Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards And One Reviewer: Rare, Medium And Supertoasty

1. Lunacy

Interview July 18, 1998

[1] Lunacy's archived Fan Fiction Reviews can be found at http://xenite.simplenet.com/lunacy/.

Question #01:
[2] You publish popular XWP Fan Fiction Reviews regularly on the Xena NetForum and several mailing lists. How long have you been reviewing fan fiction? What has been your inspiration for doing so and has your motivation changed over time?

[3] I became involved in the Xenaverse around August 1996. During those first months I was primarily active on the NetForum and it was there that I began reading my first fanfic. After a while I started exploring the Web sites and discovering some incredible stories there that I suspected many of the NetForum regulars weren't aware of so I started posting messages telling them about those tales. Those messages were the early beginnings of the fanfic reports.

[4] One day a Xenite named Xenak asked me to recommend some good fanfic since he knew I was an avid reader. I posted a list of about 20 of my favorite stories. Xenak's message made me realize that in the months and years to come Xenites were going to find it more and more difficult to find specific stories and to identify the better ones at that point. Being a librarian I know how much people often rely on a service librarians provide called reader's advisory -- this service basically involves steering readers to books they may like and sharing book reviews with them. Around March 1997, I therefore decided to start offering a similar service to the Xenaverse community and thus the fanfic reports were born. In May 1997, MaryD graciously offered me space at her Web site to host the reports so that gave me the opportunity to expand the reports and to start organizing the actual reviews in different ways.

[5] My primary motivation has always been to help fellow fanfic readers locate stories they might like. In addition to that, I also use the reports to try to encourage bards so that we get more stories, more variety, and better quality fiction.

Question #02:
[6] Have you formally reviewed other works of fiction?

[7] Prior to XWP fanfic, I had never reviewed anything before. Through the fanfic reports now, however, I have begun to expand my horizons. Recently I've written special reports reviewing non-XWP fiction which I think may be of interest to Xenites. I've written reviews of Terry Moore's excellent comic series, Strangers In Paradise, and also of G.L. Dartt's Star Trek: Voyager alternative Janeway/Seven of Nine stories. All the special reports have gotten a great response. The Janeway/Seven reviews in particular have gotten a lot of Xenites interested in Voyager alt. fiction.

Question #03:
[8] You have defined alternative fan fiction in this way:

"Alternative [Alt] refers to ADULT stories that add a romantic element to the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, depicting them as more than just friends. Be aware that most of the stories reviewed in the alt. section depict a sexual relationship between women."

[9] What do you think are some of the similarities and differences between subtext in XWP and alternate fan fiction?

[10] The most obvious difference is that alternative fan fiction tends to deal openly with the romance between Xena and Gabrielle. In most alt. stories the romance is main text -- there is usually no doubt as to the type of relationship the two share or want to share -- they may spend the entire story afraid to tell one another but we the readers know how they feel. The subtext in the TV series is more subtle. It was particularly so when the series first began.

[11] My impression is that during most of that first year the people responsible for the series weren't really aware that the subtext was there, it was something that just grew out of the natural chemistry between the two leading ladies. I think TPTB [the powers that be] became aware of the subtext toward the end of the first season and started playing up to it but I don't think they've ever really dealt with it seriously. With the third season in particular, the subtext for them has turned into innuendoes and jokes. In the light episodes the subtext is a constant joke and in the dramatic episodes it tends to get watered down by the presence of chaperones, body switches, or dubious dialogue ("I love... that" or "The love of your love is you"???) Fortunately alt. fiction doesn't have to go in circles like that.

Question #04:
[12] In your opinion, is XWP a romantic show?

[13] If you accept that Xena and Gabrielle are attracted to one another and are meant to be together, then most definitely it is a romantic show. As a matter of fact, prior to the third season fiasco, I would have said it was one of the best love stories I had ever seen. It was developing beautifully. The third season has left me doubting the friendship to say nothing of the romance but I still have hope for the fourth season. 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.

Question #05:
[14] Do you, or have you ever, like(d) reading romantic fiction prior to Xena fan fiction?

[15] I've always loved romance -- romantic novels, romantic films. During my high school and college days I was an avid reader of those thick historical bodice-rippers from Avon Books. I love romance because I love to read or see stories about two people attaining that special level of intimacy that makes them soulmates. I think there can be intimacy in many types of relationships but a romance just takes it to a deeper level.

Question #06:
[16] What percentage of the nearly 2,000 Xena fan fiction stories on the net do you think fall within the genre of Romance?

[17] I think about half of the stories are alternative. Most alt. stories are romances but not all. There are alt. stories that stress action/adventure over the romance, for instance. I think the stories are so popular because of the fascination fans have with the Xena/Gabrielle relationship and also because of the growing acceptance a romantic view of the relationship has had over the years.

[18] During the show's first year any discussion concerning subtext used to spark huge flame wars. Alt. writers often would post their stories just to private e-mail lists because they didn't want to deal with the attacks that posting on the Web pretty much guaranteed. In time, the subtext became much more accepted. Also, the alt. writers started to make themselves known and respected. Today, alt. fiction is a powerful presence in the Xenaverse with many of the most popular bards being alt. writers.

Question #07:
[19] In your opinion, what is the most popular genre with Xena fan fiction writers? And readers?

[20] I think the alt. fiction tends to be the most popular with both camps. Uber fanfic is probably the most popular subgenre -- particularly with the explosion in recent months of some terrific contemporary uber stories.

Question #08:
[21] Are any of these stories as much of a reflection of what it's like to be lesbian in modern times as it is about pre-Mycenaean (uber-Xena time if applicable here) times?

[22] I don't know that I can comprehensively answer this question because I've never lived as a lesbian. However, I have always had lesbian friends and during the past three years through XWP fandom I've gotten a new awareness of what being a lesbian is all about, so I'll give you my perspective on this.

[23] I think alt. fiction is very much a reflection of what it is to be lesbian, or bisexual for that matter, in modern times. In many of the stories the characters struggle with the fear of rejection from each other, their friends, their families. Often they feel confused about their feelings, at times ashamed of these. Considering how homophobic our society remains, despite the gradual acceptance we seem to be moving toward, I have to think that these are the same fears and struggles gay people struggle with today.

[24] Alt. fiction also reflects what I think gays, just like heterosexuals, often aspire too. Most stories celebrate the love between Xena and Gabrielle by having them commit to one another in a stable, loving, long-lasting relationship. That is something I suspect we all want regardless of sexual orientation.

Question #09:
[25] What are your thoughts about the evolution of fan fiction and how it does and/or doesn't relate to the evolution of the show.

[26] Fan fiction has always reflected to a large degree what is happening in the show itself. As such, its evolution is closely tied to the series. However, as a written medium I think fanfic has the advantage of being able to explore things like characterizations, motivations and relationships to a much greater degree. Consequently it seems to me that in fanfic as a whole, the X/G relationship has been explored to a much greater degree.

[27] Another way in which fanfic has really evolved somewhat differently from the series is in its treatment of Gabrielle. The series primarily revolves around the one hero, Xena. Gabrielle is very much a supporting player. We don't often get to see how the bard feels about things -- what her past was like -- very few stories revolve around her. Fanfic is very different in this regard. In most stories written by the fans, Gabrielle is given just as much attention as Xena. Many stories are in fact written from her own perspective.

[28] Fanfic has also evolved differently from the series in terms of the various subgenres it has inspired. The idea for uber fiction, for instance, came initially from the episode THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210), which was the first time we ever saw the Xena and Gabrielle archetypes outside the Ancient Greek setting. Since then, however, the TV series hasn't really explored this concept further while in fanfic uber stories just keep getting more and more popular. Initially, revolving around the exploits of the Mel and Janice characters we saw in the TV series, uber fiction has since expanded to include other Xena/Gab archetypes in many different places, many different time periods.

Question #10:
[29] The title of the article, "Romancing The Fan: Romance and Xena Fan Fiction", at least in part, suggests that we fan fiction authors, inspired by XWP, write for more than ourselves alone. We are drawn to Xena's power and her envelopment/acceptance/love for us (vicariously experienced) is empowering. We expand on the theme and share our idealized visions of love or emotional bonding with the hope of forming a type of relationship with readers.

[30] Life is all about relationships and we, like actors who would woo their audience, seek not only artistic expression but acceptance as well. There is no monetary profit in this endeavor. Our profit is of a spiritual nature during the writing of it and whenever a reader communicates to us their thoughts and feelings about our expressed visions. If it's positive, our efforts to woo were successful and we are spiritually energized. If we get little response or too many negatives, we will give up or amend our courting in some way.

[31] Do you have any thoughts about the dynamics of the creative process and the relationship between bards/readers that you can share?

[32] Fanfic bards do not get any monetary reward. Their reward comes in the form of reader acceptance and praise, so most definitely, I think this can be equated to a courtship of sorts. I happen to think a fanfic story is very much a reflection of the individual who wrote it. Bards often inject their own beliefs into a story, their own morality, and their likes and dislikes. So, obviously the reaction of others to that story can become a very personal thing for a bard.

[33] In alt. fiction in particular, I think bards serve a need that is obviously out there for positive representations of gays and gay relationships. Lesbians and bisexuals can enjoy these stories, they can identify with the characters, they can see relationships like those they themselves have or hope to have. Moreover, alt. fiction I think has also helped to enlighten heterosexuals, helping them to understand and accept lifestyles and choices different than those they are traditionally familiar with.

Question #11:
[34] There is some controversy about what uber-Xena fiction is. What is your current definition of a completely uber story?

[35] "Uber" is a German term that literally means "over" but which is used in academia to refer to the fundamental essence of a concept or an idea or a character. An Uber-Xena story is one which takes the essence of the characters in XWP and places these in another time, another place, another reality. The TV series itself provided us with its own Uber-Xena episode in THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210). A story involving the characters of Mel and Janice is an Uber-Xena story because these characters retain essential qualities of the original Xena and Gabrielle while existing in another time (1940's).

[36] In an Uber-Xena story, the characters do not have to be mirror images of the originals they are based on -- both physically and spiritually there could be differences but again, the essence of the originals must be there. Taking Mel and Janice as examples once again, Mel is very different from Xena as is Janice from Gabrielle but three things define them as Uber representations: (1) Mel and Janice resemble their ancestors physically, (2) they are identified as being descendants of the warrior and bard, and (3) they share the same type of bond.

[37] The Xena and Gabrielle representations in an Uber-Xena generally resemble the originals although they don't have to look exactly like them. In most Uber-Xena stories they are presented as either descendants of the warrior and bard or reincarnations but again these aren't prerequisites. Suffice it to say that if you're a fan of the TV series, the characters in an Uber-Xena story will be familiar to you even if they aren't exactly Xena and/or Gabrielle.

Question #12:
[38] Do you have any thoughts you can share about the future of Xena fan fiction?

[39] While the TV series is airing I suspect the evolution of fanfic will continue to be closely tied into what we see on TV. It often takes just one episode, even one scene, to spark a whole new genre or to take the fanfic in an entirely new direction. Popular bards and popular stories can also influence the direction of fanfic. Many fanfic conventions were started not by the TV series but by a widely-read bard or some classic story. The TV series is primarily the vision of a small team of writers and producers, while the fanfic is the collective vision of thousands over the Net which include the bards who write those stories and the readers who by showing preference for one story or another and by praising those bards often influence as well. My feeling is that the fanfic is and will continue to be a wonderful blend of all those visions long after the series itself comes to a close.

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Lunacy | Baermer | Bat Morda | B.L. Miller | Bongo Bear | C.N. Winters | Della Street | DJWP | 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 | WordWarior

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