From - May 2, 2000

Xena Scribe Makes Good

Prolific fan fiction writer Missy Good chats with IGN Sci-Fi about her latest project
-- an actual episode of the show.

screenshot 1
Write a good one for me, Missy!

In the world of online Xena fandom, if you only know one name, it’s probably Melissa Good, also known as Missy. One of the most prolific fan fiction authors on the 'net, currently posting her 17th novel, Tropical High, a little bit at a time, she’s also one of the most adored. She’s got her own fan club, the Merpups (after "Merwolf," her original pen name), and there are whole mailing lists and discussion boards dedicated to nothing less than hanging onto her every word.

She was also the first fan fiction author in the Xenaverse to have a novel, the "Uber-Xena" romance, Tropical Storm, published as an actual book by Justice House ("Uber-Xena" is a thriving subgenre of Xena fan fiction which uses the Xena and Gabrielle archetypes, but sets them in a different time and place. In Ms. Good’s case, Xena became Dar Roberts, the driven VP of a massive Internet company in modern Miami, while Gabrielle became Kerry Stuart, a sweet but very sharp engineer, and together they make a great team).

As part of Missy's own personal ongoing saga, it was recently revealed that she's actually been contracted to write an episode of Xena, "Legacy," to be shown next season. Although she's still in the final stages of moving into a new house, she was kind enough to spare some time to discuss this singular event. After being directed to call her back at her home number (her cell phone was dying), we settled down to talk all things Xena.

IGN Sci-Fi: So, how is it that a fan fiction writer got a chance to actually write for the show?

Missy: Yeah, that is the most commonly asked question.

IGN Sci-Fi: As far as I know, this is unprecedented.

Missy: Well, I can tell you how it was from my end. I was kind of minding my own business one morning, and through voice mail and pages I became aware of the fact that [ex-Xena head writer] Steve Sears was kind of desperately trying to get a hold of me. This was surprising, but I called Steve at his office, at Corsair Productions. He asked me if I was still a fan of the show, and I said "Yeah." And he said, "If you still really love it, how’d you like to write an episode?" It was a lucky thing I was sitting down!

Apparently what had happened was that [Xena producer and co-creator] Rob Tapert had gotten an idea, if they could get a fan who still loved the show, to maybe get them involved with an episode. And so he asked Steve, who was more involved with the online community, if he had any suggestions. So, I contacted Rob, and we chit-chatted for a little bit about the involvement with the stories, just sort of an introductory thing, because I don't think he'd ever done this before -- I know sure as shootin' I'd never done anything like this before!

IGN Sci-Fi: I don't think anyone has ever done this before.

Missy: So he asked me to submit a writing sample, to see what my writing style was like -- he wasn’t interested so much in content, just wanted to see how I write, and it went from there. We sat down in several arranged story meetings -- just to talk to someone from the West coast wasn't so bad, but trying to organize the East coast, the West coast and New Zealand was a bit tough. I felt for his secretary! [Producer and head writer] R. J. Stewart and his staff were involved…

IGN Sci-Fi: I should hope so…

Missy: Yeah, [Rob] brought him in for the second meeting, since I think in that first meeting, [Rob] was just trying to figure out, "OK, now that I've sort of broached this idea, what do I do with it?" And I was thinking, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" [laughs] So we decided on the story based on some needs that they had, and some parameters that they had, and after we worked out a storyline that was going to fulfill those needs, I wrote what they call a "beat sheet," which is a story synopsis, which was accepted -- I mean, it was kicked back and forth a couple of times, but eventually it was accepted -- and they told me to scuttle on my way and write the teleplay for it.

IGN Sci-Fi: Had Steve Sears read any of your fan fiction? I remember when he left the show, he said he was finally going to get a chance to read some and mentioned you specifically.

Missy: I think he's read bits and pieces of it. Steve and I have corresponded online for quite some time. We've met at several conventions and we’re actually quite friendly. I think he's read bits and pieces, but there's almost 6,000 pages of it by now, and I'm sure the producer of an active television show has better things to do than hang out online and read fanfic. [laughs]

Missy greets her adoring public.
I was surprised to be approached, really surprised. It was not something I'd ever considered doing, especially for Xena because it's been stated so firmly that if you write fanfic for a show, if you have any aspirations in that arena, you’ve just scotched them. I mean, I've written a screenplay [For the film adaptation of Tropical Storm, currently stuck in development -- J.L.]. I've written prose, but it would never, in my wildest imaginations have occurred to me to pitch a script to Xena. Never. There have been occasions, especially in Trek fandom, where they might take a story idea from a fan and turn that into something, but I don't know that anyone's ever brought a fanfic writer into the process. I don’t know how different my process was from anybody else’s that goes through this, because I have nothing to compare it to. Steve and I will probably have to compare notes. [laughs] But I’ve actually gone through what any writer coming into Xena would have to do -- you have to produce the synopsis, you have to produce the beat sheet, it has to be accepted, and you have to sign the contract, and then you have to produce a viable teleplay. I don't think, for a fanfic writer, that's ever been done.

IGN Sci-Fi: Well, if anyone were going to, it would probably be you. You've pioneered a lot of other things -- publishing your "Uber" stories as novels, for example…

Missy: Oh yeah, the bleeding edge of technology! [laughs] It's been completely unintentional. I'm always surprised.

IGN Sci-Fi: All right, I know you can't answer this, but of course I have to ask: what is "Legacy" about?

Missy: You're right, I can't answer that! [laughs] No, I really can't, because it ties into a mini-arc that they're doing with two other episodes, so I really can't give even a single detail because, even though I'm in Miami and they're in L.A., they will find a way to come and stomp me to death!

I like the story, though. It's not that it shares any story elements with the overall arc, exactly, but there's a theme running through it that they’re using for a couple of other episodes, a character-driven theme that I found really, really interesting, and that I was glad to see personally. From what I've seen, and the ideas that I've heard, I think it's going to be a really good season.

IGN Sci-Fi: Well, that would be a switch…

Missy: [sighs] Yeah…

IGN Sci-Fi: How have you felt about season five?

Missy: Well, I liked the start of season five. Um, then the bits and pieces in the middle of it were, pretty darn awful actually. But I think they’ve pretty much said, "Yes we know it's been pretty darn awful, and we're trying our best to make it better." I know that the last five episodes, starting with "Antony and Cleopatra," are something they're quite proud of. And I know they're working really hard on getting stuff together for season six.

Tropical Storm takes book form.
I think [this season] was a combination of a lot of things: poor Lucy was pregnant; Rob Tapert [Who’s also her husband -- J.L.] was of course worried about that, and also had two new series to get off the ground; a couple of very experienced writers, R.J. and Steve, left at the same time, and they were the actual heart of the character-driven stories -- how do you fill that? I don't think it was a conspiracy. I’ve heard a lot of conspiracy theories! [laughs] It was just bad dumb luck.

IGN Sci-Fi: Unfortunately for us.

Missy: Unfortunately for us, yes. There were some episodes that I still can't watch.

IGN Sci-Fi: Any ones in particular?

Missy: Actually -- you know, my poor mother. She knows I've been involved with Xena fandom for quite some time, but to hear I was actually writing a Xena script was quite exciting. That's an exciting thing for a parent to hear, right? So she immediately sat down and started watching, you know, so she could be up on the series? And then the first episode she ever sees is "Married with Fishsticks!" [groans, laughs]

IGN Sci-Fi: Oh no…

Missy: Oh yeah, that was ugly.

IGN Sci-Fi: I put that one in the Hall of Ass -- "Episodes so bad they make you ashamed to be a regular viewer."

Like Jeff, Missy is not a fan of 'Married with Fishsticks.'
Missy: Yeah, I can't watch it now -- I couldn’t watch it then. Slapstick humor is not my particular bag. I prefer something drier, wittier. I mean sometimes, like "In Sickness and in Hell," if I squint I can almost watch it. "Fins Femmes and Gems" I watch with the sound off -- it's got great visuals.

IGN Sci-Fi: Oh yeah, that bit where Xena pulls Gabrielle out of the water? You watch that with the sound off in slow-mo, then kind of ask yourself, "What's really going on here?"

Missy: It's great! [laughs] But this season, most of the time I've been able to enjoy the show, largely speaking, but there's been a couple where I’ve just sort of covered my eyes -- ughhhh…

As it turns out, Missy has opinions on a great many things besides individual episodes. As the conversation continued, we discussed more of why Xena fans should look forward to next season, what’s probably the best theory to explain Joxer, and of course… subtext. But you'll have to wait for all that -- Part 2 of the interview will appear tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 3. Until then...

Part 2 of this interview is now available

--Jeff Lundrigan doesn't have his own fan club. Yet.

  • Keep up to speed by reading Jeff's Xena episode reviews!

    Missy photo courtesy of Merpups' Den. Book cover courtesy of Justice House publishing. Thank you!

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