From - May 3, 2000

Go to Part 1 of this interview

All Good Things

In Part 2 of our interview, fan fiction scribe turned Xena writer Missy Good reveals what won't be in her upcoming episode.

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Classic Xena and Gabby: 'What subtext?'
Part of what makes it interesting that the producers would choose Missy Good to write a Xena episode is that, in her fan fiction, she’s ventured deep into territory the series itself has never dared go. In Missy's world, Xena and Gabrielle are definitely more than "just good friends."

Although her stories are far from the explicitly sexual romps that fan fiction is generally known for -- in fact, to many of her fans, her emphasis on romance over throbbing nether regions is a large part of her appeal -- Missy's Xena and Gabrielle are eternal soulmates, sharing a love so strong it's nearly a psychic bond. They've gotten married ("joined" is the actual term) and even, through a process that's never been quite explained and which neither character understands, had a child together (the ever adorable Dori, who somehow manages to share both Xena's raven hair and Gabrielle's green eyes).

So, naturally, in the minds of many of her fans there’s a great burning question hanging in the air regarding her script for "Legacy." And if the answer startles you, well, keep reading…

IGN Sci-Fi: I guess the other great burning question is that, considering how outright romantic your fan fiction is, how much of that were you able to carry into the episode itself?

Missy: Actually, I didn't try to carry any of it in.

IGN Sci-Fi: Really?

Missy: Well, before I actually made the call, I thought, "What am I getting myself into here?" I knew the expectations going in, especially in the online community, where I'm, um, fairly high profile…

IGN Sci-Fi: I would say so. [laughs]

Missy: So I knew the minute this leaked out, there would be certain expectations along those lines. So I made up my own mind, when meeting with the staff and going over story ideas I was going to completely forget that I'd written any fan fiction. As far as I'm concerned, they're two different sets of characters. Which really is the only way you could do it, because my characters aren't the characters on the show, and if you're going to produce a script for the show you have to write for the characters on the show. So, I didn't write any subtext in it at all.

IGN Sci-Fi: None?

Missy: Well, my "agenda" -- if I can be said to have one [laughs] -- what I would like to see on the screen is the re-emergence of a sense of the deep friendship between the two characters, over and above anything that may or may not be happening with them, you know, after the moon goes down. That's what I would like to see, so when I've written the script, when I've written the dialog, that is what I tried to put into it.

IGN Sci-Fi: Well, that's good. It always seems that the closer the two of them are -- however you want to classify that -- the better the show is. Which is one of the reasons it was so exciting that you’d been tapped to write an episode, since they seem to have been drifting apart lately…

Missy: You know, I really think the biggest reason for that was, first off, Lucy's pregnancy. That was tough, tough all around for everybody, and the other thing was that Rob just wasn’t as involved with the show. Just from working with him, I think a lot of the joy between the two characters comes from him. I mean, everyone seems to think that he’s the one who’s trying to "kill" subtext…

IGN Sci-Fi: Oh, gods no! I mean, he co-wrote "Sin Trade." He directed "Paradise Found…"

Missy: Right. So that was my goal, not only as a fan, but as someone who's trying to produce a credible script for the show -- because that's the bottom line, this is a business that Renaissance Pictures is running, and it has to be a script they can logistically and reasonably put on the screen -- my goal is to, if I can, at least for one episode, return that sense of friendship between the two characters. And then the subtexters can think what they want, and the rest of the audience can think what they want...

IGN Sci-Fi: [laughs] Fair enough. You know, I've often wondered if the Xena staff themselves really understand what "subtext" is about.

Soulmates through the ages.
Missy: You know, I don't think they do.

IGN Sci-Fi: Yeah, because they tend to say, "Oh sure, that was something we used to have fun joking about," but then they do an episode like "Ides of March…"

Missy: I think there's two things: there's the closeness between the characters, which is really what I, and I think what everybody else who talks about subtext, that's what we really consider it to be -- that it's the warmth between them that's the important thing. Then there's also the "nudge-nudge, wink-wink, let's share a bath" kind of thing, which is what I think [the staff] thinks it is. I can do without the B category subtext. If the characters like each other, I can deal without them rolling around like muskrats.

IGN Sci-Fi: Not that you've ever shown that.

Missy: No, I am the "half-alt" bard.

IGN Sci-Fi: Well, I don't know how "half-alt" having a baby together is…

Missy: Well, I didn't do it graphically did I?

IGN Sci-Fi: No, but…

Missy: OK, then. [laughs]

IGN Sci-Fi: Moving on, I know you've never used Joxer in any of your stories. Given that Ted Raimi won't be around next season, were you relieved you wouldn't have to deal with Joxer, or do you count that as a missed opportunity?

Missy: I would've regarded that as a challenge. Actually, I would have welcomed that. I'm glad only for one thing, because of my agenda there, which is that if I don't have a third major character to worry about, then I can spend time with the other two, which was nice. I wouldn't have been dismayed if he had been part of the show though, if nothing else than to, um…

IGN Sci-Fi: Get him to grow up a bit?

Missy: You know, I don't think they ever defined him enough to say whether he grew up or not. I think they used him as a situational accessory, so that's why his character is sort of all over the place, because one episode they needed him to be an idiot, and the next they needed him to be brave and resourceful, and the next they needed, well, a groundhog, or an ape man. So really he was more a plot device than anything else, and it's really hard to give depth and meaning to a plot device. And then all of a sudden they realized hey, we've been dragging this character around for three years, and we need to give him a face, and they started trying to develop him, but then you're almost getting into the realm of making him a totally different character. But it wouldn't have bothered me.

IGN Sci-Fi: How do you have time to do all this? I know you update your fan fiction every few days, edit your Dar and Kerry novels for publication, I'm sure there must be dozens, if not hundreds of people you keep up with by mail and phone, you attend every major Xena convention, now you're writing TV scripts -- all while holding down a full-time job. Have you just given up sleeping?

Missy: No, actually. It all comes down to just good time management. And I know that sounds really cliched, but it just comes down to discipline more than anything else. I mean, you have a set number of tasks -- it helps that I type fast. [laughs]

IGN Sci-Fi: I'm sure.

Missy: I'm lucky with the actual prose writing, because that stuff comes as almost a relaxing thing for me. It comes naturally. It's not something I have to work at really hard. The script writing, because it's such an unfamiliar format, that I have to think about it a lot, imagine what it’s going to sound like to hear the characters say this, try it out a couple of different ways before I put it down. That's because you have a limited number of words you can use in a TV script, where with the prose you can use as many as you want. It just all comes down to time management. There's no magic bullet.

IGN Sci-Fi: So this experience has been a good thing then?

Missy: Well, I can tell you that the folks at RenPics that I’ve been working with, which is mostly Rob and R.J., have been nothing but helpful and supportive, and very positive about getting this odd experiment to actually come to fruition. It's been a wonderful experience. No one's ever really turned into a freakazoid, which it very well could have. I mean, they were coming into a very unknown situation. I was unknown -- just getting somebody involved off the Internet was a scary thing for them, because they go through a lot of security issues.

Good would have viewed Joxer as 'a challenge.'
IGN Sci-Fi: I can imagine.

Missy: Especially with Rob and Lucy -- I was told they get threats and people stalking them, horrible things like that. So bringing an unknown into that situation is very scary. I mean, if you hire a writer from outside at least, well OK, they've got some background. But finding some chick on the Internet, you know, was a very brave thing for Rob to do, and the fact that he stuck to his guns and saw it through to the point that he has, I have an enormous amount of respect for him for doing that.

IGN Sci-Fi: Good people to work with, then.

Missy: Yes. Very good people, very creative. Very funny people. I mean, it’s tough because all the hard stuff has got to come from Chris [Manheim, also a writer-producer] or Rob or R.J., and both R.J. and Rob are also producing other series. For them to also have to sit down and do the stories and then pump out the screenplays for them -- you know, I might have a time management problem, but that's a whole other enormous drain on emotional and energy resources. And I think at this point with the show and what happened this season, they don't want to turn over the really hard stuff to just anyone or any writer. They really want to keep hands on with that. This is their baby and they want it to look good. It's a personal thing with them.

IGN Sci-Fi: Especially given this next season is likely the last one. They want it to be a standout.

Missy: Yeah, and I don't blame them. This is their reputation. Which makes the fact he was willing to do this with an unknown writer, with an unknown, not even a writer -- which is funny because now I'm sitting here looking at the letter from the WGA demanding my membership dues!

IGN Sci-Fi: Yeah, they're real serious about that.

Missy: [laughs] But anyway, that's a real scary thing for him, in the midst of all this, to bring in a not-writer off the Internet to maybe do a story.

IGN Sci-Fi: Well, terrific. Congratulations.

Missy: Thank you. It's been a really educational experience.

--Jeff Lundrigan knows all about subtext.

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