Toronto
5 min

Luscious Lucy gets naked

Gazillions of fans imagine Xena & Gabrielle doing the nasty

QUIET MOMENT. Big toughie Xena shares an intimate moment with "friend" Gabrielle Credit: Xtra files

“I just want you to understand – really understand – what you mean to me. I… I want to show you, Gabrielle. I want to show you how much I love you.”



Xena found her friend’s face and touched it gently, closing the distance between them, kissing the bard with a fleeting caress. “Will you let me do that? Let me show you how I feel?” she whispered.



“Yes…” answered Gabrielle. “Please…”



Is this the scene from Xena: Warrior Princess that rabid lesbian fans around the world have been waiting for?



Not likely. This touching moment is part of the world of Xena fan fiction, a nugget from the story Truth Or Dare by WordWarior.



Widespread on the Internet, fan fiction allows fans of television shows, mostly science fiction and fantasy, to explore what will never make it on screen.



For Xena fans, there’s a little of everything: romance, adventure, drama, and down and dirty sex stories, all involving the tall, dark and mysterious warrior princess and her best friend Gabrielle. Some of it’s strait-laced, but stories portray the two women as lovers.



The World Wide Web is crawling with fan fiction sites dedicated to the X-Files (lots of Mulder and Scully smooching), Star Trek (it all began with “slash fiction” exploring the sexual relationship between Spock and Capt Kirk), Buffy The Vampire Slayer and just about anything else…. The fan fiction lives on long after the series has thankfully been laid to rest.



Xena fan fiction is an explosive growth industry. Over the past two years the number of on-line, fan-created stories dedicated to the heroes and anti-heroes of this mythological world have skyrocketed from about 100 to well over 2,000. There are about 800 bards worldwide, says Kevin Unverferth, who runs The Athenaeum, a comprehensive computerized database of Xena fan fiction. It averages 6,000 hits a day.



“People who enjoy the TV series will almost certainly like the fan fiction even better,” he says.



Even the producers of the show – whom you’d think would be worried about royalties – say they love the proliferation of fan fiction, as long as no one tries to make money from it.



“It’s a great outlet for the fans,” says George Strayon, director of marketing and merchandising for Renaissance Pictures.



Unverferth says the bards are generally women – but there are some men. One is a University of Waterloo student who goes by the pen-name Rooks. Most of his friends knows he writes in his spare time – but don’t really know exactly what.



“I think they’d be surprised at the fact that I, a straight male, would be writing stories about relationships and lesbian sex,” Rooks says. “But then again, a lot of Xenites [fans of the show] are surprised when they find out I’m male too.”



What makes it all so popular? Firstly, it’s the success of the television show, a one-hour romp through ancient Greece and beyond with the ass-kicking warrior princess and her best friend and bard, Gabrielle. Raking in four-million viewers a week in the US alone, Xena is seen in 65 countries and dubbed into all manner of languages, including French and Turkish.



Obviously there’s the eye-candy factor – statuesque, azure-eyed Lucy Lawless and her blonde co-star with the abs of steel, Renee O’Connor.



It’s also the rare blend of strong women, surviving and travelling together without the aid of men, and the bond of love and friendship between the two, says Maribel Piloto, a Miami librarian who reviews fan fiction under the pseudonym Lunacy. The action, special effects and zany humour of the show are fun, but the heart of it all is the women, says Piloto.



“The appeal of that relationship is, in my opinion, the reason for the success of Xena,” she says. “One strong female heroine is rare enough. Having two is a gift.”



For many fans, that relationship goes beyond friendship.



Melissa Good, considered by many to be the doyenne of the genre, has created a whole different life for the characters that weaves in and out of the television episodes. She’s built up friends, neighbours and even a child for the warrior and bard.



“It was more interesting to come up with my own characters,” says the 36-year-old from Miami.



Over the past couple of seasons, the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle has changed. The cast don’t toss in lesbian innuendo anymore and the overall feeling of the series has become darker. Fan fic writers still see the two as being in love, but it’s become harder for them to pen stories based directly on the series.



So a new genre was born: Uber-fiction.



Some of the best stories, many of them novels, really, have sprung up from this alternate exploration of the characters. Chicago 5am pits a Xena-like private detective and a novice Gabrielle-esque FBI agent against a child slavery ring in modern-day Chicago.



Other Ÿber works show the two distinctive pals as a reporter and drug lord, a wealthy socialite-cum-sleuth and her former-prostitute assistant, a spy and a lawyer, an outlaw and school marm, ranging through time from the Middle Ages to the techno future.



Good created a wildly popular duo, Dar and Kerry, in her first uber-outing, Tropical Storm. She says she draws on her own personal experience in the high-tech world and living around Miami, and combines that with the personalities of Xena and Gabrielle.



Her stuff is so popular that Good, who also goes by the pen name Merwolf, has her own 750-member fan club of Merpups. There’s also an Internet page dedicated to the Dar and Kerry characters on the Australian Xena Information Page, one of the biggest fan-run websites.



“I really like the Pups, there’s such a lot of diversity,” Good says. “The readers are not all lesbians. There’s maybe 50 percent at most. There’s kids as young as 12 and grandmas, people in the armed forces, from Australia and Singapore, and about 30 percent of them are guys.”



Good never realized how popular fan fiction was. She got the surprise of her life when attending her first Xena and Hercules convention in Texas: People asked for her autograph. On the way up to her room one night in the elevator Good introduced herself to a woman – who just started screaming.



“The bards have become mini celebrities,” she says. “It gives you a bit of an insight into what the people on the show have to go through.”



“These characters, Xena and Gabrielle, are changing people’s lives,” says Merpup Robin Paterson.



There are straight women with children who are finding out about different lifestyles and others who go to read about what a true mutual, loving relationship is because they’ve not got it in their own lives, she says.



Most bards say they write just because they want to. But their work may pay off soon.



Paterson has founded Justice House Publishing, and is putting out in paperback the most popular Ÿber titles (there’s no copyright issues with them), and selling them via the Internet.



JHP’s first three books are slated for release in mid-May and pre-sales have been brisk, she says. Within two weeks of announcing the publication of Good’s Tropical Storm, Paterson had 500 orders for the 512-page, US$17 book.



Who knows where the future may lead for some of these bards. What started out as a way to enhance their experience in the Xenaverse has turned into something more. Good says she just signed a contract with a production company to make a film of Tropical Storm.



She’s already adapted it into a screenplay.



“The majority of my life is my dogs, house, fixing technical problems,” she says. “If the movie goes through it’ll definitely be a change.”