Whoosh! Issue 46 - July 2000

By Lunacy
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
5686 words

Melissa Good and Xena Fan Fiction (01-03)
A Soldier's Nom De Plume (04-07)
Quite A Stretch (08-12)
The Cardiac Abode (13-14)
Bondage (15-16)
Spring's Beginning and December 21st (17-18)
Bygone Mirror Images (19-20)
Murky Stumbling (21-23)
A Trusty Hop (24-26)
Pledges Affirmed, Party!, and Animated Ring (27-28)
Daylight Savings Time (29-31)
Willy-Willy Bluster (32-37)
Testimonials (38-49)

A Very "Good" Thing for Fan Fiction

Melissa Good and Xena Fan Fiction

[1] First appearing on the Web shortly after the debut of Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) in 1995, Xena fan fiction has today become one of the most popular, dynamic, and innovative types of fan fiction available. Its growth and continued success are due in large part to the quality of writers the fandom has attracted, among whom one name has stood out practically since the day she first made her stories available.

[2] For readers of Xena fan fiction, the name Melissa Good has become as recognizable as that of commercial icons like Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, or John Grisham. For her thousands of fans, her stories frequently rank among their favorite novels, whether commercial or fan fiction. For those Xena viewers who have never read Missy before, a treat awaits them this coming season when they will get to see this gifted storyteller's talents come to life in not one but two actual XENA TV episodes[Note 01].

[3] Missy Good's accomplishments represent a validation of fan fiction. They indicate an evolution from a quirky little pastime to an increasingly relevant genre with important cultural and social significance that now has the potential to act as a training ground for aspiring writers.

A Soldier's Nom De Plume

Joxer was not in THE QUEST

Amazons aplenty in THE QUEST.

[4] Missy's debut on the Web as a Xena fan fiction writer came in April 1997, shortly after the initial airing of THE QUEST (37/213), the XWP episode which made her a fan of the series. Inspired by the depth of the relationship depicted in that episode, she wrote A Warrior By Any Other Name. Warrior explores the themes of tolerance and friendship as Xena and Gabrielle help a strange man-like creature named Jessan and his people in their struggle to survive the fear and hatred of neighboring humans.

[5] On the surface, the story seems relatively simple. Xena and Gabrielle help someone in need, make some new friends, and stop a war. Warrior resonated with Xena readers by reflecting a view of the Xena/Gabrielle relationship that seemed to effectively expand on what many of them were now seeing in the TV series.

[6] In Missy's story, Jessan is more than just a supporting character. He is our introduction to Missy's Xena and Gabrielle. Throughout the first part of the novel, we often see them through his eyes and through his heart. This is an important point considering that Jessan's people are gifted with a type of empathy that allows them to feel the emotions of others and to see into their souls. Despite humans being a natural enemy of his species, Jessan is immediately drawn to these two women and he quickly recognizes the special connection between them, a bond that is bone-deep, undeniable, and of which the two heroines seem to be unaware.

[7] At the time in the TV series, with the airing of episodes like QUEST, A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214), and A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215), subtext was reaching its zenith. Viewers were embracing the idea that a very special connection did indeed exist between warrior and bard, even if they never seemed to fully acknowledge it. Missy's first contribution to Xena fan fiction played beautifully with these readers.

Quite A Stretch

[8] If Warrior established Missy as one of the finer writers in the fandom, her second novel At a Distance quickly made her among the most popular. At the end of Warrior, though the immediate tale comes to an end, the greater story of Xena and Gabrielle feels very much unfinished. It is a story Missy expands on in Distance, which further establishes some of the landmark elements her fiction and this fan fiction series specifically have become known for.

[9] At a Distance marks the first time Missy ventures into Amazon territory. The story has Gabrielle returning to the Amazon Nation to deal with a dangerous power struggle, while Xena deals with a volatile situation of her own in Amphipolis. For Gabrielle the story acts as a coming of age piece. Recalling aspects of the episode THE QUEST (37/213), it has Gabrielle accepting her role as Amazon Queen and eventually facing off against a deadly opponent to fight for what she believes is best for her tribe. Xena, meanwhile, is reconnecting with the people from her home village.

[10] Xena's relationship with Amphipolis and Gabrielle's with the Amazons are themes the TV series has only touched upon sporadically during the past five seasons. In Missy's novels these are featured again and again as Xena slowly regains the respect and admiration of the villagers she once called neighbors and Gabrielle develops into a true leader for the Amazon Nation.

[11] Throughout Distance, despite featuring a considerable time apart for warrior and bard, the central story of Xena and Gabrielle continues to develop. Their mystical bond is once again explored as Xena's extraordinary will and fierce protectiveness comes to the fore when she senses her partner is in danger. In one of the fan fiction series' most memorable moments, the two finally acknowledge both the physical and emotional connection between them with a kiss in the middle of a rainstorm. Later, in a departure from the more explicit alternative fan fiction the fandom had gotten used to, Missy has them consummating their relationship in a very subtle scene that highlights the emotional bond over the physical.

[12] Distance also introduced one of Missy's most beloved original characters and the one that would inspire the trademark nickname used by her fans, the wolf pup, Ares. Thanks to that little guy, Missy admirers now call themselves Merpups (a reference to Missy's e-mail username "Merwolf"), or Pups for short.

The Cardiac Abode

[13] Following on the heels of At a Distance, Missy's third novel Home Is Where the Heart Is, marked a change in storytelling for her. Where the previous stories had included a significant amount humor and adventure amidst the drama, Home is a very poignant, ultimately reaffirming, and yet also bittersweet tale. The story does something that again the TV series had never done to any extent: it gives the character of Gabrielle a rich, complex history, presenting her in a very insightful new light that explains much about the bard and the choices she has made.

[14] In Home, with Xena as an ever- present source of love and support, Gabrielle comes to terms with the abuse she suffered as a child and makes a conditional peace with her parents. The other emotional journey in the story is a shared one between the bard and Xena as they gain a greater understanding of what they mean to one another and acknowledge what readers by now have known for a while, that they are each other's family and each other's home.


[15] Surprising readers and reviewers who did not think Missy's storytelling could get any better, her fourth novel, Bound, eclipsed anything she had done before and remains today among her most acclaimed works. The story follows Xena and Gabrielle as they travel back to the land of the forest dwellers they first met in A Warrior By Any Other Name. They are intent on spending time with their friend Jessan, yet are also motivated by a growing need to understand the bond they now can easily feel between themselves. More than any of Missy's previous novels, Bound explores the character of Xena in depth, as a debilitating injury makes her emotionally and physically vulnerable. Throughout the warrior's recovery, Missy highlights the extraordinary will that is a staple of the character both in the TV series and in fan fiction.

[16] In Bound, Xena realizes that her dark side is both a threat to Jessan's people and precisely what they need to save them. Missy also first touches upon a story she will explore later in her first Uber. But before moving on to that, she will spend a little more time with the warrior and bard.

Spring's Beginning and December 21st

Joxer was in KINDRED SPIRITS but caused some problems.

Gabrielle and Xena settle down briefly in KINDRED SPIRITS.

[17] The next two novels, Winter's Ending and The Longest Night have Xena and Gabrielle settling down and starting their lives together in Amphipolis, but trouble is never far away from these two.

[18] Missy masterfully combines humor, angst, the sentimental moments that have become classics with her readers, and an increasingly more sophisticated brand of storytelling to deepen the Xena/Gabrielle relationship and spotlight a wonderful supporting cast.

Bygone Mirror Images

[19] Particularly notable is her seventh novel, Reflections from the Past, which also stands out as her first Uber. Xena and Gabrielle are in this tale and sharing some wonderful memories from their life together, but Reflections is not as much their story as it is that of a Celtic village girl named Ardwyn, and Elevown, the enigmatic Viking warrior who captures her heart. In a very original twist to the standard Uber formula we had seen up to that point, Missy writes a story here that does not look at the Xena and Gabrielle archetypes in a future time. She put the Ubers into the past, suggesting for one of the first times in the fandom that the Greek incarnations are not the first time these two souls have come together.

[20] Stylistically, Reflections is an amazing tour de force. Missy introduces a new writing style to differentiate the Elevown/Ardwyn scenes from those of Xena and Gabrielle. She has Gabrielle reading the ancient scrolls Ardwyn wrote so the Uber sections are written as if they are parts of a journal, in first person and in a style that recalls the speech pattern of Ancient Celts. Missy has often claimed that when she writes, she is basically recording the scenes she sees in her mind and the dialogue she hears from these imaginary characters. Reflections is a good example of this. When asked about the unusual style, Missy responds:

If I said I chose it on purpose, I'd be lying...When I came to write the sections, the voice was just there. Celts, and the Welsh in particular, use the language like few others do - you can see it in Welsh speakers of English like Richard Burton - they give the language true music, and that's what I heard when I transcribed Ardwyn.

Murky Stumbling

[21] The relative peace Xena and Gabrielle enjoy in Reflections, comes to an end in its sequel Darkness Falls, which becomes Missy's answer to the third season rift. Her most serious and, arguably, most emotional novel, Darkness Falls presents a slightly less violent version of the rift, but one that for many readers proved even more dramatic.

[22] Given the depth of love, tenderness, and commitment which had increasingly characterized the relationship between warrior and bard throughout Missy's works, it is especially heart wrenching to see that relationship in pieces at the beginning of this story. Missy changes the events viewers saw on TV just a bit, but other than that, she plunges headlong into the trauma of the rift chronicling a much more realistic emotional journey for Xena and Gabrielle as they start on the path back to one another.

[23] There is no Illusia in this story and no instant musical resolutions. The characters have to come to terms with the issues that drove them apart and have to work hard to rebuild the trust between them.

A Trusty Hop

[24] With one of the most symbolic titles of all of Missy's novels, the ninth novel in the series, Leap of Faith, elevates the relationship to a new level, revealing an understanding between the soulmates, an acceptance of one another, and a magical quality to their connection that makes anything possible. On the surface, the title refers to an amazing jump Xena executes while in the process of rescuing her partner. On a more symbolic level, the title alludes as well to what Xena and Gabrielle's relationship has been like. At one point Xena takes the bard to an old haunt of hers and we get this scene:

Xena stopped under the tree, and looked up, then looked at her.

"My childhood refuge."

Gabrielle tipped her head back, and gazed upward. A faint giggle worked its way up through her throat. "It figures," she said, giving her partner a wry roll of her eyes. Then a determined look crossed her face, as she circled the tree, "Is there a route up?"

Xena's eyebrows rose. "You don't...um... have to go up there, you know." She watched the bard's slim form maneuver around the trunk, the tip of her tongue appearing as she studied the problem. "But I guess you want to, huh?"

So they did...Xena leaping up and catching a hold, then extending a careful arm down to pull her soulmate up, as they worked their way to the top of the tree, where she lifted Gabrielle over and into the cuplike depression she'd so recently been resting in.

"There you go."

Gabrielle leaned back against the bark and crossed her arms, taking a deep breath of the sweet air and enjoying the sights.

"It's beautiful here." She looked down. "Climbing this tree was an interesting experience...it was scary, and it was hard, but you end up in a nice, secure place with a great view." She paused, and lifted her eyes to Xena's. "It's kind of what getting to know you has been like...".

Xena blinked at her, vaguely startled.

[25] In this very subtle way Missy validates, for both of these characters and the readers, the struggle they have been through to be together. Despite Xena's dark past, despite the two of them coming from such different worlds, despite the recent problems that nearly destroyed them, for Gabrielle and for us, the journey has been worth it.

[26] The title has a third meaning, though confirmation of it would not come for a few more novels yet. In what is perhaps the most memorable scene in all of Missy's stories to date, the conversation above leads to a physical intimacy between warrior and bard that eventually proves to be quite magical. While sharing an apple and a kiss, Xena transfers an apple seed from her mouth to her soulmate's. The connection between them triggers a spark of life in that instant that would nine months later result in Dori, the child of Xena and Gabrielle. The readers, much like the warrior and bard themselves, must make a "Leap of Faith" in embracing this development, but it is a certainty that is easy for them to embrace because the love Missy depicts between these characters seems to make anything possible.

Pledges Affirmed, Party! and Animated Ring

[27] The next two novels, Promises Kept and Festival, feature Missy's traditional mix of adventure, humor, and drama as they lead to Dori's debut in Circle of Life. Missy's introduction of a baby into the lives of these characters happened in fan fiction long before it did in the TV series, with the specific storyline developing into a much more successful one with readers.

[28] Both storylines involved a certain amount of magic, but Missy kept hers purposely vague, even including the possibility of a traditional conception to keep readers and the characters guessing. The real difference in the storylines though is in how Missy's remained, at heart, a tale about human beings finding love, finding acceptance, and finding redemption and peace through their own efforts and their relationships. On the other hand, the baby storyline in the TV series initiated a grandiose tale about divine beings, a struggle between gods and a hero, who ultimately to remain a hero needed to become more than human.

Daylight Savings Time

Joxer was not remembered in REMEMBER NOTHING

Xena reunites briefly with Lyceus in REMEMBER NOTHING.

[29] The latest story in what is now known as the Journey Of Soulmates Series is a fan fiction epic, a marvelous tale which spotlights every strength in Missy's writing. At roughly 550 pages, Dark Comes the Morning also became her longest novel to date. The story seems to bring Xena's life full circle when she finds herself once again fighting to protect Amphipolis as she did long ago with her now dead brother Lyceus. This time, however, circumstances are very different.

[30] A seasoned warrior, Xena now has years of battle experience behind her and an emotional support from her soulmate, friends, and neighbors. The dark side, which has always been an integral part of the character, however, remains, and it is the struggle to control that side which is at the heart of the story. Missy presents us with a depiction of Xena that in places is as dark or darker than anything we have seen in the TV series. Yet she once again validates who and what Xena is by showing us how that darkness in the character is precisely what tends to give Xena the added ferocity and determination needed to overcome whatever challenges are placed in her way.

[31] With the Journey Of Soulmates Series, Missy has taken the characters of Xena and Gabrielle in a very different direction from the TV series. The earlier novels in the series often would incorporate aspects of the TV story, but with season four, Missy mostly stopped doing that, choosing to completely ignore the India arc and more recently the Eve storyline. Missy has been instrumental in inspiring this trend among fan fiction bards to write their own history for Xena and Gabrielle, essentially ignoring less appealing developments in the TV story.

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