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sf sapphire and steel winning

April 2016



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writing carnival

it complicates the complication

Just for the record, blackholly is right again, as usual.

The "I'm too lazy to click a link" version: it's frankly misogynistic to identify a competent female protagonist as a "Mary Sue" because she's at the center of her story. She's at the center of her story because she's the goddamn protagonist.

Why is The Lord of the Rings about Frodo? Because he's the hobbit with the ring. If a different hobbit had had the ring, the book/trilogy would have been about a different hobbit.

When I pick up a book called The Great Gatsby or Anna Karenina or The World According to Garp, I'm pretty sure that Gatsby/Anna/Garp are going to be central to the narrative. This works for books with titles like The Wind-up Girl and Who Fears Death (a name, if you have not read it) and The Lies of Locke Lamora too. Hey, there's a name or an epithet in the title. Maybe this book is about this person!

So... if you find yourself uncomfortable with a lot of books by female authors, with female protagonists, and identifying a high percentage of those female as "Mary Sues," well... it is possible that the fault lies not in the protagonists, but in the reader*.

Sometimes a book is about a female character because there are female people in the world.

Crazy talk, I know, but there you go.

*This also applies if you find yourself often dismissing books with queer central characters as "slash."** Sometimes books are about gay people because gay people exist.

**If you are a slash fan, and trying to sell a book to your friends, letting them know it has the manlove is different. I'm talking about the "Straight boys need not read this because it has The Ghey in it" reviews. They say more about the reviewer than the book, is all I'm saying.


Though I've always considered Frodo a Mary Sue. Basically, I never saw a reason why the author seemed to think he was so awesome except that I kept being told how awesome he was (unlike, say, Sam, who was obviously acting awesomely because he, say, cooked dinner ;-))

The reason Mary Sue is a gendered term was because it was invented in a predominantly female environment. That is, it was women reading writings by women about female characters, so it referred to female characters. Wesley Crusher and the reaction to him I think demonstrates that the concept isn't inherently gendered, even in that fandom. Fundamentally, people don't like characters that the author likes more than we do.

It is absolutely misogynistic to apply different standards to male protagonists than female protagonists, but that doesn't mean we have to like glorified protagonists of any gender, especially when accompanied by tell over show writing. I tend to think we overrate books about male protagonists on general principle (this being The Great American Novel problem). It's part of why I'm a big fan of authors that write about ensembles of variable characters instead.
As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of Frodo is that he's ordinary.
I've always thought this, as well.
Yes. It's ordinary people (Sam and Merry and Pippin, too) rising to do what has to be done, even though it's completely beyond their pay grades. (Very English, you know.)
Yes. And it's really damned important that the book revolves around those four, and Gollum, rather than the kings and princes and elves and dwarves and so forth.

Which is a point that most of the damned planet seems to miss.
Frodo was so ordinary he bored the crap out of me. It is annoying to me, too, that we are supposed to find this somehow a good and glorious virtuous thing, but this does not make him a Stu.