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Sunday, August 05, 2018

In which I vociferously disagree

While it gives me great pain to publicly take exception with the greatest living science fiction writer, I have no choice but to do so with regards to what these days is an unfortunately all-too-pertinent literary matter:
A reader named Bellomy had a comment of dazzling insight I wanted to reprint by way of applause and emphatic agreement.

I learned the secret to what makes a character a Mary Sue.

You see, being great everything doesn’t make one a Mary Sue. John Carter of Mars is that. Batman is that. Wonder Woman, for a female example, is that.

What makes one a Mary Sue is the fundamental dishonesty in how the character is treated.
No, no, no! A thousand times no! A Mary Sue may well be a fundamentally dishonest character. Certainly most of them are. But a Mary Sue may also be an entirely honest character. The reader named Bellomy is confusing the observable fact that most Mary Sues are fundamentally dishonest characters with the basic nature of the Mary Sue.

The correct definition of the Mary Sue is very straightforward: a Mary Sue is a literary character who is an idealized stand-in for the author.

For example, the commenter HMSLion is correct in identifying Owen Pitt, from the Monster Hunter International novels, as an exemplary Mary Sue. Owen Pitt, the oversized accountant highly skilled with guns, who successfully steals the tall, beautiful dark-haired girl from his wealthy, popular, better-educated and more handsome rival, is a wonderful character because Larry Correia is himself a wonderful character. But there can be no doubt that Owen Pitt began as an unmitigated Mary Sue.

Authors have a tendency to reveal more about themselves than they realize, and often, more than they would like, when they write themselves into their stories. Consider the subconscious confessions contained in the two following quotes:
ITEM #1: She was beautiful. In fact she was possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was tall, with dark black hair, light skin, and big brown eyes. Her face was beautiful, not fake beautiful like a model or an actress, because she was obviously a real person, but rather Helen of Troy, launch-a-thousand-ships kind of good-looking. She wore glasses, and I was a sucker for a girl in corrective eyewear. Since I was ugly it was probably some sort of subconscious reaction in the hope that I might have a chance with a cute girl who couldn't see very well. She was dressed in a conservative business suit, but unlike most women I knew, she made it look good. If I were to guess I would have said that she was in her mid-twenties.

"Mr. Pitt?" she asked. Even her voice was pretty. She was a goddess.

I tried to answer, but no words would come out. Talk, idiot! "Um… Hi." Smooth… So far so good, keep going, big guy.

"You can, um… my name is… Owen. My friends call me Z. Because of my middle name. It starts with a Z. Or whatever works for you. Come in. Please!"

Well, so much for smooth.

ITEM #2: I could not help but gloat a little as I smiled for my nemesis. Grant Jefferson. The smug bastard had only been able to do it in 2.5, which was still pretty respectable, but not even close to as fast as mine. And the best part was that he knew it. He was the one who said my first run had been a fluke. Grant was not used to being bested at anything. I enjoyed watching as he stomped off in frustration. He did not like me, and the feeling was mutual. I handed the shotgun over for the next shooter.

Grant was no Newbie. He was a full-fledged member of MHI, and also one of our instructors, though he was the junior man on Harbinger's team. He had only come out to shoot in the hopes of showing us poor folks how it was done. Grant was totally my opposite. Lean and handsome, witty, charming, a product of the finest schools, and descended from the oldest established (as in super wealthy) New England families. He even had nice hair. He was the type of person everybody liked, and everybody wanted to be liked by.

I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. I thought he was a pompous ass from the moment I had met him, and I felt the primal and instinctual need to beat him up and take his lunch money.

But the real reason that I hated his guts was that he was Julie Shackleford's boyfriend.
Now, would you like to bet against the surmise that there are real-life analogues to Julie Shackleford and Grant Jefferson? I would not recommend it. The line about "fake beautiful like a model" is particularly informative. Of course, as Larry Correia has improved as a writer, he is no longer reliant upon his own experiences and emotions to create credible characters, which is why Owen Pitt has grown beyond his origins as a Mary Sue.

The reason that most Mary Sues are dishonest is because most authors are not interesting and accomplished individuals like Larry Correia. Therefore, in order to make their characters appear attractive, successful, and interesting, they have no choice but to present them in a dishonest fashion, winning every argument and succeeding in every challenge with the greatest of ease. But that does not make a dishonest character, like Rey from the latest Star Wars abominations, a Mary Sue. She is not a stand-in for the various authors, she is merely a dishonest feminist archetype.

Labels:

127 Comments:

Blogger Zaklog the Great August 05, 2018 11:09 AM  

Yeah, that didn't strike me as a particularly useful description of a Mary Sue. Regarding Rey, though, although she may not be an obvious author stand-in, she exhibits all of the other qualities of a Mary Sue. She is perfect at everything without even trying. I'm genuinely puzzled as to how people are disputing what a cheap and annoying character she is. (I haven't seen TLJ, but I doubt there's significant development there, from what I've heard.)

Blogger FUBARwest August 05, 2018 11:12 AM  

"She is not a stand-in for the various authors"

I think she is a stand in for Kathleen Kennedy. She has an obsession with Brunette British women.

Blogger Durandel August 05, 2018 11:17 AM  

“Dishonest feminist archetype”

But redundant, no?

Rey is written to basically say “men suck, and we women don’t need them.” And that’s pretty much it as she has no background, drive, purpose, goals, journey, conflict and challenge beyond the bullet points for the character in the treatment pitch. In fact, none of the new characters are anything deeper than a paragraph of description, which is why no one cares about them.

Blogger Starboard August 05, 2018 11:18 AM  

Good distinction. There are so many dishonest Mary Sue characters that the dishonesty has tainted the definition. Thw Monster Hunter series is fun regardless of Owen Pitt's Mary Sue origin, or rather because of Mr. Corriea's personality. Has anyone tried the MHI ammunition or bullets?

http://monsterhunternation.com/2018/01/10/ammunition-and-bullets-with-the-mhi-logo/

Blogger Mr.MantraMan August 05, 2018 11:19 AM  

Larry is a great guy, but OMG that sample about Grant was tough to read without wincing.

I read stuff like that I wish I had a magic wand where I could grant every ethnic of any race a WASPish demeanor equal to great looks with great hair with an equally dreamy WASP dream girl on his arm.

Then we would have world peace, the end.

Blogger Amos Bellomy August 05, 2018 11:25 AM  

You are talking about the original meaning of the word as it was used in the 70's or so when Star Trek fan fic was being written.

What I did was attempt to find the common thread between characters today who are considered Mary Sues vs.equally competent or perfect characters who are not.

Blogger Vessimede Barstool August 05, 2018 11:28 AM  

All of the Disney Star Wars movies have skinny white English actresses cast in the lead roles. Kathleen Kennedy is reported to be VERY hands on in script and casting decisions. I'm not sure if it's a dyke thing or she's just nuts but it's weird that highly paid professional would treat a multi billion IP as her own ego trip.

Blogger S1AL August 05, 2018 11:29 AM  

Perhaps we simply need a subset of the Mary Sue archetype that matches this description: "(Character) the (multi-talented individual in an improbable setting) who steals the beautiful girl from his wealthy, popular, and more handsome rival, is a wonderful character because (Author) is himself a wonderful character."

One night call this subset... The Larry Sue.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 11:29 AM  

Larry is a great guy, but OMG that sample about Grant was tough to read without wincing.

It's to Larry's credit that he eventually managed to surmount his youthful socio-genetic envy and make Grant a more positive character. Most authors are simply not psychologically capable of doing so, no matter how much success they have achieved.

Blogger wreckage August 05, 2018 11:30 AM  

It's true I suppose to say the PROBLEM with Mary Sues is the wish-fulfillment vehicle they tend to be.

Even early MHI, and improving later, Correia toys with that as part of the dramatic pacing. He lulls you with the Mary Sue, then punches you in the face.

Blogger wreckage August 05, 2018 11:32 AM  

@9 I think being able to do that was rooted in the self-awareness written into the extremity of his reaction to the guy. Grant is never a total straw-man. Correia knows what he's feeling about the guy, and uses it.

Blogger Durandel August 05, 2018 11:33 AM  

Yeah, in the MI novels, I remember finding Owen tough to like because of the obvious stand-in that he was. Thankfully the supporting cast and the action was enjoyable enough to get past the first few books. I felt Owen didn’t become his own character until after he gets Julie. But prior to that, all I could see was high school Larry.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 11:34 AM  

You are talking about the original meaning of the word as it was used in the 70's or so when Star Trek fan fic was being written.

Yes, and as far as I am concerned, it is the only useful meaning of the word.

What I did was attempt to find the common thread between characters today who are considered Mary Sues vs.equally competent or perfect characters who are not.

Which is fine, of course, but I don't care what most people today consider anything. Most people today also think "inflammable" means "fireproof". A perfect character, honest or dishonest, who is not a stand-in for the author is simply not a Mary Sue.

Blogger Durandel August 05, 2018 11:34 AM  

@S1AL - pretty sure the male equivalent of Mary Sue already has a name: Gary Stew.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 11:36 AM  

The most egregious Mary Sue of all has to be either a) Kvoth from The Name of the Wind or b) Bella from Twilight.

Bella is probably a more literal stand-in, but through Kvoth, Patrick Rothfuss reveals himself to be someone I would never, ever, want to meet.

Blogger S1AL August 05, 2018 11:38 AM  

"pretty sure the male equivalent of Mary Sue already has a name: Gary Stew"

That's not the part I was trying to highlight. Vox has the right of it: what distinguishes Owen is that The Author is an interesting individual in his own right.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan August 05, 2018 11:41 AM  

I skimmed the freebie Amazon sample of Scalzi's latest, when it was published and this definition is filling in the blanks.

Blogger Anno Ruse August 05, 2018 11:48 AM  

When "Mary Sue" is used, it seems nobody wants to discuss the character who is supposed to be a Mary Sue. It always turns into a discussion about what a Mary Sue actually is. It can be a Correia character or Nabokov character, when the subject is Mary Sues you'll end up in the same discussion. Boring!

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 11:52 AM  

I skimmed the freebie Amazon sample of Scalzi's latest, when it was published and this definition is filling in the blanks.

Scalzi is an interesting case in that all of his characters in all of his novels, except the evil cardboard cutouts that are only there to be bested by his wit, speak with his voice. It's really bizarre.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash August 05, 2018 11:52 AM  

There's a difference between an author insert character and a Mary Sue. All of Larry's books have author inserts, though lately they're side characters and sometimes they're hard to spot. What makes the character a Mary Sue is the effortless perfection. Mary Sue never loses and never even has to try.
In that regard, Owen isn't really a Mary Sue, any more than James Bond is. He gets his ass kicked a few times, and he does stupid, counterproductive things fairly often.

Maybe we should grade it rather than treating it as a binary. So Frodo would earn 0 Reys, Owen Pitt would rate 5 Reys, and Ensign Mary Sue would rate 10 Reys.

Blogger Amos Bellomy August 05, 2018 11:55 AM  

Yes, and as far as I am concerned, it is the only useful meaning of the word.

When discussing the concept with people most of the time I find it to be the least useful meaning, hence the discussion. When talking to people I want to know what they mean when they refer to a character as a Mary Sue.

Blogger Vessimede Barstool August 05, 2018 11:58 AM  

Gary Stew's are a different thing. Yes they have unearned abilities but they're given motivation. They have to fight the bad guy because they want to save their people. The simple farm boy who turns out to be the heroic prince with magical abilities. Luke Skywalker is a Gary Stew as is Harry Potter. They can face great adversity, set backs, physical trials, yes we all know they'll prevail in the end but the journey is interesting enough to keep us involved. Also being alphas they delegate and work with others to get stuff done.

Mary Sue's OTOH perform heroic acts because of who they are. They have no motivation besides that, they do good because they're good. Katniss is a Mary Sue, as is Rey and Bella. They're always physically attractive, always have more than one attractive man who want to fuck them (love triangles) and the stories are always about them fulfilling their destiny, only they can save the day despite having no earned authority.

Mary Sue's are called Mary Sue's for a reason.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash August 05, 2018 12:02 PM  

Anno Ruse wrote:When "Mary Sue" is used, it seems nobody wants to discuss the character who is supposed to be a Mary Sue.
That's because Mary Sue is boring.

Blogger Jeff Weimer August 05, 2018 12:04 PM  

Even Heinlein wasn't immune. Jubal Harshaw, Farnham, Daniel Boone Davis, even Lazarus Long at times (Notebooks), and other characters were all to an extent veiled avatars of the author. But they weren't dishonest, and he would be entitled to the pretense, anyway.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash August 05, 2018 12:04 PM  

Vessimede Barstool wrote:Luke Skywalker is a Gary Stew as is Harry Potter. They can face great adversity, set backs, physical trials, yes we all know they'll prevail in the end but the journey is interesting enough to keep us involved. Also being alphas they delegate and work with others to get stuff done.


You're confusing "Gary Stu" with "Male Protagonist".

Blogger Shimshon August 05, 2018 12:10 PM  

Speaking of Mary Sue:

https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/04/patrick-stewart-is-returning-to-the-role-of-jean-luc-picard-for-a-new-star-trek-series/

Blogger Hammerli280 August 05, 2018 12:12 PM  

@7: Using someone else's IP for an ego trip isn't unprecedented. Peter Jackson could not resist the temptation to rewrite Lord of the Rings - not merely edit, but actively rewrite.

It's a bad habit. Because the IP isn't yours. It's the original author's. The fans might have a claim. But someone working with it under license? No. He's merely a steward of that IP.

Blogger Damelon Brinn August 05, 2018 12:12 PM  

Yes, "idealized stand-in" is a solid definition. Usually "idealized to a ridiculous extent." People often forget one part of that definition, usually the stand-in part, when the other part is so blatant.

Rey probably is a stand-in to some extent for Kennedy and her all-girl writing team, but not for Abrams or Johnson who are credited as the writers. I guess you'd have to know who really wrote her to break that down.

Here's the original Mary Sue, by the way, which was written as a spoof on all the obvious characters of that type that were popping up in fan fiction. It's a very quick read: she charms the crew, saves the day, and dies heroically in about half a page.

Blogger James Dixon August 05, 2018 12:13 PM  

> There's a difference between an author insert character and a Mary Sue.

There can be, if the insert is a bit character or a cameo appearance. But otherwise the character insert is the definition of a Mary Sue.

> When discussing the concept with people most of the time I find it to be the least useful meaning, hence the discussion.

Useful or not, it is the definition.

Blogger ghostfromplanetspook August 05, 2018 12:17 PM  

So Marry Sue > Dishonest Archetype? Would a fair example of a dishonest archetype be a bible thumping Christian in a King novel and a fair example of a Mary Sue be Ash from Evil Dead?

Blogger Hammerli280 August 05, 2018 12:17 PM  

I think people don't give Correia enough credit for working at perfecting his writing skills. Monster Hunter Nemesis was worthy of a Hugo nomination - and Son of the Black Sword is the work of a master.

Blogger Mephiston Lord of Death August 05, 2018 12:17 PM  

Where does the stand in for author definition come from? I thought Mary sue was a character that was great at everything with out a reason. The op examples Batman Carter and wonder women have reasons for their talents

Blogger Dexter August 05, 2018 12:20 PM  

Scalzi protagonists are snarky gamma bitches. Like Scalzi himself. So are his characters "honest" Mary Sues? Even though he is one of the most dishonest authors in SF?

Blogger Uncle John's Band August 05, 2018 12:20 PM  

There is a terrible, mesmerizing, self-revelatory magnificence to Kvoth that almost compensates for the length of the tomes. The possibility that Rothfuss has mastered “performative” writing – literally enacting gamma by not finishing the series – strains towards apotheosis.

Blogger Vessimede Barstool August 05, 2018 12:21 PM  

No I'm not. Mary Sue's are characters designed to appeal to teenage girls and cat ladies. It's not just the author self inserting, they're also a cynically inserted trope to sell stuff to particular demographics. There are very, very few male Mary Sue's for a reason. Pretending there is some male equivalent just isn't true, hence when people are asked to provide examples for Gary Stu's they usually mention bad Japanese anime with hyper feminine male protagonists, and even then they don't hit all the Mary Sue requirements, particularly having two or more Chads fighting for their affections.

Blogger Desert Rat August 05, 2018 12:21 PM  

The hero has to overcome persons and conditions that are greater than he. The heroism lies in that overcoming of the seeming insurmountable in pursuit of a worthy goal. The hero doesn't have to survive this but he does have to be seen as overcoming. The Mary Sue is no hero. She is simply a machine that rolls over the opposition. There is no growth, no accomplishment no increase in the Mary Sue. The Mary Sue has no more significance than an earthquake or a tornado.

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume August 05, 2018 12:23 PM  

I'm glad Larry's writing improved and his MHI series branched out to other POV characters.

Mary Sues are boring to me, even when they are based on guys like Larry Corriea. I stuck it out because of the great action and world building but it gets tiring when you know the main character cannot fail because he's a chosen one,the one foretold, and a Mary Sue. Earl and Franks ? Awesome characters.

That being said, larry's Mary Sue is still readable which is the most important thing.

I think S1AL's idea of a further subcategory of a 'Larry Sue' is a great idea.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 12:24 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger wisdom wizard August 05, 2018 12:28 PM  

Scott Adams addresses Q. He thinks Q makes the MAGA movement look dumb.


https://www.pscp.tv/w/1OdKrpNOROwJX


Blogger James Dixon August 05, 2018 12:32 PM  

> It's not just the author self inserting, they're also a cynically inserted trope to sell stuff to particular demographics.

You can argue with the definition all you want, but it's still the definition.

Blogger Damelon Brinn August 05, 2018 12:34 PM  

@32, Check out that link I gave above. A fan-fic author got tired of seeing so many perfect characters who were obviously written by their (usually female) authors for no purpose other than to tell the world how wonderful they were by proxy. There would be no real story, no characterization for anyone, just this one obvious author avatar being super-wonderful while everyone else in the story admired her. So she created the literal Lt. Mary Sue to make fun of the type.

That's why Bella in Twilight stands out. I've only seen one of the movies (painful even with Rifftrax), and it's obvious that the character is total wish-fulfillment for the author. Two supernatural dudes are fighting over her, and she's done nothing to earn it, so the story is just telling us she's that wonderful. The author never bothers to give her much of a character, because she already has one -- the author herself.

Blogger James Dixon August 05, 2018 12:35 PM  

> Scott Adams addresses Q. He thinks Q makes the MAGA movement look dumb.

I'm can't say I'm really surprised. As far as I can tell, his exposure to the Hollywood and government elites has been limited.

Blogger Dave August 05, 2018 12:36 PM  

"which you have already said you find to be boring"

That wasn't Bellomy was it?

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 12:37 PM  

Scott Adams addresses Q. He thinks Q makes the MAGA movement look dumb.

Scott Adams also said Trump would lose because he said something about grabbing women by the pussy.

Blogger MendoScot August 05, 2018 12:37 PM  

fair example of a Mary Sue be Ash from Evil Dead?

Now that would be dime dropping to the FBI-level disturbing. Think Ash's converstaion with himself in the mirror.

Hermione is obviously Rowling's MS, but it wasn't obvious, at least for me, until the third book when the kids were hitting puberty. Then it was clear that she couldn't write a credible male character and it just got worse with each installment, as Harry and Ron became increasingly female and Hermione and Ginny more male.

Blogger Mephiston Lord of Death August 05, 2018 12:39 PM  

Thanks Brinn

Blogger Skyler the Weird August 05, 2018 12:40 PM  


I went to Seanan McGuire's panel at a Con and what she said was basically seeing yourself in a story is more important than the plot(she loved the Grrlpower represented by Rey, Leia, Porkins Asian Sister, and Admiral Purple hair in The Last Jedi). Rey is a stand in fort all the mentally ill blue haired female SJW'S who live life vicariously through the Mary Sue character as they watch the movie with or read the story to their Cat.

Blogger Matthew August 05, 2018 12:41 PM  

There's a whole taxonomy needing elaboration.

Author Inserts are definitely distinct from Mary Sues. Gene Wolfe inserted himself literally into The Fifth Head of Cerberus: if you follow all the clues, you find that the patricidal narrator is a clone of a clone of a clone of a clone of Gene Wolfe. In the metafictional "The Last Thrilling Wonder Story", the protagonist is harassed by the "author" "Gene Wolfe" for acting as if the real God is more important than "Gene Wolfe".

Otherwise, Wolfe did the opposite of the Mary Sue. Excepting Latro (who is brain damaged) and possibly Able in The Wizard Knight, none of the protagonists in his novels are amiable.

My theory is that GW's notorious obscurity is driven by the fear that what he's doing will be too obvious, so he falls off the horse to the other side.

Blogger Dire Badger August 05, 2018 12:44 PM  

Some Mary Sues can be quite rewarding and entertaining characters, when the writer actually has a bit of Humility.

Of course, Humility is incredibly difficult to pull off when you are a secret king that is absolutely perfect in nearly every conceivable way. People tend to mistake your Mary Sue's competence with idealization, when really you had to dumb the character down significantly in order to keep it believable.

That's one of the reason Scalzi's author insert characters don't pull off very well... No one can credit that they are almost as amazing as John himself is, because people just cannot imagine someone so far out of their league. That makes them envious haters.

Blogger wisdom wizard August 05, 2018 12:45 PM  

"Scott Adams also said Trump would lose because he said something about grabbing women by the pussy."



That's true. I believe Q is real, wanted to know your take on his words but that will do.

Blogger ghostfromplanetspook August 05, 2018 12:46 PM  

I forgot about the mirror scene lol. I guess power fantasy fantasy work better than Mary Sue. That Hogwarts water has a curse on it plus the mermaids screw in it.

Blogger Michael Maier August 05, 2018 12:52 PM  

Damelon Brinn wrote:@32, Check out that link I gave above. A fan-fic author got tired of seeing so many perfect characters who were obviously written by their (usually female) authors for no purpose other than to tell the world how wonderful they were by proxy. There would be no real story, no characterization for anyone, just this one obvious author avatar being super-wonderful while everyone else in the story admired her. So she created the literal Lt. Mary Sue to make fun of the type.

That's why Bella in Twilight stands out. I've only seen one of the movies (painful even with Rifftrax), and it's obvious that the character is total wish-fulfillment for the author. Two supernatural dudes are fighting over her, and she's done nothing to earn it, so the story is just telling us she's that wonderful. The author never bothers to give her much of a character, because she already has one -- the author herself.


"nothing to earn it"

IIRC from the movie, she smelled REALLY good.

I have a weakness for vanilla scents on a broad, so I can sympathize with Edward.

Blogger Nathan Housley August 05, 2018 12:54 PM  

@48,

There has to be an aspect of wish fulfillment to the author avatar in a Mary Sue. A coronation of the Secret King, or even more likely, the Secret Queen.

Blogger Tars Tarkusz August 05, 2018 1:11 PM  

It's not clear to me whether or not John Carter is being called a Mary Sue in the quote. I don't really think he (and other ERB characters) fall into the given definition. It seems these men are idealized men. Isn't that one of the points of a hero?
What differentiates a hero from a Mary Sue? Our heroes are supposed to be better at things than you are and better looking. I don't think any man wants to read about a gamma Cuck hero! Try to imagine John Carter or Tarzan as a male-feminist!
The feminist archetype seems more clearly a Mary Sue than an idealized woman.

Blogger Joseph Maroney August 05, 2018 1:14 PM  

"Where does the stand in for author definition come from?"

Fan fiction.

Blogger tuberman August 05, 2018 1:18 PM  

I think of "Carrie" as King's "Mary Sue," right down to the knowledge that he is possessed by demons. The showers must have been awful for King in High School.

"If Thoughts Could Kill," magical projections.

Blogger Robert Pinkerton August 05, 2018 1:39 PM  

Aliester Crowley (chapter and verse forgotten as I last read him thirty-five years ago): "Thou art Asar un-Nefer, my Self made perfect, that no man hath ever seen..."

Blogger Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 1:41 PM  

Son of the Black Sword is the work of a master.

That it is. Absolutely fantastic. In every meaning of the word.

Blogger Amos Bellomy August 05, 2018 1:48 PM  

Vox,

Nobody said anything like that to me and the whole post is discussing the definition I used. Are you referring to someone else by mistake?

Blogger Desdichado August 05, 2018 1:49 PM  


sure if it's a dyke thing or she's just nuts but it's weird that highly paid professional would treat a multi billion IP as her own ego trip.


Do you not know very many women?

Blogger doctrev August 05, 2018 1:53 PM  

MendoScot wrote:Hermione is obviously Rowling's MS, but it wasn't obvious, at least for me, until the third book when the kids were hitting puberty.

Like Bella Swan, Hermione is a stand-in for the audience, not for the writer. One taps into the need smart girls have for recognition from audiences generally and authority figures specifically, while the other is just a tabula rasa for any woman to insert themselves over. Having the specific definition of Mary Sue really clears up a lot of confusion for me involving some very over-idealized characters who are not, by themselves, stand-ins for their author.

JK Rowling's stand-in, as expressed repeatedly by the author and made obvious by her central role in Harry's romantic life despite barely qualifying as a supporting character, is Ginevra "Ginny" Weasley. There are more than a few allegedly smart women who went from rabid fangirls to white-hot hatred once Ginny "stole" Harry from Hermione. I've never seen a series where the author was willing to detonate its popularity with a substantial portion of the fanbase to satisfy their own need for wish fulfillment. It would almost have to be written by a woman to be possible.

But now I'm trying way too hard not to see Jake Sullivan from the Grimnoir Chronicles as Larry Correia, Magical Depression-Era Private Eye with a Waifu. Damn you, Vox, that's two good characters! Though it's pretty obvious that both he and Pitt are fantastic characters without the dishonesty attached to Sues, and the rest of the character roster more than makes up for them. I'm not even sure Jake Sullivan would be possible as a Decoy Protagonist in the hands of a less skilled or intelligent author, and having a male lead who uses his intelligence without being gamma about it is a very refreshing perspective in modern literature.

Blogger Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 1:53 PM  

Even Heinlein wasn't immune. Jubal Harshaw, ...

Gawd, I hate this guy. And the harem of 3 (4?) pretty young women around him are all the same as him, boring. And he's the greatest literary author and super wealthy because of it. But he's so blasé about it, he just doesn't care. And he's so totally past sex, so the gaggle of horny sexy young things in their bikinis in the pool, he's just completely cool about it. Offers them to his mate friends for marriage and etc. blah blah.

I love Starship Troopers, so I am really aghast how poor Stranger in a Strange Land is. It's not even science fiction, apart from the fact that the guy is from Mars, who is a bit naive and randomly kills dangerous soldiers by just making them vanish.

I think I gave up reading after about 2/3rds of the novel. The part where the Martian gets kicked out of the circus troupe. And yeah where he has that excruciating threesome sex scene with his wife/girlfriend plus that elderly tattooed widow (yuck!).

Since so many SF aficionados are present here, maybe some of the esteemed ilk might help me out : will it be worth carrying on reading? Is something ever going to actually "happen" in the Stranger in a Strange Land, or does it keep meandering about until the end?

Suggestions much appreciated.

(I'm currently devouring Superluminary by John C. Wright and I'm stunned : absolutely fantastic!)

Blogger CM August 05, 2018 1:57 PM  

Huh. I thought a Mary Sue was a male with boobs (strong, military type characters... Portman in Annihilation)

Does that fit into this description?

What you describe, I know I can't write. When playing games where I can choose the character, they invariably resemble my ideal image of me. I can not break it. I have tried even randomizing and writing diary entries for the characters to break me of this habit, but it is not an easy thing to break.

Blogger Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 1:58 PM  

Peter Jackson could not resist the temptation to rewrite Lord of the Rings - not merely edit, but actively rewrite.

Do you have a few examples of that? I've read the books multiple times, and also seen the movies, and it must have escaped my attention. Yes, the Hobbit, unfortunately so much garbage actively written into it. That ruined the story. But the actual LOTR trilogy?

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume August 05, 2018 2:08 PM  

@64

Arwen, first and foremost.

Apparently, we LOTR lovers didn't know that we needed a strong, female elf to save the day.

Blogger Silent Draco August 05, 2018 2:11 PM  

FYI, the author stand-in is rated on the Cussler Scale. This is logarithmic, like the Richter Scale A reference or minor cameo rates 1-2. Owne Pitt was a 5, fading to 2-3 as the character develops. Scalzi usage is a 12.

Blogger doctrev August 05, 2018 2:12 PM  

Franz Lyonheart wrote:Peter Jackson could not resist the temptation to rewrite Lord of the Rings - not merely edit, but actively rewrite.

Do you have a few examples of that? I've read the books multiple times, and also seen the movies, and it must have escaped my attention. Yes, the Hobbit, unfortunately so much garbage actively written into it. That ruined the story. But the actual LOTR trilogy?


Warrior Princess Arwen- I think even Liv Tyler looked back skeptically at her in later years. Faramir's evil twin that tried stealing the Ring. Lego-sue the incredibly hot wonder elf that theoretically inspires gay feelings (John Wright's take on this was side-splitting).

I think that's more than sufficient to be going on with. Some of it was probably necessary to get past the Hollywood cesspool, and I'm still monumentally grateful for the trilogy, but the fact remains that re-writing Tolkien indicates a level of hubris bordering on the sociopathic.

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume August 05, 2018 2:25 PM  

@66

Cussler! He's right up there with Larry in terms of his Mary Sue 'character'. Clive Cussler is as interesting, if not more so, than Larry Correia.

And Cussler, beyond Dirk Pitt's Mary Sue qualifications, wrote himself as the author into the books as well, sometimes appearing as an Author/Deus Ex Machina to help the heroes.


Cussler Scale. I like that!

Blogger Silent Draco August 05, 2018 2:26 PM  

Franz,

Council of Elrond. The movie uses Bilbo's doggerel instead of the Valar's dream message.

Aragorn. The literal Secret King (hidden for safety, the last of his line), travellers, huntsman, and concealed identity as a great captain of Gondor in Ecthelion II's time, a rival to Denethor. By strength of will (and family right), wrested a palantir from Sauron's control.
Converted into a sniveling gamma who made Wormtongue look more heroic.

Blogger Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 2:30 PM  

@65 @67

Damn you're right. It did escape me at the time, but somehow I knew, or rather, felt, (when watching the movie) that something wasn't entirely right. From Infogalactic:

In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Arwen is played by Liv Tyler. The films gives her a more prominent role than her literary counterpart, although some of her invented scenes seem to be inspired by the The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.

In the first film, Arwen searches for Aragorn and single-handedly rescues Frodo Baggins from the Black Riders at Bruinen, thwarting them with a sudden flood, summoned by an incantation. (In the novel, Elrond summons the flood, and Glorfindel takes Frodo to Rivendell.) During this flight Arwen wields the sword Hadhafang, which according to film merchandise was once wielded by her father and had belonged to his grandmother Idril Celebrindal.[5] In the film adaptation of The Two Towers, the injured Aragorn is revived by a dream or vision of Arwen, who kisses him and asks the Valar to protect him.


Thanks for the hints!

Blogger Mega-Buster Shepard August 05, 2018 2:31 PM  

If Vox considers Correia the greatest living science fiction writer, just curious who do you consider to be the fantasy equivalent?

Blogger MendoScot August 05, 2018 2:34 PM  

Like Bella Swan, Hermione is a stand-in for the audience, not for the writer.

Meh, not buying it. Rowling wrote the earlier books out of desperation. As it became a franchise, she let her MS loose. She still couldn't write a convinving adolescent boy. Of course, hers are just now there.

But Harry, not Hermione, was already established as the focal character.

Now re-read your second paragraph as how she tried to reframe the whole story around "the most brilliant witch of her age".

And yes, I am conflating the books with the movies. Ironically, the movies were better in that it was more difficult to make the substitution work.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 2:35 PM  

Like Bella Swan, Hermione is a stand-in for the audience, not for the writer.

I suggest you look at the meme comparing the description of Bella Swan to the picture of the author.

Are you referring to someone else by mistake?

Yes, sorry about that.

I thought a Mary Sue was a male with boobs. Does that fit into this description?

No. That's called "A David Weber novel".

When playing games where I can choose the character, they invariably resemble my ideal image of me.

Then you understand where the impulse to write Mary Sue characters comes from.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 2:36 PM  

If Vox considers Correia the greatest living science fiction writer, just curious who do you consider to be the fantasy equivalent?

I don't consider Larry to be the greatest living science fiction writer. He's not even a science fiction writer.

Blogger Dire Badger August 05, 2018 2:36 PM  

Franz Lyonheart wrote:Since so many SF aficionados are present here, maybe some of the esteemed ilk might help me out : will it be worth carrying on reading? Is something ever going to actually "happen" in the Stranger in a Strange Land, or does it keep meandering about until the end?

That depends, are you into 'enlightened, joyful cannibalism'?

Stranger ruined my opinion of Heinlein forever.

Blogger Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 2:39 PM  

@75 thank you Sir. I shall pass.

Blogger Joseph Maroney August 05, 2018 2:45 PM  

"Do you have a few examples of that? I've read the books multiple times, and also seen the movies, and it must have escaped my attention."

He changed Aragorn from being a very confident leader who was well aware of and embraced his destiny, into an insecure man that practically had to be begged to do his job.

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume August 05, 2018 2:49 PM  

@77

Because we're not supposed to enjoy or identify or look up to heroes who don't have, at the very least, one Metric Morrisey level of Angst.

Blogger doctrev August 05, 2018 2:56 PM  

VD wrote:Like Bella Swan, Hermione is a stand-in for the audience, not for the writer.

I suggest you look at the meme comparing the description of Bella Swan to the picture of the author.


GOD DAMN IT, you're right!

At least before I could grudgingly respect her taking advantage of idiots without getting high on her own supply.

MendoScot wrote:Like Bella Swan, Hermione is a stand-in for the audience, not for the writer.

Meh, not buying it. Rowling wrote the earlier books out of desperation. As it became a franchise, she let her MS loose. She still couldn't write a convinving adolescent boy. Of course, hers are just now there.

But Harry, not Hermione, was already established as the focal character.

Now re-read your second paragraph as how she tried to reframe the whole story around "the most brilliant witch of her age".

And yes, I am conflating the books with the movies. Ironically, the movies were better in that it was more difficult to make the substitution work.


Relentlessly kissing Hermione's ass to flatter the audience of women who think they are smart? Not the same as re-focusing the series. The entire seventh book, never mind the final path to killing Voldemort, would have failed horrifically if Hermione had to make it happen instead of Harry. It's ironic that a woman who claps along to the gospel of Diversity makes inheritance a centerpiece to her universe. Wizard separation from Muggles, blood magic, the Cloak of Invisibility: none of these make any sense in a world where my blood is just as good as yours.

I thought the film elevated Hermione to Harry's level, and implied romantic interest between them. I was astonished they didn't follow through, as JK Rowling is the only person on the planet who cared if Harry got together with Ginny.

Take it or leave it, I'm only spending so much effort on justifying faddish children's series that will be increasingly forgotten.

Blogger Joseph Maroney August 05, 2018 2:58 PM  

"one Metric Morrisey level of Angst."

That's awesome. When I was a kid, I thought he had an excellent sense of humor. As I got older, I realized that he actually believed much of what he said.

Blogger The Kurgan August 05, 2018 3:26 PM  

That line about “fireproof” made me clench my jaw.
Some people really are stealing oxygen.

Blogger The Kurgan August 05, 2018 3:28 PM  

This may explain why even before I ever came across this blog I literally never managed to read more than a page of any scalzi book and always felt an almost physical revulsion at the thought of trying to force myself to read his work.

Blogger SciVo August 05, 2018 3:40 PM  

Mega-Buster Shepard wrote:If Vox considers Correia the greatest living science fiction writer, just curious who do you consider to be the fantasy equivalent?

Dude. I knew he was talking about John C. Wright even without checking the link.

Blogger Amethyst Dominica August 05, 2018 3:43 PM  

E;R just put out his "Solo" review which had a discussion on the difference between Mary Sues and Gary Stus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EbPABvxHLg&t=2s

Not sure everyone here would agree with his definition, but it's worth a look.

Blogger Zeroh Tollrants August 05, 2018 3:45 PM  

Lol, evidently he hasn't.
Sorry guy, women are ego driven & narcissistic. That's just how we're made.

Blogger Zeroh Tollrants August 05, 2018 3:53 PM  

No one ever went broke kissing women's asses & telling them they (we) are smart, (or funny), hun.
In fact, it's a good way to get very, very wealthy.
Just ask Judd Apatow.

Blogger Amos Bellomy August 05, 2018 3:56 PM  

E;R helped me formalize my theory.

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer August 05, 2018 4:15 PM  

I don't consider Larry to be the greatest living science fiction writer. He's not even a science fiction writer.

Yeah, he does "horror adventure" and fantasy. Though The Grimnoir Chronicles have aliens, so wouldn't that count as SciFi? SciFi noir?

Blogger MendoScot August 05, 2018 4:26 PM  

Not the same as re-focusing the series.

Re-frame and re-focus are not synonyms. I already specified that she was committed to Harry as her driving character. She did well in placing him in the midst of a group who supported him in different ways at different times. Hermione's only flaw was making poor choices in men.

Blogger Joseph Maroney August 05, 2018 4:43 PM  

Harry Potter is primarily an exercise in English literary alchemy. Being in the midst of a group that supported him was a necessity for the formula to work.

Blogger MendoScot August 05, 2018 5:00 PM  

Who were Hermione's friends?

Blogger Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 5:01 PM  

This may explain why even before I ever came across this blog I literally never managed to read more than a page of any scalzi book.

"Old Man's War" is a competent SF novel. His first. If you didn't know anything else about him, and if you never had read anything else from him (it went rapidly downhill from there). I still read the second in the series, and because I couldn't believe how bad it was, hoping for an outlier, I even purchased the third (but never finished reading it).

Many followers of this blog actually came here via OMW / Tor, and their disappointment in them. But I repeat myself.

Blogger bob kek mando - ( i always walk with Jack Ward ... unless i'm riding with Joe Rohan ) August 05, 2018 5:08 PM  

62. Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 1:53 PM
Is something ever going to actually "happen" in the Stranger in a Strange Land, or does it keep meandering about until the end?


it's been quite some time since i've read that, but i would say not.

Heinlein wrote that as a spoof of Christianity and it's emblematic of the flaws in most of his later works, even though he wrote it in the middle of his career ( Stranger was published immediately after Starship Troopers ).


63. CM August 05, 2018 1:57 PM
Huh. I thought a Mary Sue was a male with boobs (strong, military type characters... Portman in Annihilation)



no.

compare Luke and Rey. the circumstances surrounding them are very similar ( orphans scraping by on a desert planet ) but AS CHARACTERS they are completely different.

Luke starts out as a goofball, constantly getting slapped down and screwing up and getting things wrong. he has some aptitude as a mechanic / pilot / shot ... but that does not do anything to prevent his getting ambushed by the Tusken raider, where Obi Wan rescues him. or, his getting successfully ambushed by the Wampa in Empire, when Han rescues him. or getting his hand cut off by Vader, when the whole crew rescues him.

Rey is not merely perfect at everything, she's actively humiliating most of the male characters in the film. and she's never really rescued by anybody. nor does anyone ever teach or mentor her ( in TFA ).

in short, taking the boobs off of Rey isn't going to make her anything like Luke.


64. Franz Lyonheart August 05, 2018 1:58 PM
But the actual LOTR trilogy?



probably the most egregious example is in the Twin Towers when Jackson pretends to kill Aragorn by dropping him over the cliff.

Aragorn IS THE KING WHO IS RETURNING IN THE THIRD MOVIE. YOU. FUCKING. MORONS. HE'S NOT DEAD, WE KNOW HE'S NOT DEAD, HE CAN'T DIE, YOU CAN'T KILL HIM OR YOU CAN'T FINISH THE GODDAMN TRILOGY YOU JUST SPENT $300MILLION FILMING, YOU FUCKING RETARDS.

there is NOTHING even remotely approaching that scene in the books.

Blogger doug whiddon August 05, 2018 5:10 PM  

I've always felt the defining characteristic of the Mary-Sue is they're better than everyone else without trying or training, and they have no character flaws. (except that you always want to punch them in the face)

Blogger AnvilTiger August 05, 2018 5:14 PM  

I always thought a Mary Sue was a "perfect" character. Superman was a Mary Sue (kryponite was introduced to counter that). A Mary Sue always wins, and wins against overwhelming odds. A character that repeatedly gets their ass kicked cannot be a Mary Sue, even if they win in the end.

As for whether or not the protagonist is an author stand in wish fulfillment - I dunno. Probably sometimes. Other times not. Maybe sometimes it is just that the author wants a super powered main character, because only a super powered main character can defeat super powered villains. If you have overwhelming villains, Joe Ordinary would simply die.

Blogger Hammerli280 August 05, 2018 6:05 PM  

Since people asked, here's my list of Peter Jacoson's unnecessary fiddling with LOTR:

1. Warrior Princess Arwen. I can understand wanting to introduce the character, but she's really a secondary McGuffin, a prize Aragorn collects if he wins.

2. The whole affair of Helm's Deep. In the book, Edoras is safe (as it lies in a cleft in the mountains, very defensible). Helm's Deep is an outlying citadel further to the East. It's under attack, the heroes ride out to save it. FAR more realistic from a military perspective than the film.

3. Faramir wanting to take the Ring. AKA Faramir's Slander Suit. Faramir is supposed to be a near-saintly figure. He KNOWS what the Ring is. Understands its power...and the peril it presents. And wants nothing to do with it.

4. Omitting Aragorn's use of the palantir. This is important to the plot, it gives Aragorn a reason to go through the Paths of the Dead to head off an attack on South Gondor. It also establishes Aragorn as a kingly figure, able to pit his will directly against Sauron and win.

5. The Battle of the Pellenor Fields. (Nobody has mentioned this, I'm surprised). In the book, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli head off through the Paths of the Dead to do SOMETHING to help South Gondor. They use the Army of the Dead, but that takes place off-camera. What DOES happen on camera is one of the most beautiful passages in English literature. The Rohirrim have made their charge, but are cut off. Eomer rallies his men on a hill, thinking to make a shield wall and fight on foot until all have fallen, to do deeds of song though there be no men left in the West to sing of them.

And then they sight the black sails of the Corsairs of Umbar. Reinforcements for Mordor. The lead ship turns toward the quay...and the Royal Standard breaks. Aragorn. Not with a CGI army, but with all the troops of South Gondor. It's a truly magnificent scene...and Peter Jackson traded it in for cheap CGI.

Blogger MendoScot August 05, 2018 6:22 PM  

Yus, Hammerli.

Jackson's corruption was obvious in the LoTR, that he made blatant in the Bobbit.

Never mind. It all worked for giving it female energy.

Blogger VD August 05, 2018 6:29 PM  

I always thought a Mary Sue was a "perfect" character.

No.

As for whether or not the protagonist is an author stand in wish fulfillment - I dunno.

We do. That's literally what "Mary Sue" means.

Blogger Pseudotsuga August 05, 2018 6:41 PM  

Hammerli280 wrote:Since people asked, here's my list of Peter Jacoson's unnecessary fiddling with LOTR:

2. The whole affair of Helm's Deep. In the book, Edoras is safe (as it lies in a cleft in the mountains, very defensible). Helm's Deep is an outlying citadel further to the East. It's under attack, the heroes ride out to save it. FAR more realistic from a military perspective than the film.


[NitPick mode on]
I think you are confusing Edoras with Dunharrow. Edoras is not in the mountains, but it is located on a hill in the foothills of the White Mountains.
Also, Helm's Deep is not actually attacked until after Theoden leads his army there.
[Nitpick mode off]
Picks and nits aside, those are good examples of Jackson's fiddling with the text-- or was it Fran Walsh's fault?

Blogger CoolHand August 05, 2018 6:48 PM  

Shimshon wrote:Speaking of Mary Sue:

https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/04/patrick-stewart-is-returning-to-the-role-of-jean-luc-picard-for-a-new-star-trek-series/


Huh. Must have a boat payment due.

Blogger Silly but True August 05, 2018 7:19 PM  

“I went to Seanan McGuire's...”

I’m beginning to see where the problem might be...

Blogger S1AL August 05, 2018 7:20 PM  

I'm still upset with Jackson for leaving Beregond out of the movie, in addition to everything else already mentioned.

On the other hand... the movies *are* cinematic masterpieces, and their success opened the door for a new generation of Tolkien fans.

Blogger bob kek mando - ( i always walk with Jack Ward ... unless i'm riding with Joe Rohan ) August 05, 2018 7:25 PM  

102. S1AL August 05, 2018 7:20 PM
On the other hand... the movies *are* cinematic masterpieces, and their success opened the door for a new generation of Tolkien fans.



your standards are low. they were middling fair.

watch 'Lawrence of Arabia' for a cinematic masterpiece. and not a fraction of a second of CGI to be found.

Blogger S1AL August 05, 2018 7:38 PM  

I've watched 'Lawrence'. It had the pacing of a drunk turtle. The LotR movies, for all their flaws, are eminently re-watchable FOUR HOUR movies. That's very impressive.

Blogger OneWingedShark August 05, 2018 7:42 PM  

Anno Ruse wrote:When "Mary Sue" is used, it seems nobody wants to discuss the character who is supposed to be a Mary Sue. It always turns into a discussion about what a Mary Sue actually is. It can be a Correia character or Nabokov character, when the subject is Mary Sues you'll end up in the same discussion. Boring!
Good point.
I've read a few literal self-insert fanfiction stories that were very good; a lot of these wouldn't be considered Mary Sues, perhaps because they aren't idealized — perhaps it's this quality that, in the end, people are arguing about: how much idealization qualifies a Mary Sue.

VD wrote:I skimmed the freebie Amazon sample of Scalzi's latest, when it was published and this definition is filling in the blanks.

Scalzi is an interesting case in that all of his characters in all of his novels, except the evil cardboard cutouts that are only there to be bested by his wit, speak with his voice. It's really bizarre.

That does sound weird; I can't imagine being an author of any acclaim and having only a singular voice for such a large portion of the characters. (I'm an amateur author, and I find it impressive to read an author who has truly mastered giving different voices to different characters.)

Desert Rat wrote:The hero has to overcome persons and conditions that are greater than he. The heroism lies in that overcoming of the seeming insurmountable in pursuit of a worthy goal. The hero doesn't have to survive this but he does have to be seen as overcoming.
I don't think this necessarily stands the test: the Greatest Hero, Jesus, literally becomes less, putting on humanity and mortality, in order to overcome Sin and the power of Death. (Also note that Jesus isn't a Mary Sue: He isn't idealized, but He is perfect.)

Nathan Housley wrote:@48,
There has to be an aspect of wish fulfillment to the author avatar in a Mary Sue. A coronation of the Secret King, or even more likely, the Secret Queen.

Hm, perhaps.
But I'm reminded of Billy Batson / Captain Marvel; from the [admittedly few] Captain Marvel comics I've read they certainly are wish-fulfillment stories, and there's a level of OP there, but I think this image sums up the character well: “I’m just a boy trying to be a good man.”
(See this blog post for a good write-up on the character [and DC's current comics].)

Silent Draco wrote:Franz,

Council of Elrond. The movie uses Bilbo's doggerel instead of the Valar's dream message.

Aragorn. The literal Secret King (hidden for safety, the last of his line), travellers, huntsman, and concealed identity as a great captain of Gondor in Ecthelion II's time, a rival to Denethor. By strength of will (and family right), wrested a palantir from Sauron's control.

Converted into a sniveling gamma who made Wormtongue look more heroic.

Hm, you know, now that you mention it I do remember movie-Aragorn being less enjoyable than book-Aragorn (though the real hero, in both book and movie, is Sam). I guess I'll have to read the books and watch the movies again.

Blogger Hammerli280 August 05, 2018 7:45 PM  

@104: Heretic!

Actually, I'll half agree with you. From the standpoint of sheer cinematography, "Lawrence of Arabia" is probably the greatest film ever made. Plotwise...the first half is excellent. The second is merely good.

Blogger S1AL August 05, 2018 7:58 PM  

Don't get me wrong - I like 'Lawrence'. It's a great movie. It's also at least an hour longer than it should be, because it's not just a movie; it's a video tour of the region.

Pacing is the one area where modern movies are consistently superior.

Blogger Nathan Housley August 05, 2018 8:14 PM  

@105,

The reason Mary Sue is called such traces back to a decades-old Star Trek fanfic where Ensign Mary Sue, an author stand-in character, saves the day and charms all the bridge crew. So the Mary Sue trope is specifically an author-insert wish-fulfillment fantasy. Author inserts have been done before, such as Wellman's "The Terrible Parchment", and power fantasies are a dime-a-thousand. A Mary Sue must be both.

Unfortunately, the term in common usage has turned into the "fascist" of literary criticism, meaning nothing and designed to shut down any conversation about a story.

Blogger Scott Birch August 05, 2018 8:24 PM  

Is there a term for a collective's Mary Sue? I guess it would e some kind of avatar, but something more specific would be useful.

Blogger Dexter August 05, 2018 8:43 PM  

I think of "Carrie" as King's "Mary Sue," right down to the knowledge that he is possessed by demons. The showers must have been awful for King in High School.

Other Stephen King stand ins for himself (not really Mary Sues): Harold Lauder (the social outcast writer) in The Stand, Ben Mears (the writer) in Salem's Lot, and any character whose father ever asked him if he was a "hommasexshul".

Blogger OneWingedShark August 05, 2018 8:52 PM  

Scott Birch wrote:Is there a term for a collective's Mary Sue? I guess it would e some kind of avatar, but something more specific would be useful.
What you're describing is probably best described/executed in a RPG-esque format known as a 'quest'. There are excellent examples around then net, and perhaps you'd enjoy this wh40k quest (sadly the QM burned out) or this Naruto quest with Sasuke as the main-character.

There is, however, a very different quality between a quest as above and a self-insert; but that's to be expected considering the protagonist is standing-in for the "group" vs "self", so that's to be expected.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 August 05, 2018 8:54 PM  

I tend to agree about Owen in book #1. The most unbelievable thing I found in a book about near-indestructible vampires, ancient Old One avatars, and long-lived werewolves was that Owen was able to attract Julie. I get that Larry Correia based it on how he managed to land his wife, but still, that doesn't happen 99% of the time.

The way that Julie broke it off with Grant, though, was pretty realistic.

Blogger Blume August 05, 2018 8:58 PM  

Hermione is Rowlings author stand in. She has admitted that the Ron Character is based off a jock she new in school. Hermione hooking up with Ron is her wish fulfilment. That's why she had to hook up Harry with someone else.

Blogger MendoScot August 05, 2018 10:27 PM  

Hermione hooking up with Ron is her wish fulfilment.

Heh. There you go.

And I thought all the humiliation was just the natural hatred of gingers.

Live and learn.

Blogger wreckage August 05, 2018 10:37 PM  

@112 it helps that Correia is about 7 foot tall and a legitimate badass. I have seen at least one 9-10 have her switches flipped and wired down by a guy who was eminently capable of kicking arse, and he was in all other ways (apart from probably being pretty close to legit Sigma) a very regular dude.

Correia is big as hell, which presses some female buttons just by itself, and trending into legit Alpha territory. And that's really Grant's problem the whole way through; he develops into a potentially high-ranked male, but he never has presence, whereas Owen defines his environment.

Blogger wreckage August 05, 2018 10:40 PM  

@114 Turns out it's a kinky hurt-comfort fantasy.

Blogger Joseph Maroney August 05, 2018 11:42 PM  

"I do remember movie-Aragorn being less enjoyable than book-Aragorn "

I read an article a few years ago, it may have been linked from this site, that asserts that Aragorn was not only miscast in Viggo Mortensen, but miscast deliberately to undermine the character. I'm trying to dig it up. One of its main points was his previous roles, and I'm guessing it had to do with this performance as the devil:

https://youtu.be/tMmcCBEyEj0?t=28s

It's not particularly interesting to watch, but it doesn't exactly shout out "THIS guy should play Aragorn!" On a side note, there's a Hollywood conspiracy theory out there that one of the ways for an actor to elevate himself is to accept a role playing Satan.

Blogger bob kek mando - ( i always walk with Jack Ward ... unless i'm riding with Joe Rohan ) August 05, 2018 11:47 PM  

104. S1AL August 05, 2018 7:38 PM
I've watched 'Lawrence'. It had the pacing of a drunk turtle.


*shrugs*

Peter Jackson has the narrative abilities of a drunk turtle, as demonstrated by his version of King Kong. and, subsequently, his Hobbit movies. but Jackson's weaknesses were obvious in the Rings movies, for those willing to look. the Frogger scene on the collapsing stairwell in the Mines of Moria was particularly stupid and tedious.

the criteria you posited was "cinematic", which is everything involved with the creation of the cinema experience, from writing to acting to film direction to air conditioning and surround sound while you view.

Lawrence won 7 Oscars of 10 nominations. Fellowship won 4 of 13.

explosions and CGI everywhere doesn't a good film going experience make.

CGI isn't inherently "bad", but the way these shitty modern Hollywood movies try to substitute effects for acting, subtlety, nuance and story telling means that the modern application of it is almost universally awful.

which is what Jackson was doing in the Rings movies. the Rings movies were not objectively awful, as i said, they're middling fair. but all the crap in them, came from Jackson, his SJW screenwriting group and his CGI boffins.

Rings succeeds because of Tolkien's narrative strength and IN SPITE OF Jackson's stupidity.

Jackson decided he could safely ignore Tolkien's narrative in the Hobbit movies after the success of Rings, and it shows.


107. S1AL August 05, 2018 7:58 PM
It's also at least an hour longer than it should be, because it's not just a movie; it's a video tour of the region.


erm.

a large part of the, ahem, CINEMA experience is the visual affect. perhaps you need to see it on a big screen ( i know CTHD greatly benefits from this ), but the visuals are one of the best things about Lawrence.

and part of the reason for the "turtle's pacing" in Lawrence is Lean's effort to demonstrate the effect of being in the desert
...
where you can sit on a moving camel for hours
...
and never appear to get anywhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49qNHfYq6XE

Blogger Brick Hardslab August 06, 2018 12:27 AM  

Jackson had to 'Jackson up' Tolkien. That's arrogance and ignorance all in one.

Blogger Brick Hardslab August 06, 2018 12:29 AM  

You should have seen who Jackson first wanted.

Blogger wreckage August 06, 2018 12:37 AM  

I think Viggo did pretty well, but Aragorn wasn't Aragorn, true enough. Jackson DID insist on the sets being near-as-dammit to "real", which I respected, but the Hobbit series, especially after the first one, really showed he was completely clueless as a storyteller.

That said, can anyone think of a current director with reasonable cachet who isn't bloody awful at narrative?

Blogger S1AL August 06, 2018 3:17 AM  

Yeah, I'm not saying that there aren't glaring issues with Jackson's work - Faramir and Denethor are merely the most blatant. Amusingly enough, Theoden in the movies is closer in personality to Denethor in the books.

But, and this is a common catch when having this kind of debate - the LotR movies succeed at what they're attempting to be. They're epic in scope and feel, they're well-paced, they're re-watchable, and they have broad appeal. And if some of the story gets sacrificed soon the way, well, that's often a price of blockbusters*.

And one of the reasons that movies like that have failed in the past is that they sacrificed watchability for faithfulness to source material. You can't recover from that on the big screen.

*LotR (and The Silmarillion) are far better-suited to mini-series. They're even written in that format. Hopefully, someday, they'll get that treatment.

Blogger Resident Moron™ August 06, 2018 3:56 AM  

S1AL

An HBO GoT treatment of LoTR?

One or two chapters per episode?

7 or 8 years of story?

Why not?

Seinfeld did how many years of a show about nothing?

Blogger wreckage August 06, 2018 6:34 AM  

S1AL my wife and daughter love the LOTR movies. As do I for that matter. The war for popular culture is more important than purity.

Blogger Daniel August 06, 2018 6:49 PM  

What he did with faramir changed evrything. Sttoped being a fan right there

Blogger John Wright August 07, 2018 11:47 AM  

While it gives me great pain to publicly take exception with the greatest living science fiction editor, I disagree with the idea that we are disagreeing.

This is not a semantic debate about the definition of a phrase. We can both agree that a Mary Sue, traditionally, refers to a self insert character emotionally validated by one and all, competent at all things, who suffers no setbacks.

The question being address is why is this bad writing?

Bellomy's insight, which I praise as brilliant, is that the Mary Sue, whether a self insert character or not, is a dishonest character because the author treats her as if the story has done the hard work of portraying her as having the emotional impact the author so clearly wants her to have, but there is no work to show. She wears a purple heart she never earned: Mary Sue has stolen valor.

Now, since in many cases, including the case of Rey in LAST JEDI, no one can say for certain who invented what percent of the character. How much of Rey is due to the actress versus the writer versus the producer? Hence whether Rey is a self insert character depends on whether one thinks Kathleen Kennedy invented her or Rian Johnson.

On the other hand, everyone, no matter his opinion who invented which aspects of her, who sees LAST JEDI can see she is a Mary Sue. She looks and smells like a self insert character whether she is one or not, because self insert characters dishonestly attempt to win stolen valor.

Using your strict definition of Mary Sue is useless to anyone not familiar with the author.

Even then, the matter is unclear: I wrote a story starring an all-competent hero who was a lawyer. Is he my Mary Sue? He is also a gunslinger, a mathematician, and a computerized demigod, none of which remotely describes me. Does my hero flip from being a Mary Sue and back again depending on how well you know me?

Or if it should turn out that Bill Finger was an orphaned vigilante millionaire, would that make Batman a Mary Sue?

Is so, the strict definition is not useful for this purpose: it does not get at why Mary Sues are bad writing.

On the other hand, my broader definition of a Mary Sue requires only that the audience look at the work, see how the character is portrayed, and see whether she earns her valor.

The other utility of the broader definition is that it adumbrates why Mary Sue appears so often in SJW writing, and so rarely in traditional writing, yes, even when the hero is an obvious wish fulfillment superman good at everything.

Batman, the Gray Lensman, James Bond are all good at everything: but they are not inserts into someone else's story placed into a tale merely to steal prestige from an established character like Luke Skywalker. Rey is. The Mary Sues from Star Trek Fanfic are. The diversity hire characters in Marvel comics, she-Thor, she-Hawkeye, she-wolverine, minority-Hulk, minority-Spidey, minority-Captain America, all are wearing the uniforms and medals that others earned.

To sum up: Your definition is the traditional and correct one, that is beyond despite: a self-flattering self-insert character. Bellomy's inside finds what the essential trait is that makes self insert characters bad writing: the stolen valor. His insight allows us to broaden the definition to include characters like Rey, whose pedigree is unknown or in dispute.

Blogger wreckage August 08, 2018 3:31 AM  

So, a taxonomic definition, rather than genetic.

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