Friday, May 15, 2009

I Was A Warrior Milkmaid - A Tale Of Extreme Fandom

By Helen E. H. Madden

This is a story of a long time ago, when a land in turmoil cried out for a hero... She was Xena Warrior Milkmaid!

I know. You're thinking, WTF? Xena Warrior Milkmaid? Is this some sort of massive typo, or has Helen just gone round the bend?

It's the latter, always the latter. My typing is excellent.

When I saw this week's topic, I was a little stumped. I wasn't sure exactly what I would want to tell my fans, especially since I don't know how big a crowd that would be. Do I have any fans? I get e-mail from people who enjoy my writing, but I don't want to seem presumptuous and call these folks fans. That word, after all, does have it's roots in the word fanatic, and I don't know if there's anyone out there fanatical about me and my writing. But I do know there was a time when I was a fan of the fanatical type, and I thought maybe today I'd take some time to relate what that was like.

It happened back in the 90s, when Xena Warrior Princess first aired on TV. God, I loved that show. It was such a schlocky little action fest, and it featured a heroine who could really kick ass. We didn't have Buffy yet, or Alias or Doll House or any of the other dozens of shows that have since come along touting dangerous woman of incredible strength and beauty. It was just Xena, a warrior babe clad in leather with the coolest looking weapon this side of ancient Greece. When she first strode onto the scene, Xena was a pretty hot item in the realm of sci-fi and fantasy fandom, and naturally, everyone wanted to be her.

Including, especially, me.

Oh yeah, that's me. Back in the day, you couldn't buy a Xena costume, so I made one... out of leather and metal... from a pattern I created from scratch. That's how obsessed I was with that show. I must have sunk several hundred dollars into materials, and months of labor in the making of that costume. I was a die-hard fan, determined to don that little leather mini-dress and become my heroine no matter.

The funny thing about fandom though is that it has away of taking off and going beyond the original object of worship. My Xena obsession was no exception. In the process of making the Warrior Princess costume, I created a completely unique character, all my own. It was an accident, really. The mock up I used to test my homemade pattern just happened to be the only thing I had to wear for Halloween that year. It was made of scraps of blue gingham and strips of navy blue vinyl, and damned if I didn't look like the Swiss Miss on steroids when I slipped it on...

Yeah, that's also me. Meet Xena Warrior Milkmaid. From Sweden, ja! I kid you not, this little mock up, made from scraps in my fabric bin, went on to take over my life for the next six years. People loved the leather and metal Warrior Princess costume, but everyone was making one of those. The Warrior Milkmaid though was unique and totally mine. It was a quirky little parody that went on to do amazing things. For starters, I competed in a couple of costume contests and walked away with some major trophies. Then I got some ideas for additional characters in the Warrior Milkmaid universe and suddenly it wasn't just me playing around with this, but a whole gang of nut cases in costumes, like this hottie!

Angelique Trouvere as Calfrodite, Goddess of Luv, Milk & Honey

My gang and I went to science fiction conventions and competed in more costume contests to win. Then we started getting invitations to perform comedy shows. Eventually there was a whole website dedicated to nothing but Xena Warrior Milkmaid and her pals, complete with comic book style episodes detailing the adventures of the Once and Future Dairy Queen.

It was crazy, it was bizarre. It was probably the most fun I ever had as a fan, and at the time it was the biggest, most creative project I'd ever worked on.

Then one day Xena Warrior Princess reached its series finale and Xena Warrior Milkmaid sort of lost momentum and that was that. I went on with my life, had two kids, and started work on a writing career.

I still have the costumes, both Warrior Princess and Warrior Milkmaid, but neither fit anymore (hey, I had two kids!). And I still have the website. It's probably full of broken links and I haven't added anything new to it in ages. Really, it's just sitting there in cyberspace collecting dust. But a couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from someone who told me he was a fan back in the day and wondered if the site was still up and running and did I still do costume contests and performances.

Wow. Imagine that. I have a fan. For a parody I did of something that I was a fan of.

I guess at the end of all this what I would like to say to my fans -- past, present, and future -- is this. I hope someday I write something that inspires you so much, you go on to do wonderful things all your own. Be a fan, and then be you and have fans of your own. It's not hard if you're doing something that you love and are willing to work at. Use your heroes as a leaping point and see how far you can fly.

Yeah, that's what I want to say to my fans. That and "Cattle on!"


  1. Great post, Helen :)

    The costumes look fantastic! I was a huge Zena fan too.

    Kim Dare.

  2. Wow! You must be one fun gal. Great take on fanship.

  3. Thanks guys! I don't know if I'm a fun gal, but I'm definitely crazy. And I loved costuming. I miss sewing, a lot! I'm hoping that now my kids are a little older I can get back into that particular hobby and make some new outfits. I need costumes for Cynical Woman now };)

    And who knows? Maybe in my copious amounts of spare time (BWA HA HA HA!!), I might be able to resurrect the Warrior Milkmaid. That would be kind of cool.

  4. Helen,

    Uh, nice typing. LOL I really enjoyed your post this week. Fun, a little history and like I said, great typing. The customs ain't bad either. Oh, and the chick is cute too.


  5. Jude,

    Thank you! I pride myself on my typing ;) The woman playing Calfrodite is Angelique Trouvere, a long time costumer and friend of mine. She used to work as a contortionist and exotic dancer back in 70s. She's quite a fascinating person!

  6. Helen, you never cease to amaze me! I've never met someone with such an excess of creativity.

    (Oh and I love costumes, too. But I've never taken anything near this far!)

    I think the time may well be right to resurrect your milky mythos!


  7. Hi Helen!

    I see why your husband has such a thing for you. I like the milk maid costume best.


  8. Oh wow!! Fantastic pics :) Love it :)

  9. Thanks Lisabet, Garceus, and Ann! Costuming and fandom were part of the hobbies I had to put on hold once I started having kids. I'm slowly getting back into it, but I won't be doing any leather work any time soon. Still, when the time comes, I've got all my old tools and supplies tucked away in my closet. Did I mention I even have an anvil? Yeah, I miss those hobbies a lot!

    Thanks again guys!


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