A Day In The Life (01-06)
A Necessary Evil (07-10)
Adventures In The Sin Trade (11-15)
Ties That Bind (16-24)
The Bitter Suite (25-33)
A Day In The Life
Bat Morda before ever offending anyone.
 This is a slice of life, one fan's adventure into fandom, and its difficulties. It is a view from behind one set of glasses. I am not out to represent anyone but myself and how the Xenaverse has changed my life, or how the Xenaverse has changed from where I sit. You will not find any bold theories here, or any far-reaching implications. It is just a story about a chick with a dog and a strange nickname. If that is cool with you then read on.
 Have you ever woken up one day and thought, "D*mn, how did I get here?" I have had one of those days. It has been an unusual and surprising trip for me in the Xenaverse. It is strange to think that five years ago I did not exist, and now here I am, a legend in my own mind, and annoying others wherever I go.
 Online life is a beautiful thing. The Xenaverse is a cool place. It is an interesting place. Sometimes it is a scary place, and fortunately, it is never a dull place. One day you may be watching the wacky antics of TPTB (the powers that be) as they scurry around and try to get their show on track, then the next you might be in a heated discussion on-list as to what the most overused Uber Xena name really is. More than anything, it is about connecting with people. As much as we are painted as geeks with no life who have nothing better to do than obsess about a TV show, we are really a vibrant and diverse community who are painted as geeks with no life, who obsess about a TV show.
 Xena: Warrior Princess hit our TV screens at just the right time. People were logging on all over the place, and it was fertile ground for fan communities to grow. Every bizarre, twisted slice of fandom could be found in the Xenaverse, from intellectual critique of the show and its placement in modern culture, to sites hosting fan fiction of every stripe. From the kinky S&M works to the even kinkier Gabrielle/Joxer stories, poetry, parody, and even the odd religious cult, it was all there. Whatever your interest, there were Xenites out there with whom to connect and bond.
 That is the key. People. People connecting with other people and forming friendships and families through an online portal. That is what I will always thank this show for. Every episode could be MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515), and I would still love the show for introducing me to my online family. Were that to happen, of course I would quit watching, but I would nonetheless thank Lucy Lawless and company.
 A TV show appealed to people plugged into the Internet, and there you have it. In the midst of this big bang of primordial net ooze, I came into being. I am Bat Morda, and this article is about me.
A Necessary Evil
Future fan fiction author takes some notes on Main Street for forthcoming Uber story.
 I was born in 1996. Granted my name existed before then, first as a Dungeons and Dragons character, then as an America Online screen name, but I did not really exist until 1996. It was the fan fiction mostly. Nothing brings on an alter ego like a pseudonym. I never really planned to write fan fiction, and certainly, I intended to come up with a cooler name. However, it was 1996 and fan fiction seemed like the thing to do. I figured I could always get a cooler name later.
 A friend of mine from the Star Trek boards on America Online invited me to join a secret, exclusive online mailing list full of Xena fans who were female (or, um, at least said they were), subtext friendly, and hard core into Xena. I had seen a few episodes of the show but had never really played around in the fandom at large. My largest fan experience at that point was attending a STAR TREK convention, where I felt decidedly left out of the loop. Not knowing what to expect, I joined this list where a subtextual view of the show was the norm. This mailing list was heaven. One of those rare places that you stumble onto where everyone assumes you are a lesbian until you inform people differently. For someone who has to live on the other side of the mirror the rest of the time, this was quite a treat.
 I have never been out to win any popularity contests, as my tenure on that mailing list proved. But love me or hate me, it really was the environment of that list that made me what I am today. When I think back on the moments in my life that were a "big deal", being born stands out. So does summer camp. So does that mailing list. While everyone was brought together over a love of a goofy TV show to start with, you were able to know people beyond that. People who lived all over. People different from you. People just like you. (sigh) It brings a wee tear to the eye to think about it. People shared stories about their lives and ups and down, and they wrote some great fan fiction. This was in the days before you could not swing a dead cat without hitting a Xena web site that had alternative fan fiction.
 People who know me might snicker at this, but I am quite shy. Well, I used to be, or more so than now. The years of having a Bat Mordian alter ego have changed me, or I have changed it, or something. The whole mailing list and writing fan fiction thing was cool, because from the safety of my office I could write and say things I had have never had the guts to talk about otherwise. For example, I wrote The Binds That Tie 1 The Binds That Tie 2 before I had ever seen an honest-to-g*d dildo. I just sat back and thought, "If I were comfortable about this stuff, what sort of stuff would I say?" and went from there. Being comfortable in theory seeped into being comfortable, period. Shy me, I found it easier to talk to people when we already had something in common, such as Xena or fan fiction, and then it naturally progressed to other stuff. The same held true at Xenite parties. It was easy to go and be comfortable when it felt like people already knew me. It was a nice change. It was not bliss, though. It is honest to say that I took a toll on that mailing list, and the mailing list and my increasing involvement in Xena fandom took its toll on me, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Adventures In The Sin Trade
Getting ready for Famous Fan status, Bat gets comfy in a fur coat. She has since jumped on the 'Fur is bad' bandwagon.
 I cannot say that I am a lesbian who took to it easily. Granted, practice makes perfect, and I have had to work at it. I remember when I first really understood what was going on with myself, the things that set me apart, and I thought, "I've got narcolepsy for g*d's sake, isn't that enough?"
 While I was not the most enthusiastic person in the world about the cards I had been dealt, I did manage to muddle through. When I came to the Xenaverse in 1996, I had a girlfriend I had been living with for four years. The mailing list, the alt fan fiction, and Xena fandom exposures were important for a couple of reasons. Because I was never a Naiad-reading, rainbow-flag-bumper- sticker-wearing, PC chick, I had missed that whole lesbian fiction thing that is instrumental in helping so many women not feel so weird about themselves. Security in numbers and all that.
 Therefore, I began to read stuff, and to write stuff that first made me feel good, and ended up doing the same for others too. That is cool. I will admit that the more I wrote about sex, the more comfortable I became with it, both theoretically on an artistic level and in my personal life. That was way cool. When I got comfortable writing about other people doing it, I found it got easier to express ideas and desires, and to talk about what was going on in my own life, and that sort of junk. What started as characters more at ease and more adventurous than the woman writing them, ended up with characters trying to play 'catch up' with the chick behind the keyboard. I began to feel comfortable and adventurous in my own skin, and I am not the only one happy about that development.
 It has been nice to receive letters from readers over the years who are also jazzed that there is stuff out there that they enjoy, that makes them think about trying something new, or just helps them feel a little more comfortable being who they are. As long as people read the disclaimers and do not get into stories they are not old enough to read, or have themes that will push their buttons, I am happy. Fan fiction has been good to me. The fact that I even decided to try writing at all kind of cued me into the fact that this "Bat Morda" person might end up living a life slightly different from mine. I have mentioned shy, no?
 I have never fancied myself a writer. I adore reading, and that alone was a big deal for me. I was one of those dyslexic kids who had to take the first grade twice because I could not learn to read. I do not know how many times I have heard that people who read a lot are usually good spellers and have good grammar. That was never me. Once I had finally gotten the reading thing down, I would just immerse myself in what was going on, and I could read a word a bazillion times and have no clue if it was spelled correctly. I knew my writing skills sucked, but figured I would give the storytelling a whirl anyway. With nothing to lose, I wrote The Broken Arrow. Then I wrote another, and another, and another. I am still at it. For me, writing has become this very self-indulgent fun thing. It is a hobby. I am not interested in the book deals, movie deals, the cult following, the money that comes with cult followings, or trying to make fan fiction more than it is. It is an enjoyable pastime. Some might feel it is a waste of time, but isn't that what relaxation is all about?
Ties That Bind
Always attending to detail, Bat practices horseback riding for later Xena stories.
 This is the part of the story, like in Behind The Music, where the rock star has the nasty drug habit, loses all their money, is ripped off by managers, and has to climb their way back to the top. As I said, some toll taking has been done in the Xenaverse, both me on it, and it on me. It did not happen right away, but as my involvement in Xena grew, my relationship with my girlfriend grew too. Only it grew more strained. Bat Morda was a fixture in the house now, and she was not too popular.
 It all started with the first Burbank convention. I had been on this mailing list for a few months. I remember very clearly walking into a party that Kym Taborn, Betsy Book, and Diane Silver were having in their hotel room. Many people were crammed into that room. I remember people being nice enough, and friendly. Then someone suggested we all introduce ourselves by our screen names. I will admit I was stunned. This room full of people who knew who I was and not only that, who I was, was a big deal. Inwardly I was terrified, and I remember wondering if running for the door would make a scene. Then I got a grip and decided that "Bat Morda" could be a big deal if she wanted to be and the world would not end.
 The next night I attended another party and took my girlfriend. She was just as shocked at my reception as I had been the night before. Only she did not get over the shock and end up in "amusedland", as I had. It is funny how a little time can change so much. By the time the second convention in Burbank rolled around, I had gone from a person scared to death to attend a party by myself, to throwing one in a suite for a ton of people, many of whom I had never met before. I had been writing steadily and had gotten used to people I did not know writing me unexpectedly and telling me they liked my stories. I learned how to talk to people, or at least Bat Morda did. This mailing list had become home and the people on it my extended family. Even things outside of Bat Morda's online life changed a little. I became a little more confident and more at ease with sharing my, eh-hem, comic genius with unsuspecting co- workers.
 Change does not always happen gradually. Sometimes, there are moments you can pinpoint as critical. Other times you go about your business for years and wake up one day and realize you are not who you once were. The Xenaverse brought both kinds of changes to my life. Looking back now, I see that Bat Morda grew. Grew both online and within myself. I had created a monster that was honest, fearless, and funny. I wrote about things that mattered to me. I had been open and candid with my opinions, and I had irritated many people. But I had also gotten to know people online that mattered even more. I am sure I am only one of many who has had Xena come between them and their relationship. The Xenaverse is not just posts and stories, but it is also people behind those words and screen names. My online life grew into an online family and something very apart from the relationship I had been in.
 I can see critics calling Xena some sort of cult: blind adoration for a TV show wrecking homes and destroying the fabric of America. Is life ever that simple? My interest in Xena is based on the show, sure. However, it is hardly the anchor. I truly pity anyone who has invested in the Xenaverse purely for the show based on season five. Ouch. The show provided a common interest for people, tons of people, diverse people. Some people you cannot stand and others you adore so much it hurts. Sharing bits and pieces of our lives, our stories, and our joy has created a much bigger thing than any TV show. Nor do I think it "has" to be Xena. Sure, the show had a lot going for it, and maybe it will again if they can pull it out of the hat for the final season.
 The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was key, but had I not already been involved in Xena, I could see finding a close knit group of fans among the Buffy crowd, for example. Yet, Xena was first and special, just as Disneyland is special to me. It does not matter how many Magic Kingdoms I go to. Disneyland is home. It is not the biggest, it may not be the best, but it is home.
 To save you the 'lesbian drama', I broke up a nearly six year old, live-in relationship, indirectly because of a TV show. Maybe Bat Morda was too much me. Maybe she had grown. Maybe she had walked off in her own direction too far. Whatever it is, it was a big life change. I suppose, if I wanted to be philosophical, I could say that whatever sacrifices the land of Xena has extracted from me, it has given me back many times over. I have loved and lost in the Xenaverse too, something that I do not think I will ever stop aching from to some degree. However, I have also loved and come out on top when I finally realized that it was my soulmate waiting patiently for me to remember.
 Uber makes me wonder if there is not really something to this "lifetimes over lifetimes" scenario. I am not joking about this family thing. Some people know friends from high school or college they keep their whole life. I was never that sort of person. I have camp friends that I will always love to pieces, but we do not see each other that often. Xena has given me a wonderful group of friends with whom I know I will grow old. We keep in touch between conventions, travel to see each other, and hang out. These are the people I know I could count on should I ever need to.
 Some people think that having online friends is the refuge of the cyber geek who cannot establish and maintain "real" relationships. What these people fail to acknowledge is that behind every keyboard is another person, another feeling human being. Yes, I have a tight knit local social network, but it is also nice to know that I can travel just about anywhere and have people to hang with, all over the country too. All over the world even. I have travel plans now to see countries I had never even considered visiting before Xena. That is because of the friends I have made from this fandom. "No life, anti-social computer users", my *ss.
The Bitter Suite
A fictitious person herself, Bat is very comfortable with people who are not real either.
 I have seen fandom change in my time behind the keyboard. It is useless to whine about things not being as good as they were "in my day", because hopefully we have a tendency to remember the good, and not dwell on the six people we p*ss*d off so badly that they left the mailing list. There has always been trouble and drama in the Xenaverse. Nevertheless, I will admit that it feels more frequent now, and the troubles seem more entrenched, but I am not surprised. Fandom, like anything grows and matures. No one expects the show to keep its "wide-eyed innocence". I am sure no one can imagine Gabrielle back in that "Little House On The Prairie" outfit, either.
 Fan fiction has changed. When I started writing it was a small group. We posted our stories on the list, and then eventually a web page or two posted them. Tom's page was there, Obsession was there, and Mary D was just getting her start. It was a huge deal. It is only natural for people to read fan fiction, then want to write it. I mean, after all, that is how I started. As more people began writing, it became impossible to keep up.
 Back then Lunacy started to do reviews, and it helped readers find what they might be after. It also started a competition. To be a "real bard" you had to be noticed by Lunacy. To be honest, I remember posting a story and being nervous as to what type of RECOMMENDATION I would get. So I quit reading them and just continued on my merry way. Then the "famous fan thing" started, and the Xenaverse got silly.
 Some bards developed a cult following, or at least worked very hard at it. I remember the cries of "feed the bards" on mailing lists, a request to give these people more strokes and feedback. Feedback is not a bad thing mind you, it is wonderful. However, if someone is going to stop writing a story unless they get "x" amount of feedback, then telling the story seems to be secondary, and that is just lame.
 The advent of Uber changed the landscape of fan fiction as well. There were writers writing stories and saying they were Uber, until the publishing deal happened, then they said the stories were completely original. The show did not help matters either. Things started to get unbalanced at the end of season three, making writing characters based on ones in the show an exercise in frustration. Web pages grew too, and a competition existed to be the biggest and most extensive, and to have the newest bit of information. That is sad when the desire to be first supersedes the desire to be accurate. I am not knocking competition, but when it comes to writing, or web pages, things that you think of as labors of love, it strikes me as odd.
 It is just my own personal worldview, but in terms of writing, the only person I want to compete with is me. With everything I write I want to find something to say, something I have not said before in a way that interests me. If other people like it, that is fine. If they do not, that is fine as well. I have felt the same way about "Bat Morda" as an online citizen. I have p*ss*d off more than my fair share of people perhaps, but I guess it does not bother me because I have never expected to be universally liked.
 The Creation Effect also changed fandom. People saw this company make a financial killing off the fans and decided to get in to the act too. Fans have taken advantage of the generosity of other fans. It is sad, but it makes us grow up. There is no end to the opportunities for a Xenite and their money to be parted. Not all of it is bad though. Xenites are incredibly generous people. Much good has been given to many well deserving charities. Sword and Staff has done a tremendous job organizing the fans to donate to a number of great charities and keeping an active tally so people know what is going on.
 Here I am, four years and something since this all started. I see many people with their own lists, their own fans, and their own pages. On the one hand, perhaps it is more inclusive. The fragmenting that has happened has kept many lists small and intimate, so you can really get to know the people you are talking to. That is cool. The bards that first inspired me do not seem to write anymore, or if they do, it is not much, like me. Still I know my life is good, and I hope theirs is too. Certainly new fan fiction writers come in and keep the whole thing going. The mailing lists are healthy. There is more choice than ever, and you can find the exact group that fits your needs. There is some sort of "society" for just about any twisted spin on the show.
 As for the mailing list, I mentioned in the beginning? I am not on it anymore. The two-way toll taking I mentioned earlier continues.
A pensive moment for a pre-fan fiction writer to consider her place in the Xenaverse 27 years in the future.
 It scares me to think that thirty years from now all Xena fandom will be remembered for are conventions and costumes, like Star Trek. I would like to think we would be remembered for much more. Certainly the participants, the members of mailing lists, the web page readers, they know the real story. I would like the Xenaverse to be remembered for its effect on people. We may be painted with a very broad brush, sometimes by the person you would least expect to "diss" a class of fandom, but we are all individuals. We're people with their own stories and their own lives, the good times and bad, who have all come together because we dug the same TV show.
 That we have stayed together, and that we have grown and changed is about something much more profound than television. One week we might be nothing more than ratings numbers to TPTB, another week we may be the difference between 16 and 22 episodes, but they are not getting it either. I suppose we are sort of like an enclave of Borg, only assimilation is not required. Whatever it is we are, I consider myself a fortunate participant. I cherish the friends I have made, the love I have known, and the family I have built. Change as things might, the Xenaverse is a wonderful place to be. Yes, it has changed my life. It has enriched it, and I hope in my own twisted way I have returned the favor.
ArticlesBat Morda, "Janice Covington: In Search of Mad Dog", Whoosh! #21 (June 1998)
Guest editor of the First All Fan Fiction Issue, Whoosh! #25 (October 1998)
Assassin...Oracle...Bard (March 1997)
The Binds That Tie (August 21, 1997)
The Binds That Tie II: The Tacky Sequel (September 1997)
The Broken Arrow (December 1996)
Cooking With Fire (A Faux Uber Sex Tale) (November 1, 1999)
Fast Forward (March 16, 1999)
Is There A Doctor on the Dig? (March 1997)
Minor Adjustments (December 1999)
The Party (March 2, 1998)
The Search for Amphipolis (or The Continuing Adventures of Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas) (August 3, 1997)
Ubermadness (The Battle for the Third Age) (June 10, 1998)
What If? (June 4, 1997)
Bat Morda began writing on a whim and has not stopped, in spite of numerous and polite requests. A Graphic Designer by day, Bat lives in North Hollywood with her sidekick Idgie and girlfriend Silent Bard, immortalized as Janice Covington's dog Argo and immortalized in an itsy bitsy part in UberMadness, respectively. Bat maintains that she only writes "so the voices in my head leave me alone". In her free time, she sleeps, goes camping, and annoys people. Bat has no plans to form an online cult and asks her readers not to send her cash, but, instead, take themselves out to dinner at their local Hard Rock Cafe and enjoy one of the thick frosty milkshakes. With a huge collection of Hard Rock Cafe guitar pins from all over the world, Bat knows their shakes. Should she ever find herself ruling the universe, Bat says, "Celine Dion music will be the first thing to go". All of Bat's stories can be found at http://cousinliz.com/fanfic/fanfic.html.
Favorite episode: A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214), INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207), DREAMWORKER (03/103), THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "What's she have to do with the price of grapes in Carthage?"
Favorite Villains: Callisto, Hope First episode seen: DEATH MASK (23/123)
Least favorite episode: Tie between LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510) (But nothing compared to the heart burn that episode gave me) and MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (105/515) (What was Rob thinking?!)