Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

Romancing the Fan: Romance and Xena Fan Fiction


Chart III
Do We Believe Our Fan Fiction Reflects Modern Lesbian Life as much as Pre-Mycenaean life (or Uber-Xena Era)?
Perhaps/In Part17%
Reflects Family Issues09%
Reflects Own Bisexuality   04%

Our Own Sexual Preferences Are:
Not Revealed33%
Heterosexual   26%

[59] According to Lunacy, about half of the Xena fan fiction stories are alternative (meaning they present Xena and Gabrielle as more than friends).

[60] I think about half of the stories are alternative. Most alt. stories are romances, but not all. There are alt. stories that stress action-adventure over the romance for instance. I think the stories are so popular because of the fascination fans have with the Xena/Gab relationship and also because of the growing acceptance a romantic view of the relationship has had over the years. During the show's first year any discussion concerning subtext used to spark huge flame wars. Alt. writers often would post their stories just to private e-mail lists because they didn't want to deal with the attacks posting on the Web pretty much guaranteed. In time, the subtext became much more accepted and also the alt. writers started to make themselves known and respected. Today alt. fiction is a powerful presence in the Xenaverse with many of the most popular bards being alt. writers.     --Lunacy

[61] In Lunacy's informed opinion, what is the most popular genre with Xena fan fiction writers and readers?

[62] I think the alt. fiction tends to be the most popular with both camps. Uber fanfic is probably the most popular SUBgenre - particularly with the explosion in recent months of some terrific contemporary Uber stories.     --Lunacy

[63] Another question for Lunacy: Are any of these stories as much of a reflection of what it is like to be lesbian in modern times as it is about pre-Mycenaean (Uber-Xena time if applicable here) times?

[64] I don't know that I can comprehensively answer this question because I've never lived as a lesbian. However, I have always had lesbian friends and during the past three years through XWP fandom I've gotten a new awareness of what being a lesbian is all about, so I'll give you my perspective on this. I think alt. fiction is very much a reflection of what it is to be lesbian, or bisexual for that matter, in modern times. In many of the stories the characters struggle with the fear of rejection from each other, their friends, their families. Often they feel confused about their feelings, at times ashamed of these. Considering how homophobic our society remains despite the gradual acceptance we seem to be moving toward, I have to think that these are the same fears and struggles gay people struggle with today. Alt. fiction also reflects what I think gays - just like heterosexuals - often aspire too. Most stories celebrate the love between Xena and Gabrielle by having them commit to one another in a stable, loving, long-lasting relationship. That is something I suspect we all want regardless of sexual orientation. --Lunacy

"If we can find the whole world in a grain of sand, we can also find the soul itself at the small point in life where destinies cross and hearts intermingle".
    --Thomas Moore (Author, ex-monk)

"First Time"

Chart IV
Xena Fan Fiction Readers Have Given The Most Responses To:
"First Time" Stories (involving Xena and Gabrielle, or their archetypes, discovering intense romantic/sexual feelings for each other)83%
Other (including subtext parody)13%
No Record Kept of Reader Responses04%

[65] Why do "first time" stories evoke the most response from readers? Without a doubt they tend to be crowd-pleasers. The emotionally charged excitement of sexual pressure and pleasure are intensely powerful catalysts for awareness, understanding, and change. That is one answer. Another is that we already delight in the romantic characterizations of Xena and Gabrielle, and therefore a vicarious merging with idealized visions of love in fan fiction can occur with relative ease. To varying degrees, this merging releases natural, cocaine-like, 'feel-good' chemicals in the brain of the reader, mimicking the physiological process linked with the urge to 'rub tummies' or even of falling in love.

Popularity of Romance

[66] Ur-Xena and Ur-Gabrielle depicted in Uber-Xena fan fiction provide the opportunity for limitless new fictional characters while maintaining similar identifications. Like chocolate and cocaine, it can be addictive. It seems no mystery now why mainstream romance novels are popular, and the same can be said of much of Xena fan fiction. It is often about our need for intimate connection along with the desire to feel very good at some point, and the satisfaction found in romantic indulgence.

[67] What is it about romance novels - and romance itself - that has always enraged, or engaged, intellectuals and peasants alike? Romance defines the feeling of love. It is the wooing, the first burst of realization that, having found our other halves, our lives are changed forever. Beyond the earliest flush of recognition, romance becomes suffused with wonder that, despite our faults, someone we love loves us. Romance has always lived in the human heart and always will.

[68] It is the dream spirit born with the body. Without romance the world can be a cold and ruthless place, fostering cynicism and bitterness. The unfathomable essence of humanity is sustained by romance. It is intertwined with our very being and cannot be dispelled - nor can it be found in the spiraling mystery of DNA.

[69] So write your love stories! Tell the world what we as novelists know: that romance exists and will always exist as long as humans see the sun and feel the warmth of it, as long as they smell the flowers of spring, taste the fruits of the earth, and touch the hand of a loved one," (Rita Gallagher, from the forward of a book she co-edited.)
    --Gallagher, Rita, Estrada, Rita Clay, Romance Writers of America. Writing Romances. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 1977.)

[70] I think they're all romance [referring to the Xena fan fiction she has written], because the primary focus of every story I write is the loving relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. I try to have plots (sort of) and other characters as needed, but they always remain secondary to exploration of the relationship, because that's what interests me the most.
    --Della Street

[71] Yes I do believe my stories fall under the Romance category. The stories are based completely on the love I feel truly exists between Gabrielle and Xena. I am fascinated with it. No matter what happens around them the one thing they care about the most is each other. I find their love is constant inspiration to me. Yes my stories are passion filled, but they are predicated on Xena and Gabrielle's eternal love for each other. I don't like maudlin love stories, so I know I range a little different on how I see them together.

[72] They [her works of fan fiction] have every element of Romantic fiction. A hero, a heroine and a "problem". And they always end up "in love" - it's that happy ending thing again.

[73] Do I consider my work a "Romance?" That's hard to say. Perhaps. To some extent, it follows the conventions of that particular genre - but it's really not about sex or consummation. (Although some who read my love scenes may disagree). For me, my writing is about love and fear. It's about digging so deeply into someone and accepting them for what they are, screwed up psyche and all. And, perhaps more importantly, it's about learning to let someone that far into you - which to me, is a far more complicated proposition.
    --S. L. Bowers

More Stats

Chart V
Uber-Xena Fiction
Wrote One or More Uber Stories (primarily alt. fan fiction)63%
Are Currently Writing an Uber Story44%
Plan to Stick With Xena/Gabrielle in Ancient Greece19%
Have Plans to Write Uber04%

Chart VI
We Have:
Written a Story Because Someone Asked or Because of Reader Feedback95%
Written Works Other Than Xena Fan Fiction74%
Enjoyed Reading Romance Novels63%

We Do:
Believe the Reader/Writer Relationship is Dynamic and Significant to the Process of Creating Fan Fiction65%
Believe We Have Written Romantic Fan Fiction63%
Prefer Reading Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels30%
Primarily Write Science Fiction22%

And We Are:
New (since becoming a Xena fan) Amateur Writing Hobbyists33%
Unpublished Authors (other than Fan Fiction)29%
Professional Writers26%
Experienced Writing Hobbyists (writing earlier fan fiction, i.e. Star Trek)19%

Chart VII
One Out of Four Of Us Have Written Other Things:
Science Fiction22%
For Children03%

Final Thoughts on "Why Write?"

[74] Writing is for love, and feedback is our pay. Yes, we write for ourselves, but any time we put ourselves on the line (and that's what good writing is: pouring one's soul onto the page) there is a deep need to know that the messages were received, that what we did touched someone. We can't tell this by rating points, or volumes sold, so feedback becomes our gauge of success.

[75] However, it's important not to get so caught up in number of e-mails that we lose sight of why we write. If a story doesn't get a huge response, was it unsuccessful? I don't believe that conclusion can be drawn. I've posted stories that get very little response. Several, in fact. The short stories tend to generate only a trickle. Is it because they suck? Or is it because they're short, it doesn't take long to read them, and the reader doesn't feel as galvanized into writing as they do after an epic? If it's controversial, it will tend to generate more response. Or if it is highly sexual, that will also get a reaction. But short, general fanfic tends to be overlooked in the feedback arena. That hasn't stopped me from writing it. I still write and post and then put it out of my mind, answering the occasional e-mail it receives. After all, I like to tell stories. That's why I do it.

[76] I would imagine that many readers view my stories as romantic. Others may see them as dramatic or action adventures. I want to put in enough fodder, weave in enough layers, to let the reader find what they might be looking for. That includes what I as reader look for, which is a multi-faceted approach, interlacing many views and interpretations. In other words, reflecting what life is in all its ambiguous glory. --Baermer

[77] I'll continue to write XWP fanfic as long as I have fresh ideas. I nearly walked away after "Homecomings" simply because I'd written all of the outlines I had lined up, but then three ideas jumped on me in a single afternoon. I do enjoy feedback, particularly critical feedback which helps me improve my writing. The exercise is certainly good for me since writing is like any muscle that just withers and atrophies if not flexed properly. I still like the idea that I'm getting less freaky paranoid about being around other writers.
    --L Graham


[78] Xena: Warrior Princess has roused us. Through the creative medium of the written word hundreds of us continue to discover how much. I hope you have enjoyed this investigative project into some of the reasons why we write Xena fan fiction and the premise that romance and romantic idealism play a big part in the show itself, in our desire to write, and in our literary works of fan fiction.

[79] Thank you to Lunacy, all the Xenaverse bards (especially those who allowed themselves to be grilled. Bless them; they all said yes), and also all the webmasters, especially MaryD and Shadowfen. For more information, read the interviews that include comments about, and references to, specific stories.

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J. C. Wilder J. C. Wilder
J.C. lives near the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. She is a student of psychology and has worked in the field for many years. Her hobbies are gardening, renovating, reading, writing, being in touch with the Xenaverse at large and occasionally sleeping.
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124), RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205), THE DEBT I (52/306) and THE DEBT II (53/307)
Favorite line: Xena praying to whoever is listening: "I was ready to give up once. Then Gabrielle came into my life. Please. Don't let that light that shines out of her face go out. I couldn't stand the darkness that would follow." RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)
First episode seen: RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308)

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