Whoosh! Issue 53 - February 2001

ASCENT IINTO MADNESS:
THE STORY OF MY PERSONAL CONVERSION TO FANDOM

By Emily Mills
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! Edition copyright ©2000 held by Whoosh!
2790 words




Introduction (01-02)
Seeds of Obsession (03-04)
Background Check (05)
Springtime for A Closeted Xena Geek (06-08)
A General Malaise, or, When I Realized I Had A Problem (09-11)
It Is Warmer Standing In the Sun (12-13)
The Inevitable, Inedible Backlash (14)
The Results Are In (15-17)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (18-20)
Biography



Ascent Into Madness:
the Story of My Personal Conversion to Fandom




Introduction



I can't believe that Gabrielle is better at this than me

Xena, kicking hinder and taking names.


[01] At this point you are probably already thinking, "Oh great, another 'coming out' story." Well yes, yes it is. This is the story of my crazy and secretive conversion to the world of Xena fandom. I chose to write about this because it was a good way to learn how to write an article for the nutty people at WHOOSH!, whose ranks I have finally officially joined.

[02] I have read WHOOSH quite religiously for a while but just recently worked up the nerve to actually join. A momentous occasion, I assure you. Why is that? Because this is the first time I have made my obsession with the phenomenon known as Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP) official. My "outing" process has been slow and at times very painful, but overall, it has been rewarding. Here now is the abridged version of this sordid tale.


Seeds of Obsession

[03] I vaguely remember watching a completely bizarre, nutball television show one day in 1995-6. I was 14 years of age. I sat in the living room with my father on that fateful night and we both laughed and enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek program. Both of us share a love for quirky, unique, and yet intelligently humorous shows, and this one appealed to us. For the rest of that year I would watch this strange show off and on, whenever I happened to catch it, but it had no more affect on me than giving me something to chuckle at. This now and again habit continued all throughout my freshmen year of high school. Then, for reasons unbeknownst to me—be it fate, perhaps?—I began watching XWP regularly.

[04] I did not tell anyone about my viewing habits. At this point, I still had a decent grip on sanity, but something was changing. I was changing. Many a crazy thing went on that year and, though I will not go into them, take my word for it that it was a very bad time for me. Throughout all of the surreality and trauma, there remained this one constant, this one outlet for the part of my mind that needed to escape occasionally. This story of two incredible women who were strong and independent but still felt pain, happiness, sorrow, joy, grief, and love. All these things I knew in my life and so it was terribly reassuring to see them acted out in such an incredible manner. Thus, the seeds of my obsession were sown in secret, waiting for the right time to spring forth into full-bloom, and to scare the living daylights of me.


Background Check

[05] I have always been more of the type to go outside, play adventurer, climb trees, or go on hikes. I still am. I prefer imagining something and then going out and doing it. I was, and still am, an avid book reader, but I was outside cavorting just as much, if not more. TV has never been a big thing for me and in fact there are only two other shows that I can think of that I watched regularly before: Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (TV, 1988-1999) was the first, and then came Absolutely Fabulous (TV UK, 1992-1996). I watched the shows quite frequently and even taped a few, but nothing could prepare me for the full-time job that is Xena fandom.


Springtime for A Closeted XenaGeek

[06] In the summer of '98, I moved from the stagnant, white bread suburban wasteland of Geneva, IL, a suburb of Chicago, to the stagnant, straight-up wasteland of Ardmore, Oklahoma. It was a wee bit traumatizing, as you can imagine. That summer, I went insane. Looking back, I think it is important for everyone to go a little mad now and then, just so long as you come out of it having learned something from the experience. I will not go into my personal revelations, but when it was time to start school at this new institution of learning, and 'institution' being the operative word here, I was ready to be around people again, to make friends.

[07] The good Fates smiled upon me when I was introduced, or rather, I introduced myself by telling a story about the time I stabbed a guy with a pencil after he had been harassing me for years, to a girl named Jenny. After knowing her for only a brief time, I came to discover something wonderful: she was a Xenite. "Praise be!" I thought, "There are others like me!"

[08] Jenny quickly became my enabler, making sure to remind me when a new episode was on and always willing to let me borrow tapes of older episodes I had missed during my lax years. I began to accumulate a great wealth of knowledge about the show and we would have in-depth conversations over the most recent episode or where we thought a story arc was headed, etc. My interest in the show began to mutate and took on a life of its own. It even took a specific direction. While Jenny was an avid Joxer fan, which I try not to hold it against her, I began to walk a slightly less forbidden path, but one equally strewn with trouble and snares. Yes, ladies and gents, I am a Gabrielle-lovin' fool. Or as Jenny would put it, a "GabbySlut". Do not get me wrong, I still think Xena is a kick-butt character, probably the one I identify with more, but somehow I began defending Gabrielle against the snide remarks most people made about her character. This would be where the obsession becomes more noticeable. Then I discovered the Internet.


A General Malaise, or, When I Realized I Had A Problem



Just a minute, I'm on the throne!

Meg, impersonating a princess, waxes philosophical.


[09] I did not really "discover" the Internet then, that would make me incredibly slow in keeping up with the times, but rather I discovered the world of Xenites online. Jenny showed me a website called WHOOSH and I began to read what was there. At first, I only scanned articles and kept track of when new episodes were coming out. Nevertheless, slowly it drew me in. I consumed every bit of writing I could get my digital paws on, every article, FAQ, rumor, commentary, whatever. I was hooked. When I exhausted the resources on the actual WHOOSH site, I started looking around for other places. The most pivotal moment, I would have to say would have been when I stumbled into the Uber über Alles section of WHOOSH and discovered the twisted world of fan fiction. Therefore, I took the back door in because the uber was the first stuff I read and then I moved onto regular fan fiction. However, I digress.

[10]The first piece of fan fiction I ever read was the already famous Tropical Storm by Missy Good. Let us just say that it was all over from there. I went on to read every fan fiction she had ever written, staying up until all hours on school nights to finish them. I managed to keep my two worlds separate though, functioning in my regular social life and doing school work, going to parties and concerts. Then I would hole myself up in my room with my computer and read. A lot.

[11] Then it hit me. I realized that I had probably surpassed Jenny in devotion to the show and that, frankly, scared me. I did not tell even her about my avid reading of fan fiction and I certainly did not tell any of my non-Xena friends. My reasons for loving the show were too complicated and plain silly, to explain to people who did not watch it themselves. I was very good at staying closeted. I had no desire to move my obsession into the more public realm of mailing lists, fan clubs, or anything of the sort. I never bought Xena merchandise and I certainly did not go to any conventions, but that, admittedly, was because I have no money. I was ashamed of liking this strange show so much.


It is Warmer Standing In the Sun

[12] As fifth season progressed, however, I began to get careless when it came to hiding my obsession, because by now I had recognized it as such. My dad knew and Jenny knew. My dad even bought me a little dollar bill at some minister's retreat he went on that had a picture of Xena pasted in where the president's mug should have been. I hung it on the wall in my room. It was one of the first tentative steps towards what would eventually become my "coming out".

[13] I started dropping hints to Jenny that I read fan fiction. When she did not laugh at me, I did not try to hide it any more. I mentioned Xena every so often to other friends as well. While at first they giggled and shook their heads, eventually it was just something that they accepted. I even began to find others who watched the show on occasion as a sort of guilty pleasure. The more I paid attention to the biographies of those who contributed articles to WHOOSH, the more I realized that these were people of all genders, races, nationalities, and from all walks of life. What an amazing community! Though I was a silent, shadowy member of that community, I still felt comforted by its very presence. I was reassured that yes, I am a dork, but I like dorks and there are plenty of them out there.


The Inevitable, Inedible Backlash

[14] Some individuals find my obsession with the show to be a horrid, deplorable thing. I deal with this as it happens. I hold up my head, grin maniacally, and assure them that yes, I know I am obsessed and yes, I know it is a weird show. However, I love the weird show and that is that.


The Results Are In



How much do you think I can get for *my* autograph?!

Minya, fandom personified.


[15] Therefore, here I am, a fan. A hardcore nutball fan even. I still limit my merchandise purchases to the official Xena magazine even though I get a little red in the face when I bring it up to the desk at the Borders to buy it because the boy behind the counter always looks at me funny. I also buy plenty of blank tapes to aid me on my quest to record every episode. God bless the Sci-Fi channel. A friend/roommate of mine, because now I live in Madison, Wisconsin to attend college (hooray!), brings me Xena comics whenever they come out because her work gets them free. Another enabler. All of my roommates also know that every Saturday night from 5 to 6PM is when you do not bother Emily because she is glued to the TV for Xena night! In addition, they know that every weekday from 4 to 5pm there is a tape in the VCR, diligently recording the Sci-Fi channel.

[16] I should address something I said at the beginning of this article, though. I said that joining WHOOSH was my "first time making my obsession with Xena something official". This is not entirely true. At the beginning of this year (2000), I began writing a story. I have always been a writer, for as long as my memory stretches, and was up until that time writing mostly short stories in an attempt to gently ease myself out of a terrible writer's block that I had been suffering from for over a year. After having read so much great fan fiction and uber, I decided to try my hand at it. What started as a small experiment, however, grew into something quite long and drawn out and thus was born my very first uber and very first fan fiction. I decided to end it after reaching 114 pages because I was so thrilled that I had managed to write something that long that had a plot and made sense for the first time in a long while.

[17] Then I began a sequel, thanks in part to the encouragement I had received from a friend of mine who had really liked the first story. It has now turned into the second half of the original story. At this point, it is only posted on my personal website, along with a number of other short stories that I have written, and I am still in the process of writing the sequel/second half. Nevertheless, here we have an example of how Xena helped me get out of a slump, in this case writer's block, an example of one of the many ways in which being a hardcore nutball has benefited me.


Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

[18] I just wanted to make an obscure Russ Meyer reference. Now where was I? Oh yes, in conclusion, the road to fandom has been a strange and twisted journey full of surprises, both good and bad. The question I get the most is, "Why do you like the show so much?", and I am sure most of you have gotten that question more than a few times as well. The answer is a tricky one. Why do I like this darn show so much? If you put together every reason ever given by the other authors of great WHOOSH reading material for why they love the show, that would pretty-much sum it up for me. I do not need to reiterate what all of you probably already know and understand.

[19] Xena is a fabulous, intelligent, cheeky, influential, moving, sometimes profound, sometimes shallow as all get-out, strange and wonderful world that has been generously given to us to enjoy by all of the extremely talented people involved in the making of it. Whether you are a poor deluded Joxer fan, but hey, we do not hold it against you; an avid Xenaphile, and there should be at least some of that in all of us; a GabbyNut, up with Gabby! Hail the BGSB! Pwaise Hestia!; or an Ares type of nut, and man is he sexy; subtexters., and I am one, oh yes; and those of you into the strictly platonic scene, I like to combine this with the former, personally; all are united in one thing, a strange and wonderful love for this phenomenon known as Xena: Warrior Princess.

[20] The closet was stuffy and smelled like mothballs, so I got out of it, and discovered that, to quote my favorite bard, it is "warmer standing in the sun."



Biography

emily mills Emily Mills

Emily is a freshmen at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin and is majoring in English (with a concentration in writing) and minoring in Theatre. She currently lives with five other girls in a house they have dubbed "Dame County," and they have a pet rabbit named Colonel Nadia. Emily hopes to do anything and everything possible during her life, including much travel and meeting of new people. She is an avid history buff, reads like a madwoman, but also DJs and plays the drums when she is feeling saucy. She is endlessly grateful to be living in Madison now as she was living in Oklahoma for two years prior. She does, however, miss the fabulous friends she made down in that land beyond the pale. Emily would also like to say that if anyone is interested in taking a peek at any of her writing she would be most flattered; it is all available on her website.

Favorite episode: "The Abyss", "Ides of March", "Fallen Angel", "A Day In the Life", etc.
Favorite line: "If I had to go the rest of my life without companionship, knowing myself wouldn't be a problem." -Gabrielle in "Warrior...Priestess...Tramp". "But you're my source, Gabrielle. Don't you know that by know? Everytime I reach down inside myself and do things I'm not capable of, it's because of you." -Xena in "One Against An Army.
First episode seen: "Dreamworker"
Least favorite episode: I am known for being able to find joy in even the most joyless episodes, but I would have to say that the task was very difficult when it came to "Married With Fishticks". We all have our off days.

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