Whoosh! Online Edition Whoosh! On The Road

A look back over a year of fandom and the Cons.

THE ENERGY OF 1997 [405-407]
1998 -- A YEAR OF RIFTS [408-409]
A SENSE OF SADNESS IN 1998 [411-412]

[404] Author's note: This is a reflective piece that is more about my interaction with XENA fandom and the way I think it has changed. Burbank 1997 was the beginning and Burbank 1998 brought it full circle. I would still not trade any of the experiences I have had or the fabulous people I have met. However, what I found from the responses to the questionnaire I sent out was that I was not alone in the uneasy sensation I experienced at Burbank 1998. I hope that if you disagree with this report you will be sure to speak out.

The Energy of 1997

[405] Somewhere out there in the vast archives of the Internet is my Burbank 1997 Con report. I was thrilled, ecstatic, elated, energized and astonished at the wonder that was involved in being a Hard Core NutBall Xenite. A fan of this astonishing show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. This was my first foray into such fandom and the experience left me electrified. So much so that when the opportunity to attend other fan-fests and Creation Conventions arose, I did not hesitate to buy the tickets and fly from coast to coast to indulge this new fascination. How easy the decision to attend Burbank 1998. Hoping that the unraveling I was witnessing on-line would disappear in the face to face meeting of fans at the Burbank Con.

[406] Fast forward to Burbank 1998, an anniversary. The 'X' marking the proverbial spot if you will. It was like a homecoming of sorts, but the type of homecoming that made Thomas Wolfe state that you can't go home again. I wondered if I was alone in this observation and from the conversations that I had with my fellow con-goers that I had met last year and knew through the Xenaverse, it did not seem that way. Something had changed, has changed. Consider that the fan demographics are as varied and unique as one is likely to find anywhere. Many of the fans spent between $600.00 to over $1,000.00 to attend the Convention and this was not the first Con they had attended.

[407] Many of the repeat con-goers I met indicated that attending the 1997 Burbank Convention (The first ever HERCULES/XENA Convention) influenced their decision to attend other Creation Conventions and even fan-run festivals. Surprisingly, it was not just the stars that were featured but the opportunity to meet so many friends and fans that they had met on-line. The chance "to meet others who shared mutual interests." As another fan observed "I go to meet my on-line friends, actors are paid, friends aren't." This sentiment was echoed by a popular bard, BatMorda, who confessed that, "Stars are a plus but not the main reason I go... The biggest buzz for me in the convention experience is meeting my on-line friends and the people who read my stories." Dearcy indicated that "chatting with other con-goers after the days festivities was far more entertaining than the majority of the day's events."

1998 -- A Year of Rifts

[408] Yet, as I said, this year was not the same as Burbank 1997. This year reflected more of the on-line rifts that have taken place. In the fandom there has been a growing movement of competition between the characters and the actors who portray them on the show. This competition has carried over onto many of the mailing lists spawning many new, smaller lists that are specifically oriented towards a character or an actor. Once upon a time the prevailing cry of XENA fandom was the missive from the Warrior Princess herself, Be Nice, this no longer seems to be the case. One observation by a fan of both shows observed, "The fans were different in 1997. Everyone was thrilled to see each other, even people they barely knew. By 1998 fans had developed rifts. Convenient that Xena and Gab end up going through a rift too... The rifts between the XENA and HERC fans and also just between the factions of fans for each show sort of puts a cloud over every Con now. That definitely wasn't there in Burbank 1997... If they were disappointed, they weren't very vocal about it. Now...they shout it at the top of their lungs." Another noted, "I noticed a lot more militant XENA fans who ridiculed not only HERCULES but the HERCULES fans vociferously. This disturbed me... Overall, I was underwhelmed by the attitude of the attendees -- it was negative and 'me me me'." This was supported by another fan who made the observation, "Xenites, in general, were ruder... When there are fans that are rude, you can bet... they will turn out to be women who (sadly) think that they are imitating Xena somehow, by being rude. As if rude = tough." The flip observation was made by the HERCULES fans that attended. It was noted that they had not "met with this kind of insular junior high meanness from any other fan group, except the Xenites."

[409] This is not to say that everything was about rifts and division. I heard that in the fan room members from the various fan clubs chatted and swapped pictures. Yet, the pervasiveness of the division and the greediness now of the fans cast a pall over Burbank 1998. One especially disturbing manifestation of the 'more more more' syndrome was demonstrated in the theft of two pictures that were a part of Creation's Premiere Photo Club display. This has been discussed, the "Gimme" factor of the fans. When Lucy did make her appearance on stage, a bit calmer, a bit more reserved than the explosion she made last year, someone yelled out to her, "Just stand there and look good." I was not alone in my embarrassment at the incredible rudeness of such a statement. This woman has constantly been engaging and giving to her fans, has done interview after interview, appearance after appearance to publicize the show XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. That statement seemed to set a tone for the rest of her appearance. The questions ranged from the banal to incredibly invasive. Lucy Lawless is an engaging, gracious young woman who struck me as having had to learn the price of fame. Perhaps it is the nature of New Zealanders to be open and honest, certainly Kevin Smith and Danielle Cormack exhibited the same candor and humor that Lucy has often demonstrated in the past. The difference being that Lucy has had more experience with the fanaticism of the fans and has become a bit more guarded, this is pure conjecture on my part.

Comments on Creation Entertainment

[410] Burbank 1998 had more of what the fans wanted and yet also lost something that had made the fandom special. Creation Entertainment provided as much as they could but there were those that thought the statement that "next year will be even bigger" was more foreboding than reassuring. Creation also is lucky to have Sharon Delaney and Julie Harter represent their company to the fans. There were nothing but glowing reviews from the XENA fans about the amount of time and effort that Sharon and Julie gave to their jobs. Feedback like, "Sharon and Julie are the absolute greatest. They really care." Another noted that, "The XENA Cons are becoming predictable of course but because of the energy that Sharon and Julie expend they surpass any other Creation Con I've attended." Further commentary like, "XENA fandom is incredibly lucky to have these two women working with us." The effects of Sharon and Julie's hard work does not go unnoticed and in no way do the fans equate their dedication and attentiveness with Creation. "Creation is Creation. They are out to make money... Creation doesn't care about the fans, Sharon and Julie do." Another sentiment, "I have mixed feelings about Creation. I adore Sharon and Julie and think they are a godsend to the fans... As for the company as a whole... It strikes me as an 'Evil Empire' thing. I don't think there is any moneymaking avenue they wouldn't take... I get the impression that they see the fans as moneymaking cattle to be herded and exploited." However, to clarify a point, Creation does *not* issue the licenses for many of the products, it is indeed Universal that doles those out. However, realizing that they (Universal) do have a marketable product on their hands, the influx of merchandise continues to grow. Unfortunately, most of the people who are leaping onto the XENA bandwagon have little if any love for the show and see it in purely capitalistic terms. Is this good or bad? I for one am happy to spend my money on the quality items that are becoming available. One side observation, back in Burbank 1997 I would have bought anything and everything that came out and had XENA plastered on it, now, I am willing to be a bit more discriminating in where I spend my dollar. Another point I will have to acknowledge against Creation was the lack of the HERCULES items. In general there was a sense of abandonment and anger at Creation. Perhaps this was the difference too. Last year, the HERC fans and the XENA fans embraced one another in this new world that was opening up, this year there was no embracing. As a longtime HERCULES fan noted, "This Con was a slap in the face for any fan of the series HERCULES."

A Sense of Sadness in 1998

[411] I came away from Burbank 1998 with a sense of sadness and mixed feelings. Much like having a favorite band that I once saw weekly at the bar down the street suddenly making it big and having the whole thing spiral out of control away from me. As a fan of the show I am overjoyed at the success that XENA enjoys, however, being around from way back when, I miss the community and intimacy that I had stumbled upon and then realized at Burbank 1997. I will watch the show until the very final episode is aired, I will likely attend future festivals and conventions to visit with the friends that I have made. I have met many warm, caring, intelligent, generous individuals because of this show. Would I have traded this ride for the world? Absolutely not. Sal_Fan summed it up best when he said, "I just can't get over how much this show has meant to so many people." The beauty of this show is that is does go on and it does affect people. My hope is that the caring, compassion and mutual respect that marked the early days of fandom between the fans and the stars of the show is what remains as a hallmark of the fandom, not the later division and hostility.

[412] The show is growing, the fandom is growing. The halcyon days of way back when are gone. I am still convinced that this show and these fans are some of the best around. Not unlike Xena and Gabrielle, we are discovering that the growth process is just painful.

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