Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

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

3. Bat Morda

Interview July 06, 1998

[87] Xena Fan Fiction Works were found as indicated and if you decide to go to these websites, please pay careful attention to the disclaimers that introduce each story regarding violence and/or sexual content:

  1. Assassin... Oracle... Bard [alt]
  2. Is There A Doctor On The Dig? [alt]
  3. The Binds That Tie [alt]
  4. The Binds That Tie II: The Tacky Sequel [alt]
  5. The Broken Arrow [alt]
  6. Minor Adjustments [alt]
  7. The Party [alt]
  8. The Search For Amphipolis [alt]
  9. UberMadness (The Battle For The Third Age) [alt]
  10. What If... [alt]
Question #01:
[88] What has been your inspiration for writing fan fiction? Here's a Bat quote from MaryD's The Bard's of the Xenaverse site:

I'm not out to change anyone's orientation, make any grandiose statements or profoundly effect the Xenaverse at large. I'm just writing about stuff I'd like to read that no one else has written yet. If I can do that reasonably well, I'm happy.

[89] Is there nothing more?

Bat Morda:
[90] Humm... why do I write? Well, it's an escape for me. I find it relaxing often therapeutic and it's given me an outlet to express all sorts of things. I'd say there is an element of creative compulsion and self indulgence mixed in. And lets face it, it's kind of a power trip too. In my universe I get to call all the shots and see what happens. I also get to experiment try different things and tap into all sorts of psyches. That's kinda cool. Besides, Xena and Gabrielle provide a rich playground to do that in. They are dynamic characters in their own right, a wonderful depth to their relationship, cool things from the show to draw on and a setting where pretty much anything can happen. Who could ask for more?

Question #02:
[91] Has your motivation changed over time? Quoting you from MaryD's The Bards of The Xenaverse site again:

I'd have to credit the Internet and fan fiction from turning this show from a cool show I watch once a week to a 'way of life'. Almost as many people call me "Bat" as my given name these days, and conventions have become excuses to get together and hang out with friends. I treasure the many wonderful friends I've made through this wacky experience of obsessing about a TV show.
[92] Do these candid statements apply in any way to this question?

Bat Morda:
[93] In a way they do. I mean, I still write for the aforementioned reasons and I'd be writing still even if no one read my stuff. But since people do read it, what I'm writing is somewhat influenced by my readers. I'm a pushover and when people asked for an ITADOTD [Is There A Doctor on the Dig] sequel, I figured "why not". When my friend Pam dared me to write a strap-on story I decided to give it a shot. And let's not underestimate the value of positive reinforcement. When people let you know that they like what you're doing, it's going to give you even more desire to keep at it and do it as well as you can. I want to keep improving. I also feel that with so many fantastic bards out there we kind of keep raising the bar for each other. That's cool too.

Question #03:
[94] Have you written other fiction? If so, was it before or after becoming a Xena fan? What genre are your other works?

Bat Morda:
[95] The only other thing I've really written fiction-wise is an unfinished, alternative Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel. It's 4/5ths done and has been in said condition for about 2 years. Only a couple of people have read it and I've no plans to finish it. This was before my introduction into the Xenaverse.

Question #04:
[96] Do you, or have you ever, like(d) reading Romantic fiction prior to Xena fan fiction?

Bat Morda:
[97] I primarily read Fantasy & Science Fiction way back when I had the time to read. David Eddings and Terry Prachett are two of my favorite authors. I wouldn't call them romance stories but it is true that there may be an element of it along with all sorts of other things. Likewise, I'm not sure I'd necessarily call my stories romances. I think of them more as adventure stories with a sense of humor. That and sex. I suppose much Xena Fan Fiction could be called Romantic Fiction, I guess I just never thought of it that way.

Question #05:
[98] In your opinion, is XWP a romantic show?

Bat Morda:
[99] I think there is certainly an element of romance in the show, just as there is an element of adventure, action, drama, comedy and fantasy. This sounds kind of weird to say, but I really try to not think about the more fundamental elements of the show. I don't consciously think "how romantic" when I watch the show. I think more in terms of "this is good storytelling", "that looks in tune with the characters", "great plot twist", "way to go subtext", and perhaps more honestly "not Joxer again!" Just as when I write I don't think to myself "lets get mushy in this scene", I just let the characters tell their stories and hope that it encompasses a little bit of everything. I think if I obsess about all the component parts I'll start to scare myself and then who knows what will happen.

Question #06:
[100] Do you believe that any of your stories fall under the genre of Romance?

Bat Morda:
[101] Humm... [thinking] I guess The Broken Arrow would be the closest thing I've written to a romance. Sure, folks might say Is There A Doctor On The Dig? as well but I tend to see it more of a flirtatious adventure story with a really long sex scene at the end. I guess I see The Broken Arrow as having the least plot therefore making it more romantic by virtue of that alone. I guess it sort of did have more plot than The Binds That Tie but I'm not sure I'd call those romance stories. H*ll, I don't know, I just write this stuff. The categorizing is for the reader to do.

[102] Part of the thing is I think of myself as such an unromantic person in real life. Going off and writing the stories almost happens "in spite" of me, not because of me. But bringing it back and talking about the stories themselves, that gets me involved again and I want to roll my eyes and say "I honestly didn't know it was gonna be that romantic when I wrote it, I swear, I was focused on the explosions, really! My editor did it!" I know, I know, even for an eccentric artsy type I'm a head case!

Question #07:
[103] Are any of your 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?

Bat Morda:
[104] I don't think so. Certainly I don't sit down to write with the idea of "here I am, little 'ol lesbian me, writing about my life and using these pre-Mycenaean and 1940s chicks to do it. I don't feel qualified to write about the Lesbian Experience at large. I don't even own a kd lang CD and somehow I think it's key to the whole thing. I just go off and write my little stories where it just so happens my leading ladies feel the same way about other women that I do. Since their my stories though, if anyone gives them any guff about it, they then get to kick their narrow-minded *ss*s and that's where I think I firmly step into Fantasy Land.

[105] Even thought I've admitted that some characters are more "me" than others, and some of the things I write about are from personal experience or my own personal views, I don't think that's the same as addressing the Lesbian Life Experience in the general sense. I suppose in that way, my stories are a reflection of what it's like to be me. While though lesbian, is not exactly the same as a reflection of the lesbian experience. I don't think. Is this making any sense at all to you?

Question #08:
[106] You have written many wonderful Xena fan fiction stories and "Is There a Doctor on the Dig", an earlier work, catapulted you to a place of honor in the world of alt fiction. It remains one of the best-loved stories in the Xenaverse.

[107] What do you believe are the reasons for it's multiple-award-winning status, when THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210) episode that inspired the story was not as well received?

Bat Morda:
[108] To my credit, I think I hit all the right notes in ITADOTD. Granted I've no clue in h*ll how I did it, but did it none the less. There is a self-indulgent innocence to the story that I think people really got. And the story was to the point. I got in, did my thing, had stuff happen at an Indiana Jones kind of pace and finished off with a big 'ol sex scene. I also think the convention of the dream sequences worked well for the story and gave it an entirely new layer that complimented the story. I think people have embraced some of the self indulgent things I put in the story: the goofy names (Cal Leesto? Give me a break), my dog Idgie as Argo, and, of course, Mel in a tux.

[109] I think people may prefer my Janice & Mel to the two in the episode, because I had the luxury of more time to develop them. In a clip show such as THE XENA SCROLLS, you couldn't really show the varied sides to the characters. Janice, goofing off with her dog, or showing that she's got a sense of humor or that Mel can hold her own with her etc... I got to highlight what the show simply couldn't. That and the sex, it all comes down to sex doesn't it?

Question #09:
[110] "The Binds That Tie" and "The Binds That Tie II: The Tacky Sequel" explore BDSM (the darker side of human sexuality) through first Gabrielle's perspective and then Xena's. In the disclaimers to these, you reveal that you wrote them after a friend dared and pressured you to, and imply that you were amazed and not necessarily pleased that you did. Like the titles themselves, all in fun, and tongue-in-cheek. Yet the stories themselves are seriously passionate and highly romantic.

[111] Were you anticipating that some readers would not be expecting this type of story from Bat Morda? I'm willing to bet that you received a lot of feedback on these two.

Bat Morda:
[112] You know, this week I received my very first negative email that was story-specific (I get some negative email that isn't story-specific like "Xena & Gabrielle aren't lesbians so stop saying they are" and "You're a real *ssh*l*, you know that?!") and wouldn't you know it, it was for this story. Of course the poor reader didn't read the disclaimer - duh! Anyway, I've received many emails thanking me for writing it so I didn't fret about the naysayer too much. I think it surprised many readers, and certainly surprised me-- but I'm more worldly now [g].

[113] For the people who liked it, I think part of what they enjoyed was my attempt at trying to establish Xena & Gabrielle acting out of character as having some sort of basis in reality. That reality being the Xena & Gabrielle we've come to know. I also think some saw it as me speaking up for people who often feel sushed if they try to speak up. Some lesbians enjoy strap-ons, what's the big deal? Some women enjoy bondage, or role playing or nipple clamps or whatever so get over it. I'm not saying everyone has to like it or even that anyone has to, but some folks do, and my buddy Pam does and she's the one who dared me, so there.

[114] I did some research for this story (not personally mind you, and if I have since, I'm not telling ;o) in that Pam loaned me a book of S&M Science Fiction Erotica. Dutifully I read, and spent some time contemplating what I read, and read some more. It was the first time I'd consciously thought about power dynamics although it's been expressed to me that AOB ["Assassin, Oracle, Bard"] is riddled with the stuff. I'll admit the stories I read gave me some pretty bad nightmares.

[115] Several of the stories had to do with vampires and... I'm shy to admit this... but vampire stories (if it doesn't have Buffy in it) scare me witless. All that blood I guess... anyway I had this nightmare of being trapped in a public bathroom with Janice & Mel only they were vampires and attacked me, and there was all this blood on the floor and I tried to run out and kept slipping. Then it morphed into a dream of me becoming really violent and lets just say I was rather shaken up.

[116] I was also pretty unsure of the stories themselves and seriously thought about posting them under a pseudonym. I considered BatGrrrl for all of 5 seconds. Then I thought this is silly. If my pseudonym needs a pseudonym then I need professional help, so I just let 'em go. I did expect truck loads of hate mail and learned something in getting just the opposite. A lot of people want Pam's phone number though.

Question #10:
[117] Currently you are posting your latest story, "Uber Madness (The Battle For the Third Age)" in parts (an outstanding story BTW). This is unusual for you. Are you doing an experiment in marketing to test reader preference or is there another method to your madness?

Bat Morda:
[118] Oh boy, the UberMadness "what the h*ll is up with you?" question. See, the thing was, for whatever reason, UberMadness took on this insanity all it's own as I wrote it. I swear I thought I'd make it short and sweet like ITADOTD. I was so let down by how long TSFA got. But the dream sequences tracing Xena's early life were too much fun to short change and the whole thing sorta got out of control. I got as far as chapter 8 on this 10 chapter story, with people writing to me constantly saying "is it finished yet" and I finally just threw up my hands and went "fine you rabid, voracious readers, here, take the damn thing" as I ran for cover to desperately try to finish it.

[119] I'd let several people read it at the outset and they came back with comments like "ya know, this is cool but it needs more Rielle. The bad guys need work too, and the hackers are one dimensional". The criticism was right on target and knowing that, I decided to go back and rework some things. In the meantime I'm still getting "is it done yet" email and finally decided to cave into the pressure. My editor thought that A) I was nuts and B) trying to make her nuts. Still she realized that angry mobs are not something I want on my front lawn and she's even more of a pushover than I am so she gave in and we're editing and posting it as we go, all while I'm still trying to finish it.

[120] There is no grand plan after that. At this point I wouldn't take any reader suggestions and change the story. It's pretty much set from here on out. What is on the net is it's finished form. It was all a plan to make some impatient readers happy cuz I'm like that :-)

Question #11:
[121] "Uber Madness" is perhaps the first major Xena Fan Fiction story to include fans as characters. The weaving of the story's characters with real life fans is reminiscent of HTLJ's Yes Virginia, There Is A Hercules (74/415), fans being Xenaverse staff. What was your motivation for doing this?

Bat Morda:
[122] I'm just being my self indulgent self. I'm not particularly fond of making up character names, especially for the extras. When I wrote TSFA, I included friends as the students in Janice's class and as the 1940s Amazons. Well more friends commented "Hey! Put me in the story" I mentioned I'm a pushover, no? So, since UM is a bit more "out there" than the previous two, I just decided to go overboard like the rest of the story and make my buddies more active characters. Besides it gives me something to taunt them with, if they p*ss me off they can meet Bat's fate from the prologue. The reason I put myself in the story (that is me, only I'm acting. "I'm not a str8 chick but I play one in fan fiction...") was because I wanted to start things with a grisly death and didn't have the heart to do that to any of my buddies. So lucky me, I got offed.

Question #12:
[123] It turns out that "Uber Madness" is the final story in a trilogy, the first being "Is There a Doctor on the Dig" and the second, "The Search For Amphipolis". You have said that you like TSFA better than ITADOTD. What is it you like more about TSFA?

Bat Morda:
[124] I'm kind of changing my mind again on that. Originally I liked TSFA more, because I felt it had more "backbone". It wasn't just flying on charm and it's newness. I tried to put more "meat" in it. But I have a problem, when I think about something, I tend to trip over myself. Once I'm consciously trying to do something I loose sight of just letting it go.

[125] There are so many little things I really love about TSFA but all those little things made it an over indulgent story and it's too f-ing long. I wanted to keep the stuff at the university, wanted to keep her researching, keep Indy, keep the double tux dinner and well keeping everything was not in the best interest of the story. Looking back it doesn't flow as well as ITADOTD and I don't think I did a very good job on the sex in TSFA. I think the sex in The Party ended up much better.

[126] Of the three I'd say that UberMadness is my favorite. I think I kept the strengths of ITADOTD and ditched the weaknesses of TSFA. I like how the dream sequences work, like how the story is flowing and if I could just get the time to finish the blasted thing, life would be great.

Question #13:
[127] TSFA is more complex than ITADOTD and likewise, UM more than TSFA. Were these progressively more time consuming to write?

Bat Morda:
[128] [ROTFLMAO] [ahem] Yes. I don't know exactly how long TSFA took, but UM is approaching it's one year anniversary. That is too long to spend on a fun little story in my opinion. Also ITADOTD was written in the days before I worked with an editor to clean up my crappy writing. That adds a time factor. Also with UM my real life is intruding in a way that is making it harder to write as well.

Question #14:
[129] There is some controversy about what uber-Xena fiction is. You have said that Xena and Gabrielle are the core of your uber-Xena stories and add the most heart, but that some day you might write a completely uber story (once again taken from The Bards of the Xenaverse interview). You've had ideas. What is your current definition of a completely uber story?

Bat Morda:
[130] I'd say a completely uber story is a story sans Xena & Gabrielle. Therefore my next story (called Ghost Story) would be completely uber since it's just Janice & Mel. Well... I guess The Party would classify as well. However I suppose uberuber would be where there is no connection to the show, only the personality essences of Xena & Gabrielle like LN James' Chicago 5am or Della Street's Towards The Sunset. I don't know if I'll write one of those. I mean I've had a Titanic idea rattling around (I'm a big time Titanic buff and yes it was before the movie came out) but you know, I kind of miss writing a Xena & Gabrielle stand alone story. I might do that first after the J&M thing and before my trip on the Titanic.

Question #15:
[131] 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. Life is all about relationships and we - like actors who would woo their audience - we 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.

[132] Do you have any thoughts about this? Are you still awake?

Bat Morda:
[133] I'm with you, and me being a narcoleptic, you should feel honored [g]. Geeze that was deep. H*ll, I don't know. I don't see myself as a romantic person or a spiritual person at all. I really don't try to think of my motivation in terms of "what I will do for feedback" I've been lucky in that I get little negative email and quite a bit of positive but I don't see myself as catering to it. I don't sit down to write a scene and think "the readers will really love this cuz chances are they'll focus on something else. I sit down and think "I'd really love to see this" so I write it. I don't mind it when people connect with what I write, in fact, I dig it. But I don't feel that I write for that reason. Is it a desire to communicate with the world at large? Maybe. More likely it's an attempt to get the voices in my head to shut up for 5 minutes. I'm sounding scary and unstable now, aren't I?

[134] On the other hand, I do feel a bit romanced by other bards and am quite ready to set up housekeeping with one or two [g]. So perhaps there is something to what you say. I just don't think that me working on my stuff is quite the same as reading other people's. I read my stuff and think "Bat you wack-o" and read something by someone else and think "[sigh] how dreamy." Have I in any way attempted to answer this? Is this so vague it isn't funny? Have I just shot the learning curve of the interview to h*ll? Or proven once and for all that underneath my dorky exterior is an equally dorky interior?

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