Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998


IAXS project #117
By J. C. Wilder
Copyright © 1998 held by author
8133 words

Introduction (01-04)
Xena and Gabrielle: The Relationship/The Show (05-28)
     Setting the Stage: SINS OF THE PAST (05-07)
     Author Thoughts on Romance (08-10)
     Romance by Firelight: CALLISTO (11-12)
     The Soulmate Story Arc (13-15)
     Death, Resurrection, and Kissing: THE QUEST (16-23)
     Romance, Even in the Third Season: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (24-26)
     More Third Season Romance: SACRIFICE II (27-28)
Some Creative Dynamics: Romance Rules (29-73)
     Inspiration (29-42)
     Fan Letters (43-47)
     Wooing the Reader (48-54)
     Honing Writing Skills (55-58)
     "Alt"-ness (59-64)
     "First Time" (65)
     Popularity of Romance (66-73)
More Stats
Final Thoughts on "Why Write?" (74-77)
Conclusion (78-79)

Romancing the Fan: Romance and Xena Fan Fiction

A keyboard, diet coke, water, some Kava Kava, & another masterpiece written.

Where many a fanfic piece has been read and created.


[1] Beyond the television series, the Xenaverse on the World Wide Web currently contains more than two thousand stories written by over five hundred fans. I began to contribute to the growing number of stories a year and a half ago and am continually amazed by the community of which I am a member. Why do we write Xena fan fiction? How does an audience and reader feedback, made possible by the Internet community, affect the creative process? This project provides some answers and suggests more questions.

[2] Twenty-seven Xena fan fiction authors and one fan fiction reviewer participated: Lunacy, Baermer, B.L. Miller, Bat Morda, Bongo Bear, C.N. Winters, DJWP, Della Street, Ella Quince, hobbes, Jenbob, Joanna, Katrina, L Graham, L.N. James, Lyssa, Marie E. Costa, Missy Good, PB, Paul Seely, Puckster, Quest, sHaYcH, S.L. Bowers, Tim Wellman, J.C. Wilder, Wishes, and WordWarior. You can read their complete survey-interviews in this edition of Whoosh! under the title, "Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards and One Reviewer: Rare, Medium and Supertoasty". The interviews are the heart of the project. This article is similar to a study guide in relation to the interviews, so I encourage you to go there and take a look.

[3] We are individuals who share the common activity or hobby of authoring Xena fan fiction, but our differences are evident, and not all the participants necessarily agree with the premises stated below. In preparation for this article, I reviewed more than three hundred and sixty stories. The number of stories per author ranges from two to thirty-four, with an average of thirteen. Constraints of time and space do matter in the Xenaverse and unfortunately prevented the participation of more bards, but this sample is a significant representation of the population of Xena fan fiction writers.

[4] The central premise my research demonstrated is that the majority of Xena fan fiction is romantic. That is the case because:

(1) the show itself is unusually romantic in both a classic (romantic adventure) and not-so-classic (romantic friendship, latent lesbian themes) sense;

(2) while Xena fan fiction authors may not always have enjoyed involvement with romantic fiction, the majority of them do now; and,

(3) the readers of Xena fan fiction reward romantic writing more often than any other type.

[Author's Note: The romantic relationships that Xena and Gabrielle have had with men have been too fleeting to consider central to the show or the theme of romance for the purposes of this project.]

The world of reality has its limits: the world of imagination is boundless.
    --Jean Jacques Rousseau (Philosopher and Writer)

Xena and Gabrielle: The Relationship/The Show

"This is a love story between two people".
    --Lucy Lawless, referring to Xena: Warrior Princess
[from an article by Tom Lappen (1997, July 6), "Warrior woman", Scotland on Sunday, p. 329. The Scotsman Publications Ltd. Scotland]

But what are the Amazons wearing these days?

Xena and Gabrielle have the first of many chats

Setting the Stage: SINS OF THE PAST

Chart I
XWP is:     
A Romantic Show50%
Impossible to Classify3%

[5] Half of the Xena fan fiction writers interviewed believe that Xena: Warrior Princess is a romantic story because of the underlying relationship between the two main characters and their swashbuckling, adventurous life together.

[6] Beginning in the first episode, SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), Xena was a dangerous, beautiful, and fiercely passionate warrior in need of a friend. She needed someone who not only could see beyond her jaded-warlord past and help her in her desire to do good [as in UNCHAINED HEART (H13/113)], but who, unlike the demigod Hercules, did not compete with her as the "hottest warrior in the b*tt-kicking biz". Young, innocent, and full of hope, Gabrielle sought freedom and adventure. The seeds of romance took root when they literally rescued each other, and Xena began to re-discover her softer side in the presence of her reluctantly acquired sidekick, Gabrielle. Intimacy, difference, and danger were the keys to the intensity of the feelings that developed around these two characters. The emotion that came along was the thrilling esprit of romance. Notice how the dialog from SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) goes quickly to the heart of the matter:

X: It's hard to be alone.
G: You're not alone.

[and in the last scene]

X: You know, where I'm headed, there'll be trouble.
G: I know.
X: Then why would you want to go into that with me?
G: That's what friends do - they stand by each other when there's trouble.
X: Alright, friend.

[7] Of course, words alone do not reveal the depth of the interactions between these two characters. The nonverbal communications of Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, as they play their parts, are much more powerful than the words. Both actors have said they look for the love in a scene, and the results testify to their success. Most, if not all of us, were greatly moved while watching the closing scene of DEATH IN CHAINS (09/109): a startled Xena allows the suddenly overwhelmed Gabrielle to hug her for comfort. The emotional changes they go through and the comfort the characters receive from each other is heartwarming and comforting for the audience, as well.

Author Thoughts on Romance

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is a reaction, both are transformed.
    --C. G. Jung (Swiss Psychologist)
[8] Judith Parker (who is also known as Wishes), a prolific and versatile Xena fan fiction author, offers this insight:

I think XWP is romantic in the classic definition of the term, that is, one of its major themes is the relationship, the love, between two heroic figures, Xena and Gabrielle. There are, however, other themes, one of the most prominent of which is redemption.
[9] L. N. James is an author whose Xena fan fiction works include well-received romantic erotica. Like Wishes, she is not partial to reading the type of romance generally found in mainstream romantic novels, but she has this to say about the show:

It's romantic if you buy the premise that it's a story about two people who find each other in a big world, and, despite all odds against and the differences between them, they compliment each other with vastly different qualities. I personally think that the heart of the show is about how both Xena and Gabrielle need each other for more profound reasons than simple companionship. I've always thought those 'higher' purposes were romantic in a way - definitely romantic in the sense that it's dark and light coming together, contrasting, finding a way to fit.
[10] According to Quest, whose works of fiction are sometimes transcendent, no matter how much bravado, swashbuckling and fantasy goes on, the real crux of it all is the "inner landscape of the characters, and how they relate to each other".

Romance by Firelight: CALLISTO

Really, you need to get rid of that peasant dress.

There are many campfire fanfic scenes.

[11] The "promise me" fireside scene in CALLISTO (22/122) was an early showcase for their more passionate feelings. Gabrielle was a counterbalance for Xena, insisting that love and forgiveness would break the cycle of hatred and revenge. Xena struggled with these ideas and revealed a remarkably touching and memorable vulnerability even as she resisted Gabrielle's attempt to touch a tear falling from her eye. The tough warrior directed her away, but Gabrielle stayed close and rested her head on Xena's shoulder:

G: No...no look, you promise me. If something happens to me, you will not become a monster. There's only one way to end this cycle of hatred, and it's through love and forgiveness.
X: Don't you go changing, Gabrielle. I like you just the way you are. Go get some sleep.
G: No, no, you promise me.
X: I promise. Go, go on.

[12] An "honest and consistent portrayal of their passionate friendship" was fundamentally important to Ella Quince. She began writing Star Trek fan fiction almost thirty years ago and has since been even more prolific in writing Xena fan fiction particularly after she became "hooked on the 'buddy' dynamic" between Xena and Gabrielle.

The Soulmate Story Arc

I wonder what she's doing tonight.

First, they shared a dream in DREAMWORKER (03/103)

A peasant dress is sounding pretty good to me right now.

Then, they found each other in an alternative timeline

I can see it now, 'The Janice Covington Show, also with Whatshername'.

Then, their descendents found each other in the XENA SCROLLS (34/210)

Boy, have I missed your cooking!

When will these two buy a clue?

[13] Three episodes in particular develop the theme of Xena and Gabrielle as archetypal soulmates (the ultimate romantic ideal) and set the stage for the development of Uber-Xena fan fiction [Author's note: Concept/observation credit goes to Kym Masera Taborn who also coined the term, "Uber-Xena"]:

Xena's desperate, self-sacrificing need to rescue Gabrielle and the intimacy of sharing a dream in DREAMWORKER (03/103);

the inevitability of finding each other in other timelines or alternate universes (and again that desperate need to redeem the other) in REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202); and,

the descendent-archetypes finding each other 'again' in THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210).

[14] These two women are meant to be together, loving each other and changing the world because of it. The underlying theme of romance in the show is striking (see chart V).

[15] The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle is the core of the t.v. show XWP, and I think that holds true in most Uber incarnations as well. It may not always be the sole focus of the story, but it's the keystone in a well-constructed saga of friendship, trust, growth, and love.
    --Paul Seely

Death, Resurrection, and Kissing: THE QUEST

Apparently one can never use this graphic too much.

Xena and Gabrielle have a special moment
in THE QUEST (37/213)

[16] No discussion of the relationship between these two would be complete without mentioning the death, resurrection and kissing scenes found in THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124), and THE QUEST (37/213).

[17] In THE QUEST (37/213), words of devotion that preceded a bizarre kiss were spoken with the tenderness of lovers:

X: Gabrielle. Gabrielle. It's me. I'm not dead.
G: [Cries] Xena.
X: At least, not completely.
G: Why? Why did you leave? There's so many things I want to say to you.
X: Gabrielle - you don't have to say a word. We don't have much time. I need to get to the ambrosia; otherwise, I will be gone.
G: Xena, I can't lose you again.
X: (Xena slowly moves in for the kiss that Autolycus finishes) Gabrielle, I'll always be here.
[18] THE QUEST (37/213) was much more than a tease for those who wanted to see subtext become maintext. It was the first episode that Katrina (a daringly productive bard) saw:

I knew I was looking at one of the great mythic romances of our time. Someone doesn't come back from the dead just to do the greater good. They come back for love. The kiss that wasn't gave me shivers of recognition, not just because it was two women making this most intimate of contact, but because of the exquisite vulnerability being displayed.
[19] Puckster, who has written several memorable Xena fan fiction stories, notes that the show plays with the fantasy of romance in general: "Just standing there, Xena and Gabrielle are romantic fantasies, as far as I'm concerned".

[20] The dark-haired warlord from Amphipolis wearing leather and carrying that sword while her piercing eyes and killer thighs make even the mighty tremble. The bard from Poteidaia with her scrolls and that Amazon staff, with blond-red/red-blond hair and her well-exercised muscles revealed. Who has seen the show and not noticed these things? It is the stuff of romantic fantasy indeed, and in more ways than one.

[21] Another flourishing bard, C.N. Winters, has this to say:

Romance isn't candlelight and roses. Romance is doing things that show you care and have meaning. One of the most romantic scenes from Xena was from A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209) when Xena gives Gabby a toy lamb. It wasn't much, but it touched Gabby, and Xena knew what it meant to Gabby, and that's what romance truly is. So it doesn't matter - bi, gay or straight - Xena is certainly romantic.
[22] "XWP is pure romance", says professional author and Xenaverse bard Tim Wellman, "or at least the first two seasons were [Tim has boycotted the show after the second season upon hearing of the controversial traumas of the third season]. I regard adventure as the highest form of romance. The show had adventure and it also had an undeniable attraction between the two main characters. Love is love - and when one person looks at another and their eyes melt into one shared vision - well, watch Xena and Gabrielle's eyes as they look at each other. You'll see love."

[23] [Intentionally left blank].

Romance, Even in the Third Season: ONE AGAINST AN ARMY

[24] Yes, the third season had our romantic heroes "violated", betraying each other, and raging with homicidal hatred, but an opposite extreme - extreme romance - also existed. Consider ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313). Missy Good, who is writing an unprecedented and well-loved Xena fan fiction saga, contributes this thought: "Any show where you have one character inform another character that they would rather die than live without them must, by definition, be called a romantic show". Take a look:

(Xena sits by Gabrielle.)
X: Even in death, Gabrielle - I will never leave you.
G: I love you Xena.
(Xena and Gabrielle hold hands).


X: Here - I have a poultice ready for you.
G: No, please, don't - don't bother with that. I can't fight. I can't be of any help to you, so please - I'm just distracting you.
X: But you're my source, Gabrielle. When I reach down inside myself and do things that I'm not capable of, it's because of you. Don't you know that by now? Let's just see this one through together, all right?

[25] The talented and inventive bard DJWP has this to say: "I feel that Xena: Warrior Princess is as much a story about romance between two women as it is action/adventure. The relationship is the thing for me". Again, romantic novels of any type hold no interest for this fanfic author, but she sees herself for the first time when she watches the show. "Not that I'm a warrior or a bard, but the binding tie that can happen between two women is being wonderfully portrayed for all the world to see. It's a beautiful thing to watch when you recognize it".

[26] I do think though that no matter how you look at the relationship, that relationship is at the heart of the show. The action, adventure, fancy kicks, the mythology - all of that is well and good but once a viewer becomes a fan it is that X&G relationship that really fascinates.
    --Lunacy (Xenaverse fan fiction reviewer)

More Third Season Romance: SACRIFICE II

Redemption, reschemption! You touch Gabrielle, one way ticket to Tartarus!

Xena in pure unadulterated protect Gabrielle mode

[27] The show gives us a powerful fantasy of a woman warrior who can fight any man (or an army of men) to the death and win, and another woman who compliments her, equally courageous and strong in her own way. The show gives us a vision of the power and pain of an enduring love relationship between these two heroic women who are the most vulnerable to each other. The third season has been jarring for the romantics, but it ended with the ultimate love-driven sacrifice. It is said that there is no greater love than to give your life for a friend, as Gabrielle did in SACRIFICE II (68/322).

[28] Nevertheless, romantics that we are (or have become), we know that no matter what, Xena and Gabrielle will be reunited somehow in the fourth season. The relationship is the foundation and primary source of inspiration for the writers of fan fiction.

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