Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998


IAXS project #528
By Rhet Belraven
Copyright © 1998 held by author
11208 words

Some Disclaimers (01-04)
Deja Vu All Over Again (05-10)
Been Her, Gone Through That... (11-16)
System Defaults (17-24)
System Options (25-63)
The One Thing That Doesn't Vary (64-68)
What Gets Gotten Right... (69-76)
Experiencing Technical Difficulties (77-80)
Technical Support (81-84)
Unconditional Lifetime(s) Guarantee (85-86)
Works Cited, with Links

"How Long 'Til My Soul Gets It Right?"
Karma, Reincarnation, And All This Uber-Fiction

Maybe platform shoes aren't such a bad idea after all.

Janice and Mel -- together for the first time?

"And then you had to bring up reincarnation Over a couple of beers the other night, And now I'm serving time for mistakes Made by another in another lifetime! How long 'til my soul gets it right?"
   --Indigo Girls, "Galileo"

Some Disclaimers

[1] In most works of literary or cultural criticism entire plotlines are discussed and key points are often revealed. If you do not want to know some of the details of the following Uber-fiction stories, go read them now and then come back and read this!

[2] I am neither Buddhist nor Hindu. My apologies, in advance, for any mangling of philosophy or theology which occurs in the following article. Similarly, I mean no disrespect to the many bards whose work I discuss. Yes, I know that some quotes are taken out of context. That's just cultural criticism for you.

[3] I will not focus very much on Mel and Janice fan fiction because it seems clear in the show and in the fanfic that they are descendants of Xena and Gabrielle, not reincarnations. But I will mention them occasionally.

[4] In most Uber-fiction, a romantic subtext or downright passionate maintext is a standard feature, and so, with only a few exceptions, are happy endings. Although this article contains nothing graphic, if you do not wish to see references to consenting sexual relationships between women, you should probably skip this article and the Uber-fiction stories it analyzes.

Deja Vu All Over Again

"We knew each other a long time ago, like over two thousand years ago, and now we're being reunited so we can do what we used to do."

"And what exactly are we supposed to do?" Cat held her breath, almost fearing the storyteller's answer.

"What we did time and time again, when we were Xena and Gabrielle," Angie softly answered. "We're supposed to save the world."

   --"Legends Book One: Companions", Shadowbard

[5] Part of the fun of Uber-fiction is seeing what happens when a fanfic bard takes an intriguing setting, adds characters reminiscent of Xena and Gabrielle, and puts the story into motion. There are some mighty talented bards out there ringing the changes on our favorite televised mythology. But what happens if we take a look at Uber-fiction as a whole, and not as individual stories? What if we decide for a few minutes to look for patterns that appear in the set of all Uber-fiction?

[6] The question explored in this article is "How come so many of these Uber characters are trying to solve the same problems over and over again?" Uber characters always seem to be playing out the same problems as their ancestors or prior lives. It's as if no one really seems to make much progress with their initial karmic issues. In Uber-fiction, Xena and Gabrielle replay the themes of their 'original' lives: Fall and Redemption, Betrayal, Guilt and Forgiveness, Innocence and Experience, Words versus Action, and... well, we'll get to that later. Something must not be working if they have to keep reliving their mistakes. Or is it that something is working very well indeed?

[7] It would be one thing if the great Mix-Master of genetics periodically resulted in women who physically resembled Xena and Gabrielle, but the fact that these characters never show up in fanfiction solo, and always have links in attitude or actual awareness similar to that of Xena and Gabrielle, make reincarnation a plausible explanation. Most of the 'descendants' in Uber-fiction have a powerful sense of deja vu as they meet the other characters, in a way that strongly hints that there is more than just a physical resemblance between themselves and their Warrior or Bard counterparts.

[8] Sometimes a bard will come right out and inform the audience that their story explores the future lives of our heroines, as in this opening scene from "Battle", by Wishes.

Hades, ruler of the underworld, god of the dead, sat upon his throne and looked down upon a seemingly frail form. When, he thought, had he lost his reputation as the pitiless and inexorable sifter of souls? When, he admitted, had he lost control of this situation?

"So," she was concluding. Oh, he hoped she was concluding. "You can see how unfair it is for me to be in Elysium and for Xena to be in Tartarus. First, Xena has more than made up for her deeds as a warlord. Secondly, to separate us in this way is to punish me. . . ."

"Enough!" Hades roared, finally silencing the voice that would doubtless have gone on to thirdly, fourthly, and beyond. "I've already heard all of your arguments. I have already weighed Xena's accomplishments against the evil she has done and found them wanting. She is in Tartarus and will remain there for all time, no, beyond the passage of all time. You, on the other hand, are a pure soul and belong in Elysium. If you don't like it there, you may elect to be reborn, as may any who have earned paradise..."

[9] Sometimes details indicating reincarnation come together over the course of the story in a way that the characters begin to suspect what the audience has known from the beginning of the tale. A good example is "Outlaw", by Mythbard.

[10] Set in the U.S. Wild West, "Outlaw" describes how Zeen "Lawless" Zamora has been riding and raiding for years when she is injured and is nursed back to health by a rancher's daughter, Rielle MacGab (some of these in-jokes are just too delicious). Later, as Rielle tries to help Zeen out of a nightmare, they abruptly share a vision, or part of the dream, or...

"Yeah, it was just so strange... like a memory or something, only I'm not sure if it was mine or not. It was like, like..."

"Like another lifetime," Rielle finished absently.

"Yeah," Zeen sighed. "Another lifetime."

Been Her, Gone Through That...

Either you let me direct, Mr. Tapert, or you'll be a soprano.

Janice shared few personality traits with Gabrielle.

[11] Doctrines such as Buddhism and Hinduism, which include the cycle of rebirth and the law of Karma, hold that everything we do has consequences, both for our immediate future and for our future lives. In Christian doctrine this might be comparable to reaping what you sow, but the ultimate return in that system of belief is Heaven or Hell, not another life on Earth. So, if someone exclaims, "Karma comes back!" with vengeful glee, that is not quite an accurate use of the term: Karma is not a means of exacting retribution, but a way of achieving balance, that is of experiencing all sides of an action and its repercussions. Karmic debts are not just matters of how we have affected the world around us, but also matters of how our actions have affected our souls, and what our souls go through in order to make some cosmic sense out of these things.

[12] An attitude or action which makes perfectly good sense on one level of consciousness, or in one particular lifetime, may have very different meanings or consequences on another level or even several lifetimes down the line. Reincarnations are meant to enable a soul to raise its consciousness and compassion to higher levels, so it might eventually comprehend the Oneness of all things, all actions, all perspectives, and merge back into Nirvana, where both Suffering and Desire cease because everything has been united. The soul in this system keeps traveling through cycles of life, death, self-evaluation, and rebirth until all experiences can be reconciled into that wholeness.

[13] During these cycles, reincarnated souls may, by strength of spirit or by careful exploration, recover memories or knowledge that only their former selves could possess. In Uber-fiction, the Xena and Gabrielle characters often know intimate details about themselves or their current companions.

[14] Sometimes this knowledge surfaces through dreams, as in this scene from "Promises to Keep", by L. Graham, set in Sherwood Forest. In this version of the legend, the man who would have been Robin Hood plays an Uber-Lyceus role, dying early on in the rebellion, and his sister, Alexandra [Xan], whose many skills do not include archery, leads the secret fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham. As the story opens, a very pregnant Lady Gabrielle is scolding Xan:

"I swear, I'm not leaving you alone with the baby. Lord knows what you'd do." Continuing to grumble under her breath, Gabrielle pushed away from the wall and shuffled forward once more, still trailing the packing twine from one hand. "Had the weirdest dream that it was a girl and you hated her. Kept saying she was a demon and trying to get me to throw her in the river or something." As Xan violently protested this, Gabrielle waved her off with an impatient hand. "It was just a crazy dream."

"Are, umm, are you still having that one where you turn me over to the Sheriff and he makes me wear a table around my neck?"

[15] In "Outlaw", a flash of past-life memory comes the instant Rielle MacGab sees the badly wounded Zeen, sprawled in the MacGab stables:

Rielle stepped around Jim and stared at the fallen woman. For a moment a picture flashed in her mind; the woman was deathly pale, lying in a sarcophagus and Rielle was there refusing to say good-bye... "Let's get her in the house! Now!"

Jim easily lifted the tall woman and carried her to the house with Rielle close behind. He carried her into the small spare bedroom and laid her on the bed. Jim went to boil some water and Rielle stayed by the woman's side. 'God, why does she seem so familiar? I know I've never met her before, I'd have remembered...' Rielle's thoughts ceased when she found herself staring into unfocused , yet impossibly ice-blue eyes, eyes that she'd seen before, if only in a dream.

[16] But back to our question: karma comes back, to be sure, but why the same karma every time? And don't souls in typical reincarnation scenarios sometimes come back as the opposite sex? Let's look at the souls we are following in these stories, and see if we can find some compelling reason for putting themselves through all this over and over again.

System Defaults

[17] It is easy to see how being the Destroyer of Nations for ten years would leave Xena's soul, however devoted to "the greater good" in that particular lifetime, with quite a few issues to resolve. While it might have been difficult to imagine what issues Gabrielle might have to resolve during Seasons One and Two (perhaps she had been mute in a previous life?), Season Three offered plenty of experiences that could use resolution on a higher level!

[18] Occasionally, in traditional Xena and Gabrielle fan fiction, Xena recognizes that if she had truly understood the havoc her warlord years were causing, she might have reformed sooner, and thousands of lives might have been saved. "You know, Gabrielle," Xena observes in "Reflections of the Past" by Melissa Good, "maybe just once, I should have put myself in my victim's place." If Xena's soul was intent on working through her warlord guilt, we might predict that in a future incarnation, Xena would come back to experience life as one of the villagers whose lives she and her army had violated. Gabrielle might return as an unwanted child, or an undercover agent who must rely on her contacts not to double-cross her.

[19] But that is not what seems to happen. Why? Maybe Xena's need to protect/avenge her family and village, and her belief that only she can do that properly, repeatedly overpowers her soul's cosmic objectivity between lives? The introductory narration from "The Cause", by Hobbes, set in 19th century Mexico during a territory dispute with the U.S., seems awfully familiar.

The tall daughter of Alano was not ready to feel sorrow yet. The hatred for the Yanquis was too strong.

It would not allow anything but the burning fury inside her to exist. It ate at her soul, consuming all that she was. Her father, Alano, had been taking a walk just outside their city, just enjoying the pleasant weather. The norteamericano soldiers had killed her father in sport.

They had taken control of Motamoros a month earlier, filling the town from one end to the other. In their boredom, they harassed the civilians that were living there in spite of the orders of their commander, General Taylor. No one really knew what happened. All she knew for sure was once they finished with him, they had left his body to the sopilotes, she remembered in outrage.

Duena spun around and left the grave site, much to the shock of those around her. She didn't care. The dark-haired young woman kept walking, returning to her family's modest home a few minute's walk away.

Once there, she went directly to the stables and grabbed the empty saddlebags that her father kept in the livery. She entered her home and went to her room, where she tore off her black mourning dress and threw it onto her bed. Duena dragged out her work clothes -- the ones her mother disapproved of -- men's trousers and work shirts. Quickly changing, she shoved the remaining clothing as well as some undergarments into the saddlebags and headed for her papa's private room.

There, she found his well-maintained pistols, his only rifle, and some ammo, inspecting them quickly before shoving them into the leather saddlebag. Duena opened the safe and took some of the money her father kept there. Stuffing it into her pocket, she left her home of twenty-six years, never once looking back.

[20] Or perhaps Xena's soul is just too stubborn, convinced that in the next life she will finally figure out the right way to protect or avenge her loved ones, but with consistently self-destructive results.

[21] On the other hand, we almost always find Gabrielle's incarnations struggling desperately to escape spider webs of security and social expectations. What kind of glutton for family angst must her soul be? How else could she constantly end up in families who are, as Bridgit puts it in the unfinished story "The Dangerous Truth", by Curiositee, "...more interested in who they wanted me to be, then who I really was"?

[22] Here is the parallel scene from "The Cause", which illustrates how Brynn chafes at the uses her father has for her mental and social skills:

He needed Brynn to do his paperwork, saving him the money and expense of bringing along someone else to do it. Brynn also realized the second unspoken reason.

He wanted a hostess at his parties--and the presence of an attractive young woman did wonders for getting past men's natural defenses during negotiations. She felt like a slave on the auction block. They stared at her and often made passes when her father or brother wasn't nearby. More than one had touched her inappropriately. Only the fear of her father's ire had prevented her from slapping the faces of the pawers. She hated the dinner parties.

The young woman sighed once more. She wistfully hoped to be sent home, but knew that was unlikely.

Until she married, she had little hope of rescue from this dreary little life she led.

[23] The times and places may change, and women may have more options for their lives than ever before, but Gabrielle's talents and desires always seem at odds with her family's values. In the twentieth century, Miami-based reporter Elizabeth P. Gardener is working undercover, searching for insights about a blue-eyed devil of a drug lord in "Lucifer Rising", by S.L. Bowers. Liz desperately wants a 'big story' to make her fame as a journalist:

She had been at the Herald for about a year, having come there from a small paper in Arlington, Virginia. The daughter of a diplomat, she had shunned the advantages of her family's name and worked her own way through college, penning romance novels to pay her tuition to George Washington University. She had readily admitted that it was an unusual way to work through school, but she had been telling stories since before she could remember. Her mother had always smiled at her "scribbling" -- as her father had derisively referred to them -- and merely said that writing ran in the family.

[24] Mom, you don't know the half of it...

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