Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

Spinning Off From The Source:
Alternative Fan Fiction Changes With The Seasons

Xena Withdrawal Syndrome 1998

[87] Xena Withdrawal Syndrome 1998 has left us with an odd inheritance. More stories than ever are being posted online. On one hand, I think it is wonderful that the Internet, in sidestepping traditional publishers and hardened arteries of publishing power, is allowing a kind of folk art to develop in fiction-writing. I love that average people are finding themselves open to dabbling in Xena fan fiction, no matter what their occupation in real life. That means that the Xenaverse is a safe and nurturing environment for the sometimes scary and personally risky activity of writing. Clearly the Xenaverse shows that there is a lot of untapped talent out there, and I am amazed at the sheer numbers of talented people in the Xenaverse who are underemployed or in unfulfilling jobs, people who are finding a terrific outlet in the Xenaverse. More power to them.

[88] That said, I must add that I have mixed feelings about some of the stories going online following Season Three. It has certainly gotten harder to find the good stories, and lately I have hit more bad than good. My experience tells me this is probably just a phase. The Xenaverse cannot be running dry yet. The main exception has been the present- day Uber-novels released online in serialized form over the summer ["Lucifer Rising" by Sharon Bowers, "Chicago 5 a.m." by LN James, "The Dangerous Truth" by Curiositee -- still unfinished, "Fire and Ice" by Friction, and "Persistence of Memory" by Paul Seely, just to name a few].

[89] Alternative fan fiction has been evolving beyond the limitations of the Season Three source material. Some authors and readers have commented that the Uber genre allows writers to play with "First Time" stories in different timelines, because one can only write so many Xena and Gabrielle "First Time" stories. An interesting thing about the above stories is that they follow along in the psychological thriller tradition begun by Paul Seely and Jennifer Garza's "Surfacing", where the authors somehow create a Xena-character in the present time who is a b*d*ss criminal, assassin, drug dealer, or whatever on a scale equivalent with how b*d*ss Xena is in bastardized ancient Greece. In this way some of the same "Warlord/Slave" themes can be explored as well. LN James even places her characters undercover in a BDSM leather bar.

[90] I am given to wonder what kind of life Uber-Xena stories could have in traditional publishing venues, outside of the Xenaverse. While the characters are recognizable to Xenites, Uber-Xena stories stretch out so far from the source that the copyright disclaimers to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures are hardly needed. It remains to be seen what further adventures archetypal Xena and archetypal Gabrielle will have both within the Xenaverse and perhaps even outside of it.

Xena as Archetype

[91] As I close out this article, I want to leave space for a personal fugue, because humanists do not like to leave all the predictions to scientists. So here I offer a hopeful voice of feminist prophecy, to suggest possibilities that are partial, incomplete, and, some would say, quite silly. When I suggest with audacity that Xena can be an archetype, I am not calling for a totalizing form to dominate other forms. I am suggesting that there are too many totalizing forms out there, forms that do not leave room for new patterns, especially new patterns that empower disenfranchised groups.

[92] When Donna Haraway made room for a new mythos of a resistant feminist cyborg, it was for a hybrid, to remain partial and incomplete, not wholly self and not wholly other [Note 05]. The Xena of the Internet is not an idealized nature goddess. She is a resistant loner, partnered with Gabrielle, championing the underdog from within and without the system. At one time even her family disowned her. Turned loose on the Internet, in the collectively created virtual landscape of the Xenaverse as authored by fan fiction bards, Xena and Gabrielle are cyborg warriors, roaming the cyberwaves in the belly of the military-industrial complex.

[93] Xenaverse alt-fanfic bards and their readers are transgressive, operating in the margins, outside community morality and obscenity laws, outside copyright laws. They are women writing a world as they would like to live in it. They are writing it across the bodies of two women avatars who are paired in an impossibly romanticized ideal, running counter to radically political winds that criticize monogamy and dyadic attachments as patriarchial institutions. They play with power differentials and other taboos of liberal feminist politics. They write stories that are the most offensive to homophobic right-wing beliefs. Many writers either share and celebrate or bemoan and delete the homophobic hate mail they receive.

[94] When Helene Cixous called for women to write, it was not for women to create another closed system like the one that had denied them entrance [Note 06]. So if I say these patterns in Xena can form an archetype, I mean three archetypes: (1) the darkly troubled Xena, (2) the light and idealistic Gabrielle, and (3) the relationship between them, always dynamically shifting, yet bonded together. I say it could happen because I believe in practice it already is happening.

[95] A potentially innovative body of literature is being developed in the Xenaverse, a body of literature which may have the ability to pull loose from its moorings in cyberspace and create something larger, a space for future "Uber" stories out in "real life", about strong women who are also heroes. I know of a number of people in the Xenaverse who are working on this very project, published fiction writers and screenwriters. This greater archetype that may come out of the evolution of Xenaverse fan fiction and the television program Xena: Warrior Princess, which gave it the inspiration, has a potential for empowering women, especially lesbians, in a way that political movements cannot, through the rhetorical power of mythos, of story.

[96] It is said that there are no new stories under the sun, that they are all variations of one another. That may be the case, but the stories coming out of the Xenaverse are ones that have not been heard for some time, and they are finding an audience hungry for them. Think of it. An archetype, not of a lone male hero's linear journey into the shadow and back, but of two women in relationship like a binary star system, alternating light and dark, on a spiraling quest to find themselves and each other, to find, then lose, then find again, as the circular journey spirals on.

Gabrielle was processing all the information. Sibyl could see her thoughts wiggling all over her animated face. "What interest would the gods have in Xena and I as a couple?" Sibyl smiled as she led the way down the stairway, toying with her bracelets as she walked. "She is a woman of power, you are a weaver of legends. As a pair, you can shape things to come. The lesser gods are not the only ones concerned with the two of you. Gaea knows of your value to women who are yet to live."
From "Cerebus's Challenge" by Puckster.


Note 01:
Below is a screen capture of xenos' message on her website dated February 6, 1998, explaining why she was withdrawing from fandom.
Alas, poor xenos, we barely knew ye.
xenos bids farewell to the Xenaverse.
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Note 02:
C. Bacon-Smith. Enterprising Women: Television Fandom And The Creation Of Popular Myth (Philadelphia: University of Pensylvania Press, 1992), page 53.
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Note 03:
C. Penley, A. Ross, et al., Eds. Technoculture. Cultural Politics Series. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), page 153.
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Note 04:
This is known online as the "Lunacy Factor", as it was most succinctly enunciated through the fan fiction review policy of Lunacy.
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Note 05:
Donna Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, And Women (New York: Routledge, 1991).
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Note 06:
H. Cixous. "The Laugh of the Medusa." Signs: Journal Of Women In Culture And Society 1(4) 1976: 875-894.
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Works Cited

Bacon-Smith, C. (1992). Enterprising Women: Television Fandom And The Creation Of Popular Myth. Philadelphia, University of Pensylvania Press.

Bardwynna (1997). "Xena by Gaslight". World Wide Web.

Bongo Bear (1997). "Alternative Fan Fiction Cliche List". World Wide Web.

Boughen, Jamie (1997). "Anger is My Shield". World Wide Web.

Bowers, Sharon (1998). "Lucifer Rising". World Wide Web.

Cixous, H. (1976). "The Laugh of the Medusa". Signs: Journal Of Women In Culture And Society 1(4): 875-894.

Curiositee (1998). "The Dangerous Truth". World Wide Web.

DJWP (1997) "A Bard Day's Night". World Wide Web.

DJWP (1997) "The Marriage of Xena and Gabrielle". World Wide Web.

Haraway, D. (1991). Simians, Cyborgs, And Women. New York, Routledge.

James, LN (1998) "Chicago 5 a.m.". World Wide Web.

Jane (8th House) (1997) Jane's X:WP Alternative Fan Fiction. World Wide Web.

Katrina (1997). "Warlord Daze". World Wide Web.

Lunacy (1997). "The Xena Fan Fic Experience". Xena Media Review #24 (08-11-97).

Lunacy (1997). Lunacy's Fan Fiction Reports. World Wide Web.

Lyssa (1997). "A Warrior's Honor". World Wide Web.

Miller, BL (1997). "The Cabin". World Wide Web.

Morda, Bat (1997). "Is There a Doctor on the Dig?" World Wide Web.

Morda, Bat (1997). "Search for Amphipolis". World Wide Web.

Parnell, M. (1997) "Miles to Go". World Wide Web.

Penley, C., A. Ross, et al., Eds. (1991). Technoculture. Cultural Politics Series. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

Puckster (1997). "Cerebus's Challenge". World Wide Web.

Puckster (1997). "Empathy's Cost". World Wide Web.

Quince, Ella (1997). "Well of Sighs". World Wide Web.

Seely, Paul (1998). "Persistence of Memory". World Wide Web.

Seely, Paul and Jennifer Garza (1997). "Surfacing". World Wide Web.

Shadowfen (1997). Shadowfen's Xena: Warrior PrincessFan Fiction Index. World Wide Web.

Sheff, D. (1997). "An Interv-Yoo! with: An Audience with the Warrior Princess Herself". Yahoo Internet Life. World Wide Web.

Street, Della (1997). "Towards the Sunset". World Wide Web.

Street, Della (1998). "Resistance". World Wide Web.

Sutherland, Elaine (1997). "Women in Prison". World Wide Web.

Wishes (1997). "Battle". World Wide Web.

WordWarior (1998). "For the Love of Cliches". World Wide Web.

WordWarior (1997). "Truth or Dare". World Wide Web.

xenos, xenabat, & bardeyes (1998). The Xenaverse Codex: The bardeyes & xenabat Library

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Christine Boese Christine Boese
Dr. Christine Boese is an assistant professor of English at Clemson University. Her doctoral dissertation, a cultural study of the online Xenaverse, titled "The Ballad of the Internet Nutball: Chaining Rhetorical Visions from the Margins of the Margins to the Mainstream in the Xenaverse,". It is still being updated with feedback and comments from Xenites, who are encouraged to participate in the study as co-authors. It is best viewed with a 4.0 browser and the free Shockwave plugin.
Favorite episode: Tie: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "Awake my Bacchae! It's time to FEEEEEEEED!" GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204)
First episode seen: Bits and pieces in Mid-Season 2, never catching entire episodes until THE QUEST (37/213), and even then I still didn't know what hit me.
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)

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