Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards and One Reviewer: Bongo Bear

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards and One Reviewer: Bongo Bear
Interviewee: Bongo Bear
Date(s): July 22, 1998
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Xena: Warrior Princess
External Links: full interview is here; reference link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards and One Reviewer: Bongo Bear is a 1998 Xena: Warrior Princess fan interview at Whoosh!.


For others in this series, see Whoosh! Interview Series.

Some Excerpts

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
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.