A FAN'S FIRST INTRODUCTION TO FAN-FICTION
IAXS Project #147
By Merry Gilmore (Merryg@hotmail.com)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
One of the most fruitful endeavors of Xena fandom is fan fiction. There are now zillions of websites featuring or devoted to Xena fan fiction. A great place to start is: http://www.xenafan.com/fiction.
A FAN'S FIRST INTRODUCTION TO FAN-FICTION
Lucy Lawless appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno
 In a post-Leno mishap interview Lucy Lawless suggested that one way XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS might deal with the injury was by showing more of the stuff that happens between the fights. After spending a few weeks catching up on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS Fan Fiction, I think I already know what happens between the fights. I know what they eat. I know what they discuss (the laundry, what they can and can't afford, etc). I'm still waiting to hear where the dinars come from. Gabrielle can't earn enough by collecting coins in inns where she tells her tales. I know what Xena is thinking on her way to new battles, what Gabrielle and Xena do around the campfire. More than anything the producers have given us, fan fiction gives us the private and often the inner lives of Xena and company. In so doing, fan fiction reveals a great deal about how fans really see the Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle reacts to Xena's mortal wounding in DESTINY
 Certain themes recur in fan fiction. Things happen to Xena that seldom happen on the show. In fan fiction Xena is regularly pierced by arrows and/or spears. She bleeds, copiously. She is left helpless, to be tended by the ever faithful Gabrielle, in charge for a change. The invincible Xena, who defeats whole armies almost single-handedly, is made vulnerable. The bruiseless (since THE GAUNTLET, HTLJ #12) Xena is brutalized. The ever-in-control Xena is so consumed by guilt and psychic pain that she weeps. Why is this? Do fans have a secret desire to see Xena brought low? To see the mighty fall? Is there some sadistic longing to see Xena suffer?
 I don't think any of that motivates the scenarios. I believe fans, on the contrary, want to see good things happen to Xena. We like to see her treated well. It happens too infrequently. Even Gabrielle, maybe Gabrielle most of all, has hurt the Warrior Princess. Xena is made vulnerable because only then can she be made to accept the intimacy and kindness she so often does not get.
 Consider what can and does happen in fan fiction when Xena is incapacitated: tender, competent Gabrielle practices the healing arts she learned from Xena. All the while we can hear her thoughts: Gabrielle worships Xena. Gabrielle feels pain for Xena. Gabrielle would live for Xena. Gabrielle would die for Xena. Gabrielle loves Xena. And Xena weakens. The mask cracks. She says what we all know. O.K. No surprises here. We know all the above from the few quiet moments the two share each episode. Those quiet fleeting moments. Fan fiction gives voice to what so many (dare I say all?) fans want to hear, and never do. Xena is made able to hear those things and respond in kind because she is too weak to resist the intimacy.
 Fan writers, and their enthusiastic audiences, know the way to break down the walls of Xena's self-erected emotional prison. Those walls are seldom breached in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. When they do fall, the results depend on the fan fiction site you are visiting. Some sites are content with an affectionate, chaste, appreciative expression of mutual friendship and devotion. Other sites have a climactic scene of passionately declared love and exuberant sex. As fans debate the question on the series, fan fiction writers each answer the question in their own way.
In IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, everyone gave up except Xena
 A theme related to Xena's vulnerability is the question of Xena's emotional distress. The Guilt thing. Of course, it's been made clear since the beginning that Xena carries a truckload of guilt on her shoulders. She has submitted to patent injustice in THE RECKONING (#06), wept out her regrets to her dead brother and her mother in REMEMBER NOTHING (#26), and shown mercy (at first) to Callisto in CALLISTO (#22), the monster "created" by her bloodlust, and sworn to compensate for the innocent blood she has spilled. We have seen Xena's guilt on the television screen in these ways. But more often we see the enigmatic face, the face that masks vulnerabilities. When Gabrielle in THE GREATER GOOD (#21) asks, "Do you want to talk about it?" she shows herself most clearly as Xena's peripatetic shrink. And Xena does talks about it. In CALLISTO, she sheds a tear, she confesses her fear that she could be that monster again, if anything happened to "... mother, or Hercules. Or you [Gabrielle]." This moment by the campfire when barriers are broken down is one of the few on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. It has become a fan favorite.
Gabrielle offers Xena counsel and companionship
 Fan fiction, on the other hand, has many, many scenes by the campfire. Many barriers are broken down, effectively, touchingly and to good purpose. Those campfires illuminate more than the campsite. They light the dark recesses of the heart of the Warrior Princess. Again, they fill in the gaps, say the words that are not said on camera. Again, these scenes are not written or read to glory in Xena's frailties, but in order that we may understand her pain, and watch it be alleviated. We see the face we seldom see on the TV screen, the soft side of Xena.
 Other themes are dealt with in the bounty of fan fiction on-line. Some stories focus on the gods interfering, on clever plot devices, on magic or are exercises in action and suspense. This is not meant to be an encyclopedic or critical analysis of the wealth of stories, poetry and very funny parodies that are available. I enjoy the efforts, and think XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS must have the most talented fans writing. As a fan, and a reader, I enjoy figuring out the common themes of what I read, and pondering why I like to read it.
As they walk into the set set...