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Old 1 Week Ago   #1
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Topic Nominated The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

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Cult horror author Thomas Ligotti explains why his nihilistic take on the sci-fi series never made it to TV




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Their search for truth has seen them do battle with vampires, zombies, aliens, and elasticated mutants hungry for human offal. But what would Mulder and Scully make of a case that brought them face-to-face with “the strange and awful truth” of existence? “Crampton”, an unproduced screenplay for The X-Files, offers a clue: co-written by cult horror author Thomas Ligotti in 1998, the script plunges our detective leads into a world of illusion, suggesting conspiracies of a different kind.

If only the 2018 iteration of The X-Files were so ambitious. Last week, the new series premiered to middling reviews, following a first rebooted season that could not have felt more like a period piece if Mulder and Scully had rocked up wearing corsets. The original X-Files, of course, remains a hugely influential show and pop-cultural motherlode of pre-millennial tension. One difficulty with bringing it back is that television has become so much weirder since then: Black Mirror continues to mine a potent seam of techno-paranoia, while shows like Top of the Lake (in its first series) and The Returned evoke an otherworldly atmosphere far richer than anything Chris Carter’s show used to conjure. Even Twin Peaks, itself an influence on The X-Files, amped up the weird for its much-vaunted Return.

TV’s recent flirtation with the uncanny found its groove with the first series of True Detective, which relied for much of its unholy swagger on the character of Rust Cohle. A few years ago, writer Nic Pizzolatto revealed that part of the inspiration for Cohle’s bleak philosophising came from Thomas Ligotti’s non-fiction work The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, causing dark mutterings among the author’s devoted fanbase. Less known is that Ligotti also wrote an X-Files script which, had it gone on to be filmed, would surely rank among the series’ strangest and most terrifying moments.
And the very last line:

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The Conspiracy Against the Human Race will be republished this year by Penguin

"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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Old 1 Week Ago   #2
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

I think Ligotti would have been an amazing fit for Millennium. Darker territory.

Pointless tangent: can Ligotti be considered that reclusive any more? He's doesn't participate in social media or write a blog, but I have read a hell of a lot of interviews with him over the years now. Compare that with somebody like the more famous Thomas Harris, who hasn't given an interview since the 70s. Or T. E. D. Klein. When did we last hear from him?

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Old 1 Week Ago   #3
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
I think Ligotti would have been an amazing fit for Millennium. Darker territory.

Pointless tangent: can Ligotti be considered that reclusive any more? He's doesn't participate in social media or write a blog, but I have read a hell of a lot of interviews with him over the years now. Compare that with somebody like the more famous Thomas Harris, who hasn't given an interview since the 70s. Or T. E. D. Klein. When did we last hear from him?
Good point. He's still reclusive in that he never goes to conventions or gives/attends readings, but we know more about Ligotti's life and worldview than readers usually know about most authors.

"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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Old 1 Week Ago   #4
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
Or T. E. D. Klein. When did we last hear from him?
You definitely have got a point there. But despite havig published nothing in recent years there is a rather current interview with him here:


No idea why it says that but the link works.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #5
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

I always found it kind of weird Ligotti went to all that trouble to write a whole script without checking whether the production team accepted open submissions. Either way, it's amazing fan-fiction and better written than the majority of the aired show, particularly the godawful mytharc.

Thomas Ligotti would have rivalled Darin Morgan as the show's best writer.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 1 Week Ago   #6
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
I always found it kind of weird Ligotti went to all that trouble to write a whole script without checking whether the production team accepted open submissions. Either way, it's amazing fan-fiction and better written than the majority of the aired show, particularly the godawful mytharc.

Thomas Ligotti would have rivalled Darin Morgan as the show's best writer.
Brandon Trenz and Ligotti both kind of jumped into the project on a lark, as I understand it, not having a clue until after the fact that Carter refused to look at unsolicited scripts. At the time, I remember Tom being characteristically negative about its chances of success anyway.

Just as an aside, I'd characterize the script as far greater than fan fiction. It was pitch perfect and (I always thought) would have made a stunning series finale.

"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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Old 1 Week Ago   #7
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

Sorry, I agree. I wasn't using the term 'fan fiction' as a pejorative. Just a general term for an unlicensed story within a fictional universe.

The X-Files would have been one of my first exposures to the horror genre, so it does feel important to me, even if my opinion of the show these days is jaded after such a downward spiral since around the time the show shifted in production from Vancouver to LA. I miss the atmosphere of the original batch of seasons, which I can still rewatch. Of the new run I still enjoy the episodes not by Chris Carter, but the atmosphere is gone.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay

Last edited by James; 1 Week Ago at 08:25 PM..
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Old 1 Week Ago   #8
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

The republishing of Conspiracy... is good news but I'd prefer if they'd make available more of his fiction, like Noctuary and The Spectral Link or even his poetry, such as I Have a Special Plan for this World and This Degenerate Little Town.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #9
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

Quote Originally Posted by beakripped View Post
The republishing of Conspiracy... is good news but I'd prefer if they'd make available more of his fiction, like Noctuary and The Spectral Link or even his poetry, such as I Have a Special Plan for this World and This Degenerate Little Town.
I suspect there's good reason to hope for more mass, Ligotti fiction reprints in the not too distant future.

"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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Old 1 Week Ago   #10
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Re: The X-Files script that was too bleak to air

Is there any way to read the CRAMPTON screenplay online? I know copies used to appear on ebay occasionally. I've read the X-files version and thoroughly enjoyed it, but Ligotti states in this interview that the X-files brand prevented them from taking things further. Curious to read the updated draft.
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