|Gender category:||alt (femslash)|
|Fandom:||Xena: Warrior Princess|
|Canonical?:||practically; much debated|
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1996 also saw a growing awareness among fans of the subtext, [....] The focus of many heated discussions during the series' first year, the subtext nevertheless soon gave birth to a genre within the fanfic known as alternative or alt fiction. These were stories which added a romantic element to the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, depicting them as lovers or potential lovers. Shared at first exclusively through private mailing lists, alt. fiction emerged into the fandom at large in the Fall of 1996 with the premier of Dax's OBSESSION page and the release of alt. classics like her own LIFE FROM DEATH and Bat Morda's BROKEN ARROW. Inspired by the show's subtext, alt fiction would quickly become a favorite with many Xenites, helping to legitimize that view of the show within the fandom and encouraging an understanding among fans that helped to eliminate much of the early dissent.
Subtext or Text?
From the very beginning, the interpretation that Xena and Gabrielle were more than friends was attacked by other fans. In response, the ATX subtexters developed the Subtext FAQ, defending their interpretation of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship. The FAQ quoted some objections that were commonly encountered on the alt.tv.xena newsgroup:
"All this subtext crap is pure bull. Xena's no lesbian."
"Why do people assume that strong women have to be lesbians?"
"You people are just fixated on Xena's sex life. Why don't you get a life of your own?"
"Xena's just a fictional character! She can't be gay." 
The Subtext FAQ went on to quote various members of the writing staff and TPTB as to whether or not the subtext was intentional, as well as describing key X/G scenes and interactions that contained lesbian subtext. Both Lucy Lawless (who played Xena) and Renee O'Connor (who played Gabrielle) are quoted at some point as saying that they believed Xena and Gabrielle were soul mates, or married.
However, no matter how good the arguments were, they didn't really protect subtexters from attacks. Given the fact that for many subtexters, it wasn't a random favorite pairing that was under attack, but their own sexuality, they needed a safe space to discuss the pairing and connected lesbian issues. Thus, a secret women only, invitation only mailing list was created that became the invisible driving force behind the scenes of X/G fandom.
This isn't necessarily related to Uber Fan Fiction, but I got a call for papers and it sounds like an interesting project. Usually these books only talk about m/m, but with all the bisexual and lesbian women in slash fandom today it's likely that f/f will be covered as well. However, there seems to be a harsh dividing line between Xena f/f and the f/f fanfic of other fandoms, so I doubt that any slash reader is going to talk about altfic. Maybe you know someone who would be interested in contributing something for the Xena part of the fanfic realm. It would be a pity if altfic wouldn't be represented.
- The Real Thing, by T.J. Vertigo. Fantasy turns to reality for the warrior and bard when they notice their mutual... frustration ;-) If you want to test your constitution this is the PERFECT story to read at work >:) Invigorating little tale! - 5 pgs., 10/26/99
- Just The Beginning, by T.J. Vertigo. Xena realizes she's been a bad girl when she accidentally destroys of her partner's scrolls so she sets out to keep the bard's mind off that scroll in a decidedly effective way. This story won an AMAZON ICE AWARD for a reason ;-) Fun summer reading :) - 6 pgs., 6/5/99
- Just The Beginning: The Sequel, by T.J. Vertigo. 1999
- Just The Beginning: The Other Sequel, by T.J. Vertigo. 1999
- Thethered, by T.J. Vertigo. 2001
- Yes Lucy, There Is Still a Subtext on Xena by Valerie Foster (addresses romantic friendship and homoerotic subtext)
- These Two Arms
- Devotion (Xena vid)
- Here With Me
- Xena || Take Me To Church (Xena/Gabrielle) by hollywoodgrrl
- Xena & Gabrielle - Take Me To Church by Kelligh89
Much of Xena fan art was posted online, and sadly many of the art galleries are now offline. A few remain, and some Xena/Gabrielle art can be found on Deviantart (such as the group Xena Fan Club) or Livejournal (such as the community Xena Art).
- lynka's Xena Art - galleries with multiple artists
- The Flying Chakram Revolving Art Gallery - archived link
- Forevaxena - galleries with multiple artists
One of the popular themes of Xena/Gabrielle fan art was their mentor/mentee relationship [examples needed]. Illustrations of them traveling together on their adventures or fighting were common, along with more sensual and romantic imagery. More darker fan art focused on what many fans believed would be their ultimate fate - dying together side by side. One of the more controversial art pieces was Betty Elaine Bradley's oil painting of the Xena and Gabrielle being crucified together on one cross:
"Betty's newest picture is currently unreleased and is an exclusive to The Martman Speaks. I want to thank her graciously for giving this painting to me. There's a reason I'm not putting it on the main page, though. The painting is somewhat shocking, and may be a bit much for people with weak stomachs. VIEWER DISCRESSION IS ADVISED!! The picture depicts Xena and Gab dying on the cross together (literally as well as figuratively), and though its a somewhat disturbing image, it validates what Xena prophesized back in OAAA: "Even in death, I will never leave you." "
After the series ended, with the death of Xena, fan artists also began focusing on their parting kiss and scenes of mourning, much like K. Stenberg's "The Last Kiss."
"The Road Together" by rebekahlynn
A tender moment by DarkButSoLovely. Click to enlarge to see the detailed pencil work.
"Even In Death I Will Never Leave You" by Betty Elaine Bradley. Oil painting, Framed size 21.5" x 27.5
- Lunacy, THE HISTORY OF XENA FAN FICTION ON THE INTERNET Posted 1998. Last accessed Nov 2, 2011.
- The Subtext FAQ for alt.tv.xena. Last updated 7 January 1998. (Accessed 30 November 2008.)
- AfterEllen.com, Xena and Gabrielle: Lesbian Icons. "I think Gabrielle is probably searching for her soul mate and that she found it in Xena, actually. Having been through the entire series, she's probably been searching for the love of her life, which is Xena." Renee O'Connor. Posted 13 August 2003. (Accessed 30 November 2008.)
- Lesbian News, Lucy Lawless: In an exclusive interview the actress talks about life after Xena, love, and her lesbian fans. Lawless admits that even she wasn't sure about Xena's sexual orientation until the last episode. But once Gabrielle had to revive Xena by passing water into her mouth, Lawless says it was clear that these two characters were more than just close friends. "There was always a 'well, she might be or she might not be' but when there was that drip of water passing between their lips in the very final scene, that cemented it for me .... Now it wasn't just that Xena was bisexual and kinda like her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was "Nope, they're married, man." Posted January 2003. (Accessed 30 November 2008.)
- Being a secret, there is only the occasional reference behind friendslock by ex-members who confirm the existence and importance of the list, but there is not much else. Bat Morda referred to it as "a super secret mailing list that rhymes with soft-core porn" in Inside the Head of Bat Morda, later named it as Saddlehorn in a blog entry from May 2008, and gave a bit more background in her November 2000 Whoosh article The Online Life and Adventures of Bat Morda: A friend of mine from the Star Trek boards on America Online invited me to join a secret, exclusive online mailing list full of Xena fans who were female (or, um, at least said they were), subtext friendly, and hard core into Xena. [...] Not knowing what to expect, I joined this list where a subtextual view of the show was the norm. This mailing list was heaven. One of those rare places that you stumble onto where everyone assumes you are a lesbian until you inform people differently. For someone who has to live on the other side of the mirror the rest of the time, this was quite a treat. (Accessed 30 November 2008.)
- Calling All Fan Fiction Scholars, post by Dorothea at Whoosh!, April 2, 2002
- The Martman Speaks: Betty Elaine Bradley accessed December 3, 2012. When the original oil painting went on sale on eBay the seller advertised it as: "The most amazing of all of Betty Bradley's original Xena and Gabrielle paintings, this controversial piece depicts the two heroines crucified together on one cross. The custom, original double frame features hand-painted script of importance to the meaning of the scene and the history of the show: "Upon the ides of March by decree of Caesar did they die on the cross. The lives shattered not love and devotion. With this final dance was heard, Even in death I will not leave you."...This exact painting has been talked about online in Xena circles, and now it's available as the centerpiece of your fantasy collection."