Chris Carter at Dangerous Visions
A personal view by Anne Marsden
Quotes reconstructed from shorthand, not tape.
We got to Dangerous Visions just a few minutes before 1pm. There were 15 people waiting for Harlan Ellison already, each having taken a number and bought or brought up to three books for him to sign. There were three dogs, big furry happy-tempered dogs.
The event description was simple. Harlan Ellison would arrive at 1pm, and Chris Carter would arrive with a sealed envelope. In the envelope would be an idea for a short story. Harlan would read the idea, sit down and begin to type on a manual typewriter set on a desk near the window. During rest breaks, he would sign autographs, and give his characteristically, er, er, *Harlanesque* view on things with the fans. Fanboys would stand around, buy books, eat dip, and shoot the shit with other fans. As each page was completed, it would be copied and placed in the window of the store.
As the fans milled around waiting for Harlan, I was accosted by one of the dogs who mournfully dropped a tennis ball for me to throw. I'd watched him or her playing this game with endless doggy patience for the last 15 minutes. Each time a human got bored with the routine, he moved on. I repeatedly chucked the ball the few feet I could without braining somebody, and the dog caught it every time and dropped it at my feet for me. About half the time, the spittle-soaked ball hit one large fanboy's hand-held collection of priceless HE books and his coffee mug. After a while he started giving me a dirty look, but didn't say anything. I got bored with the game and left the ball for the doggie. The fan went on standing in line. A woman in front of him with a large purse occasionally knocked the purse against his mug when she moved, and he said something sharp to her. Why hadn't he said something rude to me? It took me a while to realize that it was my T-shirt, which would have been tight on me even if it was an ordinary small T-shirt and it wasn't - it was a children's small T-shirt (I bought it by accident) - and across the very tight T-shirt front was a picture of Tura Satana kicking ass and the legend ' Faster Pussycat, Kill... Kill! - Russ Meyer's Ode to Violence in Women'. I realized then the value of actually *looking* unstable. Think how much more respect Ford Prefect gets than Fox Mulder, for instance. It's all because of Ford's psychotic smile which makes people back away even after receiving a harmless pleasantry.
Harlan arrived about on time and the secret line police demanded everyone took their place in line. I ended up behind a bookcase, peering over a rack of Tom Swift adventures. Harlan's older than I remember seeing him, and that's probably because I haven't seen him for almost ten years. He is still unnaturally white-skinned, but now his hair is silver. He stood around the typewriter area waiting for CC. We all waited. He typed up his copyright notice, address and name for the title sheet. After a while, he said, 'If he doesn't turn up in the next five minutes, I'll take the first suggestion from the audience.' I started thinking of themes, but before the deadline the crowd started whispering. Eventually, the line police recognized Chris Carter and he was let in.
CC handed Harlan an envelope which said (print) Ten Thirteen, Inc. 211 1st Anita Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (handwritten) 102 year old pregnant corpse Chris
I bought a book with which to better approach the area, as it was close to the register. The DV lady said that CC was just here to give the idea, and may or may not choose to give autographs. Now I've never asked for an autograph in my life before, and I started seeing screamworthy people so long ago that Freddie and The Dreamers, The Hollies and The Dave Clarke Five feature strongly in my non-autograph book.
CC was a yard away, there were only fifty people, 9000 dogs and 4 quadrillion video cameras in the room (and a buncha books, but who reads?) so I whipped out my LA Expo program and handed it to Chris. Unfortunately, the line police were just deciding to get heavy at the same time, so CC didn't have time to personalize the autograph for me - I just got a 'Chris'. But I was happy. And if anyone can give me Freddie Garrity's address, I probably now have the courage to ask him for one too. Chris made my day by being the first person in three weeks not to say,'What the hell happened to your arm?' I suppose he's used to seeing people in monster make up so my interestingly burned wrist probably didn't trip his 'eww' detector. (I took my skin off in a bizarre frying accident a few weeks ago.)
It had just dawned on the line police that CC was a popular as Harlan, and they would fulfill their fire regulations more easily if they took CC to the back and left Harlan and his fans by the front door. So CC was moved to the back of the store. (Dangerous Visions is much smaller than it was at the old site. It's basically one large room, and sells almost exclusively books.) At the back, there was room for an interview.
A man with a video camera so huge it must have come out of a pre-Cambrian deposit underneath the La Brea Tar Pits came up to CC. The Red Sea parted and 2/3 of the people, dogs and video cameras in the store sloshed to the back with me and CC. The rest stayed with Harlan, who was now on page 2.
I'd better describe CC. He's not as tall as I thought, not over 6 feet. He is *very* well proportioned, with wide shoulders, narrow hips and no sign of overweight. He was wearing jeans. (I didn't get to see the jeans from the front, sorry, all of you jeans-watchers, but the back was as attractive as has been intimated on this NG before.) He also wore a soft grey-blue grandpa shirt. His hair is blond with a fair proportion of silver, not the pure silver it seems on video. He has that open, honest, smiling face we've all seen on the introductions to X-Files videos. Although he was outstanding in this milieu, he didn't have any Hollywood mannerisms or dress to suggest star status. There was one other guy there, in a Firesign theater tour jacket, who had black clothes, loud voice and fake intimacy with lots 'o' people that made it clear *he* was a star, even though I couldn't place him, whereas CC seemed like a naturally charismatic ordinary person, not a Hollywood type at all.
The interview on camera was fairly bog-standard. My transcription is from bad shorthand and didn't capture every word.
Q: Did you discuss your story idea with Harlan beforehand?
CC: No. It was a complete secret. I had about 100 ideas and I dumped them all. I settled on this one this pm. I was listening to Edgar Allan Poe ghost stories on tape. (The idea was '102-year old pregnant corpse') Then some crappy music started playing in the background and they stopped the interview. As they tried to find the source of the music, the interviewer says something like, 'What is it with you and David Lynch and this kind of music?'
The interviewer then asked about Harlan's response to the idea. CC
was nice about the title and the first paragraph. He liked it particularly
because it was narrative. The interviewer asked if CC could write from
an idea straight away in that way.
CC: As a writer, I don't want to say I could do it, because then I'd be asked to do it.
The interviewer asked about CC's and Harlan's relationship.
CC: Harlan and I have spoken on the phone. I know he can be really critical. I didn't know what he made of the X-Files. When he first phoned up I thought I'd get an earful, but he loved the show. He calls frequently. He always tells me what he likes, never what he doesn't like. He wrote a very nice article in a trade paper about us. This is one way of repaying him. (Goes on to say Harlan was not a big influence on CC as a youngster.)
The interviewer asks CC about the show.
CC: I can't believe it's the season five finale. I hope movie (knock on wood) is successful. There'll be more to come in the future.
The interviewer asks about the movie and how the plot was kept secret.
CC: The cast members had only their own script pages. False script pages were incorporated into the scripts. An important scene was written only recently. Copies of scripts were restricted.
The interviewer asks 'Where will you be on opening night? In disguise at the back of a theater?'
Here Harlan Ellison comes up in front of the camera and shouts, 'He'll be signing autographs. Out-fucking-rageous! Chris, you can stop this shit any time you like! (To us) He comes here to do me a favor and ends up having to do all this!'
Everyone ignores him, and he goes back to his story. The interview
The interviewer asks about the change to LA. Will the show change? More beach scenes perhaps?
CC: It's actually becoming a sitcom. (Laughter) We'll have more opportunity to use South Western locales. Nevada, California, New Mexico, even Texas. It won't be as dark and creepy as it was in Vancouver, but it will be X-Files. (Cheers)
Interviewer: Will Mulder and Scully ever, uh, get. . .
CC: Why don't you read the question that's written down for you? It says (reading card upside down), 'Are Mulder and Scully going to end up in the sack?' They've already been in the sack (sic), but I don't think anything has ever been consummated. (He said something else but I was too puzzled by the first comment to write it down. It was the usual stuff about M&S relationship.)
Here the cameraman and the interviewer consult. Someone says, 'Bear with us folks. Art takes time!' CC remains very calm and smiley. He doesn't show any irritation at being shanghaied for an interview. The crew decide they need some inserts for the interview. They want to see the knocking on wood for movie success again. The cameraman sets up the shot which will include both CC's face and his hand knocking on wood (I assume), and CC looks at him. For just one second, there's a hint of control and directorial authority. Although CC is still smiling, eyes still crinkly and happy, he says to the cameraman, 'Are you wide?' and the cameraman says, 'I'm wide now.' Only by the sheer depths of my telepathic ability do I discern a slight frustration with the shoot.
Someone says, 'ready' and CC says 'Knock on wood!' (knock, knock) and looks into the camera with a full-on 500 Watt Halogen *Twinkle*. Marvellous! He just turned on the *Twinkle* for a 3 second shot! He must really hate actors who can't even kiss each other without falling about laughing for 10 takes, when he himself can *Twinkle* on cue.
And that's it. I think other, bolder souls on the group would have shouted, 'When does Scully get her own desk you sexually-harassing doofus you!' or something, but I didn't. CC seemed so genuine and personable that I had a hard time even thinking of him as TPTB.
Meanwhile, Harlan. He wrote 'City on the Edge of Forever' for Star Trek :TOS and 'Demon With A Glass Hand' for The Outer Limits. One can certainly say that if he writes for a TV series, he writes an acknowledged goodie. One can also say he doesn't get many opportunities. Does this have anything to do with his phoning CC regularly to tell him how great the X-Files is? Well, surely not. But - tip to Harlan - Millennium is more your thing. Try that. He was on page 5 when I left, and his story would have dwarfed 3rd drafts from most other writers I've known. (Including me. This is 3rd draft.)
And CC was (apart from my own partner) the best looking man I saw all day, except for the waitperson in the local Uzbekistan Eatery a few doors west of Dangerous Visions. Krycek isn't the only Former-Soviet-Union looker, apparently. (It's called the Rasputin Bistro or something, if you are inclined to check.)
Plug for Dangerous Visions: very committed, very knowledgeable SF store.
13563 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-3825 (818-986-6963)
Thanks to Anne Marsden for sharing her experience!