Decoding Story Headers

What do all the letter codes mean in the classification in X-Files fanfic?

In the days before AO3 etc, text files were normally submitted to news groups/mailing lists and from there were posted on various archives.  Headers on each file usually gave information to aid with archiving the work. For the unfamiliar, here’s a rundown based on ATXC/Gossamer instructions.

Basic header information:

TITLE: Story Name
AUTHOR: Author Name
E-MAIL ADDRESS: email addy
DISTRIBUTION: archiving instructions
SPOILER WARNING: episodes referred to in the story
RATING: eg R – See Below
KEYWORDS: eg M/O  MSR M/S/Sk friendship AU – see below
SUMMARY: Brief synopsis.


S – Story – Character-driven fiction that focuses on character interaction rather than on plot; any kind of
interaction, not just romance! Friendship, family and most romance stories fit into this category, as well pure erotica. Not a great deal of action/adventure/plot.

V – Vignette – Mood piece, or a character thinking about something. There can be conversation, but there is *no* action/adventure/plot and usually only one scene. Most vignettes are very short, but there is no size limit imposed.

X – X-File – Plot-driven fiction centered around an investigation and/or conspiracy — particularly one that involves profiling or the supernatural. Plenty of action/adventure. Typical of something you might see on the X-Files television series itself.

R – Romance – One or more main characters is romantically involved with anyone. If it’s just an implied romance, don’t classify it as a romance, use the UST keywords to alert readers to possible future romance. Erotica doesn’t  have to be classified as romance though it can be, depending on the relationship. This is the author’s call.

H – Humor – Overall, the story is clearly meant to be funny.

A – Angst – For most or all of the story, main character(s) are in emotional or physical pain.

C – Crossover – Features MAJOR CHARACTERS from other shows, movies or books, regardless of what type of story it is. Please be sure to tell us *which* show, book or movie is featured.


This is the ‘official’ list of keywords, with a couple added.

  • Slash. (Same-sex characters romantically or sexually involved. Please include this warning even if there is no explicit sex in the story!) Be sure to label same-sex stories as such (we fanfic veterans know what slash is, but newbies may not), just in case a parent out there wants their kids to steer clear of the stuff.
  • Character dies. (If a main character from the show dies.)
  • Rape. (Even if it only contains a non-graphic rape scene, the story should carry this warning and if it is m/f, m/m or f/m.)
  • Pre-XF. (Most or all of the story is set before the “Pilot” XF episode.)
  • Alternate universe. (Main XF characters traveling in time and/or developing extraordinary ‘powers’, fantasy stories, sword and sorcery stories, stories that place the characters in totally different ‘worlds’ other than the standard XF universe. Mulder and Scully in the Highlander ‘universe’ would be an alternate universe story. However, if the Highlander CHARACTERS were being used also, that would make it a crossover instead.)
  • Other:  eg Post-ep, Post-colonisation, Kidfic, Babyfic, Flickfic (Post FTF)
  • Character Abbreviations for significant roles:
    • M = Fox Mulder
      S = Dana Scully
      Sk = Walter Skinner
      K = Alex Krycek
      CSM = Cigarette-smoking Man or Cancer Man
      WMM = Well-manicured Man
      LGM = Lone Gunmen
      L = Langly
      Fr = Frohike
      B = Byers
      F = Diana Fowley
      Sp = Spender
      D = Doggett
      R = Reyes
      O = other character of author’s invention
      m = male
      f = female
  • Romance categories:
    • MSR, DRR, SSR, MKR etc (also uses Romance sub-category)
      Skinner/Scully romance, Mulder/other romance, Mulder/Skinner romance,  Scully/other romance etc (also uses Romance subcategory)
      Scully/other, Skinner/Scully, Mulder/Krycek etc (sex only, no romance)
  • Romance subcategories: (with Mulder/Scully as examples)

    • Mulder/Scully Friendship – Bonding, no romance
      Mulder/Scully – (no subcategory) Sex, no romance
      Mulder/Scully UST  – Implied romance, unresolved sexual tension. Shippers and Non-shippers alike would enjoy it.
      Mulder/Scully married – Probably a romance.
      Mulder/Scully romance – Must be categorized as a romance story.


    • G — suitable for all ages
      PG — parental guidance suggested
      PG-13 — Not suitable for children under 13. Parental guidance suggested.
      R — Children under 17 should not be reading the thing without parent’s permission.
      NC-17 — Absolutely no one under 17 is to be reading this.


As annoying as it is now, stories were to be  no more than 70 columns (characters) wide (60 was recommended) and be in ASCII format.  They had to be broken into 30kb parts to not be eaten by news servers.

Subject lines evolved over time from just the name of the story, to things to aid automation software/reader’s selection, eg [NEW/REPOST] [Story Name] [Part ?/?] [Author] [Rating – (mainly NC-17 warning)]

“NO ARCHIVE” or “DO NOT ARCHIVE” could also be used in the headers in the atxc newsgroup to prevent a file being automatically picked up by Ephemeral and/or Gossamer. Sometimes authors would post to those sites themselves and it avoided double-ups, sometimes they just wanted to wait until the story was complete, and sometimes they didn’t want it posted on those archives at all.

I'm getting closer to fixing everything, but there may still be temporary breakages as I'm still doing long-overduebackground stuff. Thanks for being patient.