Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I am back on board the USS Enterprise, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and a bunch of red shirted ensigns are down on the planet, and I wait for the my next interview. I am nervous and excited. I know who she is, but do any of really know who she IS? I am about to interviewee, the smartest, most talented, the most beautiful woman on the whole ship. Who is this amazing woman? Uhura? Nurse Chapel? Yeoman Rand? Lee Merriweather, doing her Cat Woman impersonation in Romulan ears? No it is Lieutenant Mary Sue.
Who is Miss Sue you ask? Let me tell you. But first I have to tell you a tale of a world far far away, and long long time ago. America in the seventies. Back when the real life inspiration for Eric Foreman, was getting high in his parent’s basement with Kelso and Hyde, but before George Lucas took us Tatooine, there was a hard core group of nerds who invented fanzines. Computers back then as big as a refrigerator and where for business like IBM and the CIA, not for home and personal use. So the idea of on line fan fic, was still just a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eye. So a corps of enthusiasts published their own magazines, and would try to sell them at cons and by mail order. No one got rich or famous of fanzines, this was a true labor of love. The most flourishing verity of fanzine were the Star Trek ones.
But Sturgeon’s Law (90% of anything is crap) prevailed here as well as anywhere else. And a lot of these self-published opuses where truly dreadful. The most common thread among them was, a perfected version of the writer, who would come on board the Enterprise and knock the crew’s country socks off. They would save the ship and have Spock fighting other cast members for her heart. Back then Trek fanzine writers were ninety percent female so most original protagonists were also female.
Into this milieu comes one Paula Smith. Co-editor of the fanzine Menagerie. After reading a particularly heinous submission, she published in Menagerie’s second issue A Trekkies Tale, a parody of the submissions she would get. In ten glorious paragraphs she succinctly summed up what was wrong in the genre. Her main character was Lieutenant Mary Sue, at fifteen in a half she was the youngest and brightest graduate of Star Fleet Academy. A half-Vulcan woman who so beautiful it was a curse. She was of course too good for this world and died saving the Kirk and company her passing was mourned by all.
Hey I got an idea instead of telling you about it why don’t I just let you read it.
A TREKKIE’S TALE
By Paula Smith
“Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,” thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise.
“Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet – only fifteen and a half years old.” Captain Kirk came up to her.
“Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly. Will you come to bed with me?”
“Captain! I am not that kind of girl!”
“You’re right, and I respect you for it. Here, take over the ship for a minute while I go get some coffee for us.”
Mr. Spock came onto the bridge. “What are you doing in the command seat, Lieutenant?”
“The Captain told me to.”
“Flawlessly logical. I admire your mind.”
Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott beamed down with Lt. Mary Sue to Rigel XXXVII. They were attacked by green androids and thrown into prison. In a moment of weakness Lt. Mary Sue revealed to Mr. Spock that she too was half Vulcan. Recovering quickly, she sprung the lock with her hairpin and they all got away back to the ship.
But back on board, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Mary Sue found out that the men who had beamed down were seriously stricken by the jumping cold robbies , Mary Sue less so. While the four officers languished in Sick Bay, Lt. Mary Sue ran the ship, and ran it so well she received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of Good Guyhood.
However the disease finally got to her and she fell fatally ill. In the Sick Bay as she breathed her last, she was surrounded by Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott, all weeping unashamedly at the loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence, capability and all around niceness. Even to this day her birthday is a national holiday of the Enterprise.
I love that story. It sums up perfectly how terrible fanzine writing and its spiritual successor fan fic can be. I love it for it grammatical errors. I love it for it blatant oblivious (Just how does a ship have a national holiday?) I love it for its faux earnestness, and I love its main character because she doesn’t get she is the butt of a colossal joke.
So here I nervously sit waiting to interview the most important person in amateur publishing, if not the most importing person in the galaxy. I am going to hate her of course. She is the embodiment of all those popular girls in high Scholl that either ignored me or mocked me .I going to rip her to pieces. I am going to reveal her as the ridiculous trope that she is.
She walked in an all my righteous rage is overcome with her unearthly beauty. I realize that life must be so hard for, being so beautiful. She daintily takes a seat and it takes me a moment to lift my jaw off the ground.
“You wanted to ask me some questions.” She ask as I tried to compose myself. “What type of questions? I am very good at math, tactics, engineering and history of quantum, Kronotoiuytono’cks. Among other things.” She isn’t bragging she is just trying to encourage me.
“Actually I have questions about you?” I finial get out.
“My favorite subject.” She said sitting up.
“I am not surprised.” I say flatly. OK, let’s start with a hard one. “OK. A Trekkies Tale, has been cited by writers in the seventies and eighties why they don’t create female characters, because they didn’t want to be accused of writing a Mary Sue. How so you respond to that?”
She take a moment to think about what I just said. “Golly gee, then they should just write their character’s better.” She says with a sparkle. “I mean that is just silly, just write your character, Paula Smith didn’t invent the concept, she just commented on what she was seeing. People have been writing badly connived shallow self-interruption s for way longer than 1973, so I think that it is wrong that they blame this all on me, just because I am beautiful, oh and even if they do blame it on me, I forgive them because I am a friend to all people, and I am not a badly conceived shallow self-interpenetration. I am a highly trained Start Fleet officer.”
She then adds. “Besides even in Star Trek there were strong well written churches after me…Dr Crusher, Counselor Troi, Captain Janeway, Kira Nerys, Seven of Nine…So blaming me on the lack of good female characters in science fiction is just stupid.”
She actually has a point, if I was able to translate it through all her cutesy. “OK, so are there Mary Sue’s in canon or are they just in fan fic.”
“Well…” She says coyly, “…some writers, I am not going to say names…” Then makes sneezing sound that sounds like J.K Rowling and another that sounds like Stephanie Myers.
“Did you just say J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Myers?” I ask blinking.
“Oh tootles…” She swears. “Yes, but come on Herminie Granger and Bella Swan are more Mary Sue than me. And I am the original Mary Sue. I mean that’s OK, that they are what they are. Look at the male equivalents James Bond, Doc Savage, and even Sherlock Holmes.”
“That leads a question what do you call a male Marty Stu or Gary Sue?”
“Oh I call him by his proper name Wesley Crusher.” She says with a mischievous smile. “But oh there is a double standard, people expect male characters like Bat Man, Buckaroo Bonzai or Jack Reacher to be perfect. A hyper competent female character is a Mary Sue?”
“What is the difference between a hyper competent character and a Mary Sue?” I ask.
“Good writing.” She admits. “Also any hyper competent character you don’t like is a Mary Sue. I mean let’s face it a lot of it is just brand perception. But your millage may vary.”
“Is creating an author Avatar, the act of creating a character based on yourself a bad thing?” I ask.
“It is probably it is unavoidable, to some extent.” She says after chewing on her upper lip so adorably. “I mean a writer puts so much of their self into their work. I don’t think you could truly leave yourself out completely. Some characters, even beloved characters however….how can I say this…have more than just their father or mother’s eyes…Dirk Pitt, Super Man, even Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter. It just important that the characters have their own voice too.”
“Is it easier to criticize fan fic than established author’s writing?” I ask
“Oh, golly yes.” She replies. “If Rita the Future Crazy Lady’s writes a fic of her avatar, Princess Cat Power, having a three way with Dr. Frankenstein and Dracula curing the vampire of his thirst for blood. When you call it so much claptrap then everyone says ‘right on.’, and “Amen sister.” But then if you say that Heinlein’s Friday, a biologically perfected courier who enjoyed being raped is unrealistic all the fan boys jump down your darn tooting throat.”
“What are some things writers do that make their character’s Mary Sues?” I ask.
“Well, they tend to be incredible beautiful. Unnatural hair or eye color or both, Have a mysterious or secret parentage, they are unique to their environment, vampires or dimensional travelers in a city of normal people. Everyone loves them, especially cannon characters, and these cannon characters will act out character to please the M.S. and even the enemy has to respect her, maybe he will change and give up evil for her. Oh and…” She adds giggling. “His literaturary version interviews famous fictional characters, that last one is the big tip off.”
I shake my finger at her. “Touché Mary, Touché.”
“There are test on the internet that you can take to see if your character is a Mary Sue.” She advised me. “I of course got an A+ on that test.”
“Of course you did.” I reply. “Is there any acceptable flaws in a Mary Sue?”
She replies “Heaven’s yes. We are allowed to be stubborn. And have a temper, it shows that are passionate. It is like when Jesus chased the money lenders out of the temple. Perfect people are allowed to show righteous indignation.”
“Did you just compare yourself to Jesus?” I asked shocked. “You know what happened when the Beatles did that?”
“It’s OK.” She replied. “I am a better drummer than Ringo.”
I am about to ask her another question, when the ship’s speakers page her to the transporter room. “I am sorry.” She gushes. “But I have to go down to the planet Zeta IV-E. They have a terrible epidemic of the cold jumping robbies. And my blood is the only known cure for the CBR. Tootles.” And with that she is up and out the swooshing doors. Perfection trailing in her wake.