Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards And One Reviewer: Rare, Medium And Supertoasty

5. Bongo Bear

Interview July 22, 1998

[169] *Xena Fan Fiction Works were found as indicated and If you decide to visit these websites, please pay careful attention to the disclaimers that introduce each story regarding violence and/or sexual content:

  1. A Christmas Wish [alt]
  2. The Hitch Hiker [alt]
  3. Jealousy [alt]
  4. The Personals [alt]
  5. The Price of Innocence [alt]
  6. The Queen of Air and Darkness [alt]
  7. A Shower Scene [alt]
  8. Tears of Silver [alt]
  9. Wedding Gift [alt]
  10. Xena Goes on Strike [alt]
  11. Fracas at the Forum Inn (co-author, Jaybird) [alt]
  12. Alternative Fan Fiction Cliche‚ List [alt] Bongo Bear et al
  13. Three Wishes [alt]
  14. Roommates [alt]
Question #01:
[170] What has been your inspiration for writing fan fiction?

Bongo Bear:
[171] The challenge is the reason why I started writing fan fiction in the first place. I read alternative fanfic extensively prior to even thinking about writing one of my own. I read some of the general fanfic, but frankly didn't find that genre nearly as inspiring. It wasn't until I read about Iapetus' Second Annual Bard Contest did I feel the impetus to take the plunge and put something out for others to judge.

[172] What is inspiring about altfic is the emotional intensity. Deep personal relationships are always at the heart of the altfic, whether explicit like a tryst in an Amazon hut or tame like a quiet meal around the campfire. Xena and Gabrielle are like two sides of the same coin. They are destined to become as one.

[173] I don't much care for being subsumed by anybody, even if she's Xena. I like the ideal of an equal partnership in an intimate relationship. The altfic had the greatest potential for exploring just such equalities. Love among peers is harder to achieve and maintain, but I think it's more honest than love based on dependency.

Question #02:
[174] Has your motivation changed over time?

Bongo Bear:
[175] At first, it really was an intellectual exercise, then it became an increasingly personal form of expression for me. Not to say that the stories are autobiographical, though some bits are. Which bits? The naughty ones, of course. ;-)

[176] Seriously, writing is therapy without the couch. It's an excellent way to purge all the dark and weird stuff swirling around inside. Nearly all of it ends up on the Net because in real life I'm a bashful exhibitionist who's finally found a happy medium.

[177] Of course, it always helped to read some fan mail in the inbox every once in a while. Even the "I can't believe you wrote this %@&$#" peppered among the positive responses were worth the effort.

Question #03:
[178] Have you written other fiction?

Bongo Bear:
[179] I have written a couple of short stories for a general audience. These stories were submissions to a short story contest and not available on the Net. I think they're packed away in a musty drawer somewhere. I wrote one non-Xena short story called "Intimate Strangers" with you (J.C. Wilder). It's also an alternative fiction piece. You took the bones of my story and fleshed it out with the mushy stuff. You're a great mush-baller.

[180] That story didn't get much response. I think readers accustomed to XWP fanfic from the Bongo Bear byline were expecting something else. Something more sarcastic and less personal perhaps? Who knows?

Question #04:
[181] Do you, or have you ever, like(d) reading Romantic fiction prior to Xena fan fiction?

Bongo Bear:
[182] I have read one romance novel in my life. It left such an impression that I can't remember the title. The cover did feature a bodice-ripping male bent seductively over a comely-looking woman with her head thrown back. She appeared to be panting ecstatically while wearing period costume. Does that help pin it down? No? How about this: he had chest hair. Thick and luxurious chest hair. More chest hair than most bears, including this one. Most of the cover-boys don't have much body hair, but the hair on their heads can go down to their butts. What gives?

[183] Anyway, after slogging through it, I decided that I didn't care for the genre at all. Part of the reason is that I'm not a terribly romantic person. Passionate, perhaps; sentimental, definitely not. I can't write about what's not there inside. That's one reason why my stories often lack that romantic element most women can't seem to get enough of. The types of fiction on my bookshelf include erotica, contemporary and gothic horror, satire, science fiction, historical fiction and fantasy. Just about every genre except mystery and, of course, romance.

Question #05:
[184] In your opinion, is XWP a romantic show? Why or why not? (i.e., It's action; adventure; drama; melodrama; fantasy...)

Bongo Bear:
[185] The show itself varies so much from episode to episode that the best I can say is that it's been all of those categories at one time or another. The underlying theme throughout is the close bond between the female leads. Yes, I'm talking about subtext. For those fans who recognize it, the show does have its romantic moments. Don't let those the boytoy of the week episodes fool you. Okay, Marcus was a boy, most certainly not a toy, but he died a couple of times. Red-shirted at the end, ya know?

Question #06:
[186] Do you believe that any of your stories fall under the genre of Romance?

Bongo Bear:
[187] The closest thing to romance would be "The Wedding Gift". It screamed "Cliche". It had that candle-lit bath tub scene in it plus the toys and fluffy towels. Oh yes, those delicious toys.... Ummm, right. Performance anxiety has sparked many a romantic encounter. Next question?

Question #07:
[188] Are any of your stories as much of a reflection of what it's like to be lesbian in modern times as it is about pre-Mycenaean (uber-Xena time if applicable here) times?

Bongo Bear:
[189] No one story covers both modern and pre-Mycenaean time periods. Only the Uber-Xena tales of The Hitch Hiker and The Price of Innocence are in a contemporary setting.

[190] As far as being a reflection of lesbian life, I'd say any fictional reflection is a dim one at best. I wrote the lesbian relationship as a given and had the Uber characters in particular behave like couples I've known in real life. Real world couples stay in bed late on Saturday mornings and make love until the cat pushes the door open so he can come into the bedroom and watch. They annoy each other with bad habits like not replacing the empty toilet paper roll and putting it in backwards when they do remember. They give each other a shoulder to cry on when the car leaves paint on the third guard rail that week. They lie in bed at night and wonder if their partner is really happy or if that cutie at the mall has something better to offer.

[191] I think a realistic depiction of lesbian life would have to include the stress from the double-lives so many closeted lesbians and bi-sexuals have to endure. If they are in a relationship with another woman, they are not completely free to express their love and affection openly. It's a privilege heterosexuals take for granted in American society. Married women who have discovered that they are bi-sexual or lesbian have to re-evaluate the choices they've made in their lives. And they can't realistically depend on their male partners to help them make those decisions. That's got to be incredibly difficult to face alone.

[192] It takes more than one person to answer the question: Who am I? Maybe that's why the Amazon stories are so appealing. That is the one place, the one society, where women can drop all the facades and be themselves. The answer to the question of sexual identity doesn't carry with it a negative judgment.

[193] Sorry, got carried away on a random thought and took a tangential trajectory into the Twilight Zone. What else did you want to know?

Question #08:
[194] Your writing runs the gamut from humorous to violent and sometimes violent and humorous both in the same story ("Fracas at the Forum Inn" comes to mind). This isn't unusual considering XWP does the same thing. Do you have any thoughts you can share about your sense of humor being described as "...fun and yes quirky" (see Lunacy's review of "A Shower Scene")?

Bongo Bear:
[195] I prefer to think of my humor as iconoclastic and dry with a touch of kinkiness to moisten it. Does "quirky" cover that?

Question #09:
[196] Was "The Hitch Hiker" your first story and did reader response play a part in your decision to write the sequel, "The Price of Innocence"?

Bongo Bear:
[197] Actually, "The Hitch Hiker" was the third story. "Tears of Silver", a fairly conventional piece, was the first. Paul Seely, who later co-wrote that fantastic story, "Surfacing", sent an email suggesting that I investigate the inherent conflicts between Xena and Gabby and their Uber-incarnations. Thus "The Price of Innocence" was born.

[198] Now people complained that the ending to "Price" didn't seem right. I really intended to end the story with the ultimate price being paid. Ever a slave to popular demand and with nothing better to do, I am writing the third and final part, tentatively titled Conspiracy Theory. The concluding sequel will not necessarily reverse the damage done in "Price".

Question #10:
[199] "Hitch Hiker" has been described as a Romance and "The Price of Innocence" as Drama. What are your thoughts about the similarities and differences between these two works?

Bongo Bear:
[200] "Hitch Hiker" is about as close to a first-time XWP story as you're going to see in my repertoire thus far. As such, it falls more easily in the romance genre. "Price" was intended to be a criticism of Gabby's pre-season three characterization on the show. To make that point sharper, the story had to end tragically.

Question #11:
[201] The "Alternative Fan Fiction Cliche List" is humorous and it also carries a message and a challenge to fan fiction authors. Do you believe there are both pros and cons attached to the message?

Bongo Bear:
[202] The message I wanted to send with the Cliche List was that the altfic was becoming too formulamatic and undifferentiated, much like the commercial romantic fiction and Wonderbread. The originality and daring of the first altfic stories completely enamored me to that genre and I didn't want to lose that lovin' feeling.

[203] The List generated quite a few responses, most of which were fans' particular pet peeves about the altfic. I thought about posting an addendum to the current List, then I realized that another twenty items would be another twenty things bards would feel self-conscious about. So, they sit unpublished in my email archive.

[204] I don't regret publishing the original list. I really do think altfic bards have generally depended on the same devices too much. My only desire is that the new bards in particular read up on the genre and try to go beyond what's already been done. Altfic is a vibrant artform and will remain so as long as bards are willing to break into virgin territory.

Question #12:
[205] Which of your works on the Net are your favorites to date?

Bongo Bear:
[206] I don't play favorites. All of these stories are my babies.

Question #13:
[207] To date, which of your stories have received the most reader response?

Bongo Bear:
[208] "Fracas" received the most response in the email and on the Net Forum where it was first published. The story with the least response is "The Queen of Air and Darkness". I guess folks couldn't get past the dreariness to the happy ending.

Question #14:
[209] There is some controversy about what uber-Xena fiction is. What is your current definition of a completely uber story? Do you think you will ever write such a story?

Bongo Bear:
[210] A purely Uber story has the essence of Xena and Gabrielle in their character's behavior. Their physical appearance is really secondary and only useful for identifying the Uber-Xena and Uber-Gabby for the readers. It doesn't matter if that essence is inherited or transmigrated from the Elysian Fields or merely coincidental. The important part is that the ineffable essence which defines their bond remains even when Xena and Gabrielle are not even in the story.

[211] The premises of the Ubers' existence in "The Hitch Hiker" and "Price" are actually closer to the TV series. The characters are direct descendants, kinda look like our heroes, and the soul of one takes over the body of her descendant. They take turns, much like a time-share condo.

[212] Since you're asking, yes, I will write a pure Uber story. In fact, I'm writing one right now. It's called "Under the Big Top".

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Lunacy | Baermer | Bat Morda | B.L. Miller | Bongo Bear | C.N. Winters | Della Street | DJWP | Ella Quince | Hobbes | Jenbob | Joanna | Katrina | L Graham | L.N. James | Lyssa | Marie E. Costa | Missy Good | PB | Paul Seely | Puckster | Quest | sHaYcH | S.L. Bowers | Tim Wellman | J.C. Wilder | Wishes | WordWarior

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