Let me explain...
As anyone who has ever stumbled across a cult classic on late-night television can attest, the circumstances of a pop-culture discovery can be just as memorable as the object uncovered. Growing up without cable, in a household where excessive TV-viewing was frowned upon, my viewing habits were messy and random.
Most of my formative TV time was restricted to odd hours when I could gorge without my parents noticing: early morning hours during summer vacation and late nights on weekends. So I watched a lot of daytime talk shows, '80s sitcom reruns, and whatever syndicated dramas happened to air on local affiliates on Saturday nights. Of all the forbidden shows I snuck in, The X-Files was my most formative late-night revelation.
In many ways, The X-Files provided an education in the tenets of fandom. I had obsessed over shows, books, and movies before; the kiddie sci-fi classic Eerie, Indiana, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta's Young Jedi Knights novels, and the Spielberg movie Hook all loomed large in my pop-addled consciousness. But The X-Files felt mature in new, exciting ways. The show was wry and creepy, tied together with a kind of noir-inflected sexuality. In the same way a band like Sonic Youth would later send me seeking out Philip K. Dick novels, The X-Files was a portal, offering countless allusions and references to unpack. It was the perfect pre-Wikipedia k-hole of cultural ephemera.