THE NATURE OF XENA FANDOM [371-372]
LAST YEAR IN BURBANK 
THIS YEAR IN BURBANK [374-377]
FAN "CELEBRITIES" 
FAN FICTION BARDS 
NETFORUM BUDDIES [380-382]
THE INTANGIBLE LINK 
Montana, Cynthia Cooper, Paul Kilminster (Mr. Fuzz), Sylvia Ovenall (Mainlander) and Maureen Hayden (Fuzz) during visit to the Getty Museum just prior to the Burbank Convention.
Photo courtesy of Debbie Cassetta.
The Nature of XENA Fandom
 One of the aspects of X:WP that most interests me is the nature of XENA fandom. It is really something I find quite unusual, and over the past couple of years I've had the opportunity to study it both as a spectator and as a hardcore nutball. I don't know if it is possible to wear both hats and maybe I'm deluding myself by thinking I can be a spectator when I am myself caught up in this phenomenon. But there is something about this group of fans that both draws me to it and at the same time mystifies me. This year's trip to Burbank, my second pilgrimage out to the West Coast for this event in a year, reminded me of just how unusual the relationships forged through this show are. The people I've met over the course of the last two years (on line, in Burbank, here in New York City, in Valley Forge, and in Toronto this past summer) quickly became more than acquaintances. They're like family. There's little or no awkwardness when you first meet, the conversation isn't strained, the hospitality is sincere and not put on. I'm not sure what it is that breeds this type of camaraderie, but there is no denying that it is there. It is almost tangible. Whether it's something in ourselves that draws us to this show and therefore each other, or whether the internet has enabled people to get to know each other and thereby allow them to forge relationships that are reinforced when they finally meet, I haven't been able to decide. Maybe it's a combination of both, or some other dynamic playing a part in this. Whatever the reasons, though, the results are amazing and not what anyone might have expected would evolve from a campy syndicated television show.
 I'd been involved in fandom before as a Star Trek fan. I watched the shows, I watched the reruns, I went to local conventions, I saw the movies, I read fan fiction, I wrote fan fiction, I read the novels. You name it, I was there. Yet that did nothing to prepare me for what XENA fandom was going to be like. Back then, it would never have occurred to me to jump on a plane, travel three thousand miles, to meet up with people I've never met in my life, and share a room with them. H*ll, at XENA CONS I've even shared a bed with people I'd never met before. And similarly, during Lucy's run in GREASE, my apartment was more often than not a bed and breakfast. Mighty strange behavior, if you ask me. I somehow became involved with this television show and took a rather sharp fork in the road. I went from a bookworm with a penchant for collecting college degrees, to a lunatic who doesn't have enough hours in the day to do what she volunteers to do in the Xenaverse. No complaints though. I'm loving every moment of it.
Last Year in Burbank
 Last year's trip to Burbank was quite different from my trip this year. Last year, I flew out alone from New York to Burbank. I knew one person, Whoosh! webmaster Betsy Book who happens to live close to where I work. We'd met and had dinner one night, and we had talked on the telephone several times. I was acquainted by phone and internet with Cynthia Cooper, the X:WP FAQ Administratrix with whom I'd been working for several months on getting the FAQ up and going. That really was the extent of my XENA acquaintances. I was shocked that I'd actually jumped on a plane and traveled across the country to go to a convention. Once there, however, everything was new and exciting. I sat in the lobby of the Hilton and watched as fans came and went, everyone looking rather tentative at first as they tried to identify other XENA fans. But we're a hearty lot, and despite getting some pretty strange looks from people who were obviously not XENA fans, we all managed to identify each other. I finally met people who's handles I'd seen on the NetForum and in the Pub. It was an incredible weekend, filled with theconvention and guests, but the real draw was the opportunity for meeting on-line friends. Last year, everything was new and that really put an incredible shine on the weekend.
This Year in Burbank
 This year was different, at least for me, in that I knew many of the people I was seeing, if not personally, at least by sight or from our on-line correspondence. That's put a whole new spin on the CON experience. This convention was in large part a reunion of friends who enjoy each other's company and took the opportunity to meet up with a group of friends they'll not otherwise get to see. It was the opportunity to see these friends again that brought me back out to Burbank. I'd been to three conventions and two XenaFests in the past year, and quite frankly, I was beginning to feel a little bit burned-out by them. But I would not pass on the chance to meet up with people I'd probably not get to see for quite some time to come if I didn't go. Heck, if they could come from Europe and New Zealand, New York was just a hop, skip, and a jump by comparison. And in one weekend in Burbank, I saw friends from all around the world. Friends I'd made through the show.
 A large contingent of British fans flew in, and to my delight I was able to spend time with some of them. Ian Rentoul, one of my Sword and Staff partners was there, and this was the first time we had met. He was a delight. Maureen Hayden (Fuzz) was there as well. I'd met her when she was here in New York this past summer. I picked her up in Manhattan and we took a ride to the Bronx Zoo along with three other XENA fans who were unceremoniously squashed into my car. Paul Kilminster, "Mr. Fuzz" came along this trip, and when introduced his first comment to me was, "I'm not a fan, I'm just here with her." Well, Mr. Fuzz was quickly converted when Hudson appeared on stage. He is now home in England furiously catching up on all things XENA. Another unsuspecting bystander has been converted.
 I must say that I had a really good time with Maureen and Paul. We joined up with some other HCNB's one afternoon and headed out to the Pacific Palisades so I could reacquaint myself with the Pacific Ocean. Montana, a fellow New Yorker who flew out to California with me this year, was dutifully documenting my excursion into the briny deep with my camera, while Cynthia Cooper stayed up near the parking lot laughing at the sight of the rest of us. All right, she was laughing at me. They all had a great time teasing me, along with a certain Kiwi woman who shall remain nameless (Sylvia Ovenall, "Mainlander"), and I'm sure I'll never live down the incident with my Reeboks on the beach. A long story short, I wanted to wade in the ocean, so I naturally removed my sneakers and socks. After tucking the socks inside my shoes and rolling up my jeans, I tied the shoelaces together and proceeded to drape the sneakers round my neck. "Bloody New Yorker," echoed across the beach and sent the seagulls flying. My three foreign companions were having a fine hoot at my expense. "Who'dja think is gonna steal your shoes"? When last I spoke to Sylvia, a week after the CON, she was still laughing at the fact that I would not leave my new sneakers unattended on the beach. I guess she never had to drive home barefoot, eh? Needless to say, I'm never going to live this down. And the fact that I was hit in the b*tt by a wave and spent the afternoon in wet pants didn't help either. Sometimes it ain't easy being me.
 The Hilton was filled with Xenites, and we pretty much took over Lew's, the hotel's restaurant/bar. For the record, we did learn one lesson last year. There is no food in Burbank. Don't bother wasting time or gas trying to find it. Unless you want Mexican take-out or donuts, they don't make it there. So we didn't bother going out looking for it this time. But there were parties every night, and goodies to be had, so life was good. And it was a joy to be able to see so many notables from the world of fandom.
 Another amazing aspect of XENA fandom is that there are so many "celebrities" among the fans themselves. The bards each have a contingent of loyal readers. Lunacy is a Xenaverse "star" in her own right. Kym Taborn and Bret Rudnick each have each built a reputation in the Xenaverse. These notables are among a growing list of people whose names are instantly recognized by XENA fans.
Fan Fiction Bards
 Fan fiction has become very much a part of the Xenaverse, the stories expanding and enlarging the Xenaverse and allowing for issues and situations that cannot be handled on television to be played out nonetheless. Fortunately for those in attendance, there was no shortage of bards at the convention. They are always a delight, and they were well represented. Among the fan fiction writers very much in evidence were Missy Good, Bat Morda, Mil Toro, Wishes, Word Warrior, Jenbob, and Laine Lawless. By no means were these all of them, and I extend my apologies to those I didn't mention. But it was truly terrific to see the number of fans who knew who the bards were and who let them know how much they enjoy their work.
 I saw a lot of friends from my old haunts. As I mentioned before, my Forum buddy, Lunacy was there. I had met her in Valley Forge and she is a delight. A couple of other Forum friends were also in Burbank, and though I didn't have much opportunity to socialize with them it was great to see them. I met Fuchsia twice in New York, the first time when she and Wishes arrived to see GREASE, and the second time when they came back for Lucy's final performance. The second visit they stayed with me, and the three of us had a real ball getting ourselves into all kinds of trouble on the NetForum and lists by asking about fitted sheets and cows (yes, that was one post! Don't ask.), pressure points, and I jokingly used the handle FruitBoots to answer a post. I was toasted on that one.
 Another Forum veteran and long time on-line acquaintance I met in Burbank was the one and only Z-wolf, the spoiler king. I'd never met him before, but I think had I not been introduced, I would have picked him out of the crowd anyway. He was exactly what I expected. I love his humor, and was delighted to find that he was very much like his on-line personality.
 Once again my old pal SAL_FAN was there, and we spent some time together, although I still for the life of me don't know how he managed to spend five hours eating breakfast. Oshram, another Sword and Staff bud and all around good egg, was there as well and we had a nice dinner with Cyn and Crju, even if I did show up just a tad late. Okay, a lot late. But I had a good reason. NOT.
The Intangible Link
 It is impossible to go through the entire weekend and mention everyone who made my time there so special, so suffice it to say, that the people I mention here are just the tip of the iceberg. There were literally hundreds of others I met who truly exemplify what this group of fans represent. Whether its been through the conventions, Sword and Staff, the NYC XenaFest, or from whatever event it was that brought us together, all of them have been extraordinary. I suppose that is what marks XENA fans as a whole. They are exceptional people. And somehow, they all came together as a result of this television show. They share a bond, some intangible link that defines who and what they are. You can't easily define it. You can't see it. You just know its there. And it is what draws you back to these fan gatherings. It seems that for many the convention is the side show. Taking advantage of the opportunity to see good friends is the Main Attraction.