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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.


Apparently one of the main (male) characters in Living With Ghosts is both a Mary Sue and My Ideal Man, (per one reviewer). That was a headdesk moment for me, I have to say, as it told me so much about how that reviewer thought ('Women writers are Stupid! They only like Sparkly Things. They can't think of anything they're not in love with!'). And, y'know, he was so off base. (I might have a pet character. Maybe. But it isn't that one. Then again, a male reviewer once accused me of being secretly in love with the main subject of my PhD thesis... No woman can possibly be objective about a man: her hormones won't allow it, you know. Why, next they'll start thinking the have brains or something. (I may just be guilty of considering that latter reviewer as an a-hole, an opinion in which I am not alone.)
We don't get to win, alas. Those damn cooties are just so scary.
Nobody ever guesses my author-insertion characters without being told. *g*

But the two who are most like me are Elspeth Dunsany (come on, she's such an intentional Mary Sue! She's even named Elizabeth--and she had sparkly eyes! and everybody falls in love with her! And she's the world's smartest Canadian!) and Matthew Szczegielniak.


Matthew is really just me with a penis, a better build, and more magic powers. And different angst.

I love him so.
Matthew's a fine character. (My pet character is Thiercelin. But he's more based on the marquis than a self insertion: if any of them are like me, it's Iareth, probably. Who I don't like.)