Anyway, I’m naive, I didn’t know there was any controversy over Conqueror Fic. Which I always thought was weird, because it’s so dark and this is a fandom where people lost their shit over the Gabdrag. The ladies set me straight in their Armageddon Now podcast, where they give a frank, balanced discussion of Conqueror fic and its origins, and name-drop a few classics.
So here’s why I love Conqueror fic. I had grown tired of Ubers and schmoopy Season 1/2 “Classic” fics (called “Alt” back in the day). Conqueror was a way to get pure, distilled Xena and Gabrielle. They weren’t astronauts or lawyers or Mary Sues, they were themselves. Xena’s primalness, Gabrielle’s… Gabrielleness. If I wanted to read about Xena and Gabrielle because I loved the show, Conqueror fic was one of the best places to do it. Great characterization, no cell phones.
Most of it was written pre-When Fates Collide, which presents a softer version of the Conqueror (“Empress” fic), and a re-interpretation of Gabrielle, no longer a naive girl but a woman with her own shit to deal with. This podcast was a great way to revisit all these themes that made the show and the fandom special.
Callisto revisiting her family and Xena the Conqueror are ICONIC moments of Xena and if you haven’t seen them, the puzzle of Xena is not complete.
This happens in other female superhero fandoms, too. This iconic shot from Birds of Prey was, for a while, only available in a compilation called “Nightwing: The Hunt for Oracle.” Sigh. Gotta represent, white males.
Fic mentioned in this episode:
Infamia, by Vivian Darkbloom (based on “When Fates Collide”).
Journey’s End, by L. J. Maas
I’ll throw in Merwolf’s Xena the Merciless, to make the point that for a time, writing Conqueror fic was the thing to do for BNFs in the Xenaverse. Everyone had one on their resume.
If I were getting a PhD in women’s studies or literature, I would perhaps explore the nature of “Gabrielle uses sex to seduce/change/redeem Xena” across all fan fiction, not just Conqueror, and trace the patterns of abuse that manifest where they shouldn’t be. Or I could do a broader multifandom analysis of what Conqueror fic is today, aka Alpha/Omega.
But instead, I’m rambling here, and writing shmoopy fan fic where nothing ever gets too bad for the protagonists, because I like too much comfort in my hurt.
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