David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines

more on the AU: revenge of the Uber

I can't believe how I completely didn't mention XENA fanfic in my post about AUs, because any fanfic discussion of AUs should absolutely have uber fic front and center, in the same way TOS's "Mirror, Mirror" should absolutely be mentioned in any discussion of "evil duplicates" TV episodes. For those who don't remember or were, um, ten, uber is fanfic building on the premise that Xena (Warrior Princess) and Gabrielle (bard) are soulmates, and are fated to wind up together in any number of lifetimes (a gimmick seen in several episodes of the show). So you get Xena and Gabrielle in the Old West by Della Street or Bat Morda, Xena and Gabrielle in present-day Miami by Missy Good, all that manner of thing.

The indispensible WHOOSH! has a useful history of uber from the perspective of XENA fandom. Per that account, uber exploded in the summer of 1997:

The first recorded attempt at a true ÜberXena in the Xenaverse was a non-web posted never completed serial short story called "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" by Miss and Aisa, which was released on a private mailing list in early June 1997. The first completed ÜberXena was a western by Della Street, called "Toward the Sunset", which was posted on a private list on June 14, 1997. The first complete ÜberXena posted publicly (which was written almost simultaneous to Street's western), was "The Hitch Hiker", by Bongo Bear. It was posted on July 22, 1997. This date was the official date the world was first exposed to ÜberXena, and we call it International Über Day to honor that event.

By God, I'm going to mark International Uber Day this year, now that I know it exists. (And I'm surprised I hadn't, because I read a fair amount of Xena fanfic back in the day.) Here's to you, Bongo Bear, wherever you are.

Before you could say "Five Things" or "Sex Pollen," Uber exploded all over the fandom. Xena fandom had distinct types of uber: proto-uber, classic uber, canon uber, faux uber (ie, a different time and place, but the "real" Xena and Gabrielle, no reincarnation or soulmating necessary), missing link uber, post-uber, and uberesque. These types are described in the previous link, and while I was a fan of the show and read the fic I wasn't active in the fic side of the fandom, so even after reading the distinctions a lot of them are quite frankly lost on me. But Uber, I think, is key to understanding a lot of the AU stuff as it exists today. Fandom drift means that fans see who never read the fics that gave rise to a genre read and eventually write fic inspired by it, and so they don't see stuff that original fans think is very important. Example:

The first recorded proto-ÜberXena was not found in the Xenaverse, but on a Hercules fan fiction website. This Uber was written sometime in January 1997, a full SIX months before the first attempt was made in the Xenaverse ... it resembles an Über in superficial ways but completely misses the soulmate theme between the ÜberX and ÜG. It is sooo close that it deserves a cigar, but it misses the Über Boat by a mile. … The person who wrote it is promoting is as the first Uber, but it … misses the whole point of an uber which is the soulmatedness between Xena and Gabrielle …

So for Xena fans, the *soulmate* concept was what really resonated. But the soulmate isn't even a consideration for most fans using this toolbox today; in my estimation, they're writing what Xena fans back in the day would have seen as faux uber. At a guess, I'd say this is due to a combination of the fact that 1) there were Xena fans who drifted into other fandoms, and took that toolbox with them and 2) if you were just reading the fic and were active in the show discussion side of the fandom, but didn't actively discuss the fanfic with people, you could easily miss what the Xena fans thought were the important symbolic concepts involved and just see the entire uber movement as Xena and Gabrielle in AUs.

Which, y'know, *I* did, at the time.

I am not sure what the gateway fandoms were through which uber made its way into fandom at large, though I can make some uneducated guesses. (I'll bet, for instance, that LOTR fandom was a big bridgemaker fandom for lots of this stuff, but that is based from looking at it from a long long long way off because I see LOTR movieverse fandom sort of the same way I see Harry Potter fandom; that is to say, "I would not get up close and personal with something that large and that batshit if you *paid* me.") But I think uber may be Xena fandom's major contribution to the modern fanfic toolkit, even if it doesn't share the central concepts Xena fandom saw as essential to the concept of Uber.

Except, in a way, it does. The concept of people who share a special bond that sees them fated to connect pops up in present day fanfic all the freakin' time.

Uber + RPS = Bandom.

Interestingly, while I really don't like big AUs, and I hate RPS, and I think Adam Lambert's singing voice sounds like somebody is doing something terrible that involves a cat, a crowbar, and a gunnysack -- back in the day, I read a fair amount of Xena uber fic. And liked it. Chalk it up to the power of Xena and Gabrielle.

(Somebody could probably get mileage out of comparing SPN AU fic to Xena and Gabrielle uber fic. That person is not me. My only contribution here is to suggest that Xena fans should write to Starz asking if Renee O'Connor could be stunt cast on SPARTACUS, so she and Lucy Lawless could finally get the hot sex scene XENA fans were denied for all those long years.)

Originally posted on my DW. | comment count unavailable people have commented there. | Do so yourself, if you like.
Tags: fandom, meta

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