...unbeknownst to me, while writing Restored my subconscious was coming up with a whole world on its own. And then there was dealing with a Cascade that had lost its Sentinel - it's clear that city has one for a reason!! With all these elements popping up, I was left with unanticipated loose ends, hence the prequel, and the sequel, and some stories as yet entirely untold...
Your stories A Dark and Endless Night and Darkest Before Dawn are crossovers with Forever Knight. What inspired this crossover?
I started watching reruns of Forever Knight and was enjoying the show, the characters, and the angst, but I wasn't completely inspired to start writing fanfic for it. And I have a fondness for vampires, but I'd never written a vampire story. Then I was rereading Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and the idea for Night came into my head and wouldn't leave. It nagged me for two weeks before I finally threw up my mental hands and started writing it. The story ended up kind of unusual; it's mostly a Sentinel story, having only one FK char and centering mostly around Blair and Jim, but I went for Rice's dark style and thus the feel is a lot closer to FK than TS.
When I started it, I didn't know there were any other TS stories out there with Blair as a vampire, and even after writing two such stories I still have a hard time swallowing the idea, but I have to admit I'd like to see it...the boy would look good Undead!
The theme of angst and death seems to run through many of your stories, including the Restored series, the Forever Knight crossovers, and A Companion for the Soul. Do you find it difficult to write these emotions into stories?
Ah! Angst again...and death! Huh, never really thought of it like that...now I'm feeling unexpectedly morbid! I've never written a true death story (at least not for TS) but I suppose I have skated the border. I've always liked intensity in character interactions, and few things inspire as strong emotions as death.
Sometimes I blame my love of angst on getting my fanfic start in the angst-heavy X-files, but in truth the major reason my longer Sentinel stories have angst is because I like smarm and Jim and Blair's friendship so much. Come again? I love their friendship, therefore I do my best to break it up? Well, actually, yes. In all my stories, in the end Jim and Blair are strong enough to overcome whatever obstacles I've set between them (death, vampirehood, all that fun stuff!) I put them through a lot because they're strong enough to take it. And then there's the smarm factor; I see Blair and Jim both as strong, fairly well-adjusted men, who aren't given to displays of love at the drop of a hat. There's got to be a good reason for the expression of such feelings, whether through action or words. When they're pushed to the limit, when they're taken to the ragged edge and everything but the core is stripped away, that's when their partnership shines brightest to me.
To actually answer the question, do I find it difficult -- nope! I like writing angst; it just comes to me -- in fact usually it's easier than smarm, despite my love of reading that and h/c. The funny thing is I'm generally a cheerful person (no, really!), and I write my best angst when I'm in a good mood. If I'm depressed I can't do it hardly at all. How's that for twisted?
The humorous series including Grapes of Smarm, etc. are comedy favorites of many readers. What inspired you and G9 to write these pieces? Was it difficult deciding what each successive revenge would be?
The series inspiration came entirely from the title. G9 (she's the aforementioned sister) and I were looking for a title for a short Sentinel Too follow-up we did together, and one of us came out with The Grapes of Smarm. Then we spent half an hour brainstorming more: War and Smarm, The Smarm of the Wild, The Smarm of Two Cities - the possibilities were endless! The Grapes of Smarm had to be a food fight, and that started the escalating cycle of vengeance and fun with Chinese food. As for the revenge...the only one I remember offhand is what Major Crimes does to Blair in Smarm with the Wind; that's taken from a real prank I've heard of (carried out by MIT students, I believe) involving a Model T Ford and a dean's office.
Blair's retaliation is in the half-done stage; As I Lay Smarming hopefully will be finished soon!
What inspired the piece Jabberwocky?
Lewis Carroll's poem. I think that's the only fanfic I've ever written directly inspired by a poem or song. It's one of my favorite poems; I've always loved its weirdness, and after singing it for a semester in chorus I wanted to do something with it. And then I dreamed I was watching The Sentinel (am I the only person who watches imaginary TV in their dreams?) and the plot of the episode clicked with my muse. I ended up turning that dream into Jim's segments of the story. As for the rest...Ever have a moment when suddenly you realize that everything happening around you is too crazy to be real, that this must be a dream, but it still feels completely real until you wake up. Then everything just fades away. That trick of the mind, that strange off-balancing, was my basis for Jabberwocky. Well, that and wanting to put Blair and Jim through a little hell (as usual)...
Tell us about your zine stories, Brothers in Limbo and Limits.
This zine thing is new to me, but lots of fun I gotta say! Limits is actually my first Sentinel story. One night I had a flash of a scene, Blair describing Jim's senses to a SWAT team in order to save Jim's life. I had no choice but to start writing the story around it the next day. Then I began Restored, and Mysti Frank liked the beginning of that and asked me if I'd write a story for her zine Sentry Duty (Agent With Style). I'd only just heard of zines and was thrilled at the invitation, so I gave Limits to her when I finished. Though it wasn't intentional at the time, Limits is kind of a pre-prequel to the Restored universe; it has the seed of the conspiracy causing trouble for our guys...
Brothers in Limbo is my outrageously big crossover story. Like a lot of my crossovers, it came from getting involved in a new show (in this case The Real Ghostbusters) and wondering how these new chars would interact with our favorite Sentinel and Guide. I wanted equal time with everyone involved, so fans of both or either show could enjoy it, but then somehow Sam and Al from Quantum Leap joined the mix, and in trying to give every one of these chars a chance in the spotlight I ended up writing my longest fic yet. I posted it originally, and then a couple RGB fans said I should zine it, Mysti was happy to oblige, and now I've got a novella to my name! (and another on the way, not TS though...)
How did you choose your moniker "XmagicalX"?
Hmm, I thought this might come up... ;-) My real name is Emilie Renée Karr; I posted my X-files fic under that name, and to confuse the issue further I use it with my zine stories as well. Online I'm still XmagX, though. Why? The 'X's are the easy part...they can stand for X-files, X the unknown, x-overs, whatever. The 'magical' is a longer story...let's just say I had a waaaay overactive imagination as a kid. Magical was my alter ego in most of my games (I'm not going to say what species she was, because that really would be a long story!) It only made sense to adopt her as my Net ego as well....(I'm still spending most of my time in another world!)
What do you do when your muse takes a vacation?
My Muse...my muse is the most fickle creature on the planet. Murphy's first cousin, she likes to visit at the worst possible times (like 2 AM or in the middle of a professor's lecture, or even an exam!) Given that, I've learned to work around her and without her if I need to. I don't get writer's block per se; my problems are more in trying to figure out what ideas I should be writing out of the half a million there! And once I actually begin a story I usually have a fair idea of where it's going, so I can make myself write even when Musie's sipping Margaritas in the Caribbean.
But sometimes I go through slumps that every page is a struggle and writing is almost not fun (almost). When that happens the best cure is to listen close, and when the muse comes knocking, OBEY, no matter where I am or what she wants to do (write the middle of a death scene that makes no sense at the dinner table...okay! The plot and everything else can be figured out later...) And then sometimes I'll be happily writing one story, and then Musie will jump me in a dark corner and beat me over the head with a frying pan until I quit what I'm working on and do what she wants to make the clanging stop. Like I said, fickle!
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
The last line! I hate endings. Or more of I love them (though it's bittersweet to say good-bye to a long story that's absorbed a month or two of your life) but I almost never am satisfied with my own.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
The act of writing itself I love, everything, coming up with the ideas, selecting the words to best convey it, even editing (a bit of narcissism, I like to read my own stuff!) And when I go back and reread a scene I thought was good and I'm still proud of it, that's great. But the best...I love hearing from readers, and sometimes I've had people tell me that they were laughing out loud at one of my lines, or that a scene I wrote made them cry, or think, or just touched them somehow. Touching a reader, inspiring an emotional reaction with a fictional story made only of words you put on a page -- there's something special in doing that.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
Er, yes. Please. Pretty please with sugar and molasses and a cherry on top!
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
What always drives me to write -- stories to be told that haven't been yet, wanting to read something no one's written, or wanting to see if something can be written at all. Specifically about The Sentinel? The show just leaves/left so much untouched. The whole concept of the Sentinel senses cries out to be explored further; as a science fiction fan I just can't be content to let it go as a cop show with a twist.
But the biggest draw is Jim and Blair's partnership. To me, that kind of bond is like a gadget to an engineer. I have to play with it, I have to take it apart and put it together again and see what makes it tick, and then I have to take it outside and see how far and high it will fly. And then there's the fanon, specifically the Sentinel-Guide relationship, which fits into the show so neatly and yet is never openly addressed. There's destiny there, and dependency; friendship and choice versus need and duty; ancient mystique and modern science. And within that there's those two guys, Jim and Blair, who are partners and friends and maybe there's a Reason for it and maybe there isn't. Jim needs a partner, Blair needs a research subject, but they both know it goes deeper than that, and have known since Jim let Blair move in and he never moved out. They're trying to survive, and live, same as everyone, but they're heroes whether they want to be or not (heroes of a TV show at the very least, and that always means trouble...just ask the chars of Babylon 5!)
And maybe I'm reading way to much into a simple action cop show, but the potential's there to be read, and when you do how can you not come up with stories about it?
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
At the risk of sounding like a parrot, the same ol' stuff as everyone else says. Strengths are the chars (if they didn't want us to focus on Jim and Blair's friendship, why'd they move Blair in with Jim?) Weaknesses are the cop-show stuff. But that's my perspective as a fanfic writer who enjoys partnership stuff, and who has a certain love of the Great and the Epic in her, and who has almost no experience with police and action shows (Highlander, now, hot guys going at each other with big swords - THAT I can get into. Hot guys running around with car chases and explosions, ehhh, no, it's just not the same...)
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
Three specific things...hmmm.
Get GM on the air again with that new haircut. YOWSA!
Have Blair (o-so-delicious short hair and all) save Jim's butt, totally, unequivocally - ideally I'd like to see him kick down a door with a gun in hand and start issuing orders to the kidnappers. Out of character, oh yeah, but fun as heck to see!
And have Simon and Megan get together. They'd make a cute couple, and they can complain about the problems of working with Sentinels and Guides to one another. Or would this be a general change? I like touches of romance, but not interfering with my partnerships...
General changes would be the usual run-of-the-mill...more angst, more smarm (a real hug! C'mon! That finale one was close but no cigar...) Have Major Crimes find out about Jim's senses (they've gotta know it wasn't a hoax, they've all seen Jim work his magic tricks). Have Blair as a consultant and full partner and all that jazz. And do more with the Sentinel senses, the negative and the positive aspects, the mystique, the science, all of it! (does anyone sense running themes here?)
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Well, definitely have to finish Protected, and the latest of the Smarm with the Classics series. After that I can't say...Musie has been distracted with other shiny toys of late but she tends to hop around a lot. Never can know where she'll jump next!
That's it? No more waxing poetical rambling? I should've warned ya at the outset, as my e-mail buds know, 'short' just ain't my thing! Bu-bye, folks, have a smarmalicious day!
Last updated 11/8/99 clc