Popularism of Lesbian Fiction
August 5, 2019
BY ELLEN HOIL
Most of the information you are about to read comes from my own memory and experiences. Both from a reader’s and writer’s point of view. I guess you could say it’s a story of the birth of a lesbian romance writer.
On April 1st, 2000 a new website came into being. I was there and saw a wondrous thing come into the world. The webmasters announced they had twenty stories ready for posting. Why all the excitement though? There existed real paper books for people, even the occasional lesbian fiction. So why was this moment so different from any other, you may wonder?
Two diverse occurrences happened around the time. First, came the birth of the Internet, and second a small television show. The result: a modern, widespread, popular lesbian fiction reader’s and writer’s dream. We all fangirl over many of the same writers today. A new vehicle was created for people who never thought their voices would be heard. At the same time, lesbians were finding stories that spoke to them and their lives.
In September 1995, the first episode of Xena: Warrior Princess aired. It was a show where for the first time women were being portrayed as strong and independent individuals in their own right. Men were relegated to supporting roles, and comedic relief. Xena and her friend Gabrielle traveled Ancient Greece and Macedonia, and eventually the ends of the known world together. They were equals. They didn’t compete against each other. Rather they displayed friendship and affection for each other. As a pair, they would live and die for each other.
As a result, women had a widespread, mainstream show they could claim as all their own. A side consequence was the lesbian sub-text created by the TV show’s producers and writers that grew out of the feedback from their fanbase. In 2001, the show ended in a two part episode, where Xena professes her love for Gabrielle. She dies. The End.
Wait? What? Was that all? The typical “death of the lesbians scene” we had all come to know so well.
Not by a long shot. For 1991 had seen the birth of AOL. By 1995, when Xena started, it was the largest internet provider. Well over three million subscribed. During that period, it had launched AOL Search and subscription access. Now we were brought the world. Chat rooms and websites popped up overnight. Include Yahoo and Netscape, and the numbers stagger higher.
This gave rise to fanfiction, uberfiction built around the characters and/or characteristics of Xena. A whole new universe opened up to readers and, most importantly, writers. By the following year names such as SX Meagher, LJ Maas, and Lori L. Lake were becoming well know favorites. Over the next several years, common names would be Radclyffe, Karen Kallmaker, KG McGregor. However, many would never be known, since they worked under cover of pseudonyms.
But they all had one thing in common. The desire to write about things they knew. The love of women for women.