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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old July 5 2013, 05:59 PM   #16
Christopher
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Shon T'Hara wrote: View Post
A Mary Sue is an author-insert character who can out-logic Spock, out-engineer Scotty, etc. and has the whole crew gushing about how awesome she is. I think Piper qualifies. I mean, she defeats the Kobayashi Maru in the very first chapter.
But she's also three or four steps behind Kirk and Spock at every stage of the novel. She's an impressive young officer, yes -- just as the protagonist of any series is usually going to be above the rank and file -- but Kirk is amazing in comparison. He, Spock, and McCoy are the accomplished veterans carrying out a deft master plan that Piper, Sarda, Merete, and Scanner are struggling to keep up with and occasionally stumblingly assisting with. They're the ones talking about how awesome Kirk, Spock, and the rest are.

The point of Piper is not that she's better than Kirk. The point is that she has the potential to be the next Kirk, but that her potential is still unrealized and unpolished and she needs to learn from Kirk's example. Basically she's much the same character that Chris Pine's Kirk is in the new movies -- a younger, brasher proto-Kirk who needs to be seasoned by experience. Carey herself has written young Kirk in much the same way in Best Destiny, and probably in her YA Starfleet Academy Kirk books from the '90s (which I've never managed to read). This is a recurring theme in her work: writing about characters who have the potential for greatness but are still immature and unseasoned, who need to learn hard lessons in order to mature into the heroes they have the potential to be.

And that is the opposite of a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is someone who's portrayed as impossibly perfect without that portrayal being justified or earned. It's a dull character that the story treats as fascinating, a shallow character the story treats as deep, a stupid character the story alleges is brilliant. Just being an author insertion or a focus of the story isn't enough to make a character a Mary Sue. Those tropes are not intrinsically bad. There have been great author-insertion characters in fiction. There have been many great TV episodes that have centered around guest characters rather than the leads (e.g. TNG's "Half a Life"); indeed, the practice was quite commonplace in '60s TV and TOS itself did it in episodes like "Mudd's Women" and "Charlie X." So those don't make a Mary Sue. What makes a Mary Sue is when those tropes are used badly. When the featured character has no literary merit, no depth, no appeal to anyone but the author.
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Old July 5 2013, 08:10 PM   #17
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

It would be good to see Piper again. The same for Mandala Flynn.

Is it considered bad form for another author to pick up such a main character (as opposed to a more supporting one) or is it 'fair game' ?
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Old July 5 2013, 08:33 PM   #18
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

More to the point, would the author who created the character have to be paid more $$$$$ for someone else to use it? Would the latter be restricted to the original character traits, or could they be fleshed out some (or the worst ones blunted)?

One of my favorite novel characters was Naraht, the Horta crewmember (aka, "Ensign/Lieutenant Rock" as the Romulan character called him).
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Old July 5 2013, 08:37 PM   #19
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

As far as I know (in America at least) authors doing tie-in work don't own the rights to the characters they create. I think it might be more of a matter of etiquette...
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Old July 5 2013, 11:04 PM   #20
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Yeah, the writers on here have said that everything they write belongs to CBS and that they are free to do whatever they want with them.
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Old July 5 2013, 11:43 PM   #21
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

I liked Dreadnought and Battlestations. I thought Piper was interesting and I think they told good stories that weren't from the usual perspective of the main crew.
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Old July 6 2013, 12:48 AM   #22
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

When it first came out, "Dreadnought!" was so fresh and innovative! The first person narrative had not been done by ST tie-ins before. We recognised it as the author having fun with the Mary Sue fanzine trope, but not replicating it. And yeah, Kirk and his colleagues were always way ahead of Piper and her team.

Neither were Diane Carey's political leanings part of any of the early reviews. I guess you can now go through her first two books and find plenty of "evidence" of her politics on display. If anything, there was more surprise that a tie-in novel had come out acknowledging the dreadnought class of starship (and on the cover, no less, and in the title), since Roddenberry had already made some very public, dismissive comments about Star Fleet Battles' so-called "war games" ("role play games" wasn't really a term back then), and aspects of Franz Joseph's work in the "ST Technical Manual", upon which much of SFB was based.

I imagine this novel won't ever seem as fresh to today's readers.
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Old July 6 2013, 01:13 AM   #23
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Relayer1 wrote: View Post
As far as I know (in America at least) authors doing tie-in work don't own the rights to the characters they create. I think it might be more of a matter of etiquette...
This is correct.

Heck, I used a bunch of Diane's characters when I did a Robert April story years ago . . . .
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Old July 6 2013, 01:17 AM   #24
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
When it first came out, "Dreadnought!" was so fresh and innovative! The first person narrative had not been done by ST tie-ins before. We recognised it as the author having fun with the Mary Sue fanzine trope, but not replicating it. And yeah, Kirk and his colleagues were always way ahead of Piper and her team.
I think its innovative nature was part of the reason it's so widely misunderstood. These days, we have a bunch of book series focusing on characters other than the main cast, often with TV cast members appearing as guest stars. But at the time, there was nothing else like the Piper books; there'd never been a professional novel that approached ST from such a radically new perspective, a first-person narrative as told by a junior officer aboard the Enterprise. So the only thing there was to compare it to, the only thing that was even remotely similar, was the Mary Sue formula.

That said, one thing people forget today, as I alluded to before, is that it was commonplace in '60s and '70s series television to do stories centered on guest stars rather than the leads -- since the classiest TV dramas in the early days had been anthologies, and thus many shows with continuing characters still aspired to a somewhat anthology-like approach, giving us shows like The Fugitive and The Time Tunnel and, to an extent, Star Trek, shows designed to move a familiar lead or leads into a totally different, self-contained story every week, often built around the dramatic arcs of guest characters. Mary Sue stories, as I said, represent this trope handled badly, with the guest characters not worthy of the spotlight given to them; yet these days the convention has become less familiar, and thus many readers assume that any guest character who becomes the focus of a story is a Mary Sue -- such as Evan Wilson from Uhura's Song.

Granted, it was pretty common in early Trek Lit for authors to introduce impressive new female characters who took center stage -- Mandala Flynn from The Entropy Effect, Evan Wilson, Ael from My Enemy, My Ally, Anitra Lanter from Demons, etc. But there was much more to the introduction of these characters than the authorial self-indulgence or self-insertion underlying the Mary Sue trope. After all, the vast majority of Trek Lit writers at the time, and about half the readers, were female, yet TOS was notably lacking in strong, central female characters. It's natural enough that writers would've sought to correct that deficiency by adding new ones to the mix.

Although sometimes, yes, the guest characters were outright Mary Sues. The classic examples IMHO are Elizabeth Schafer in Death's Angel and Sola Thane in Triangle, and Anitra Lanter fits the pattern pretty well too, though I found her to be better-written than the others. (No trope is always bad. Even Mary Sues can be entertaining sometimes.)
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Old July 6 2013, 07:45 AM   #25
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Christopher wrote: View Post
Although sometimes, yes, the guest characters were outright Mary Sues. The classic examples IMHO are Elizabeth Schafer in Death's Angel and Sola Thane in Triangle, and Anitra Lanter fits the pattern pretty well too, though I found her to be better-written than the others. (No trope is always bad. Even Mary Sues can be entertaining sometimes.)
Evan Wilson (from Uhura's Song) is another "positive Mary Sue" in my opinion,
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Old July 6 2013, 01:56 PM   #26
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

I don't really see Evan as a Mary Sue. The only things that hint in that direction are the bizarre conversations she has with Kirk & Spock that don't work at all. Other then those she's a good character.
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Old July 6 2013, 03:02 PM   #27
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

As I said, Evan Wilson is an example of the common trope in episodic fiction to do stories centered around guest stars. Serial storytelling revolving around the leads has become so pervasive in the past few decades that we've forgotten how routine guest-star-driven stories used to be, and not just in television. Many of Sherlock Holmes's prose adventures, including two of his four novels, were just frames for extended chronicles of the adventures of different characters altogether, which they narrated to Holmes and Watson in flashback.

A featured guest star is only a Mary Sue if he or she is handled badly or exaggerated to the point of unintentional farce. Evan Wilson doesn't fit that description.
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Old July 6 2013, 06:37 PM   #28
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
If anything, there was more surprise that a tie-in novel had come out acknowledging the dreadnought class of starship (and on the cover, no less, and in the title), since Roddenberry had already made some very public, dismissive comments about Star Fleet Battles' so-called "war games" ("role play games" wasn't really a term back then), and aspects of Franz Joseph's work in the "ST Technical Manual", upon which much of SFB was based.
To be fair, Roddenberry had some legitimate reasons to despise Star Fleet Battles. He and Paramount had no control over it due to the generous licensing and copyright terms Franz Joseph received for the Starfleet Technical Manual. Combine that with Roddenberry's evolving belief in his own utopianism throughout the 1980s, and it's not surprising that Roddenberry would have taken issue with a war game set in a universe that looked very much like his.

Two or three years later, Dreadnought! wouldn't have been published. That's unfortunate.
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Old July 6 2013, 11:59 PM   #29
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

zarkon wrote: View Post
I don't really see Evan as a Mary Sue. The only things that hint in that direction are the bizarre conversations she has with Kirk & Spock that don't work at all. Other then those she's a good character.
Based on Janet Kagan's own mother, so not quite the way Mary Sues are usually derived.
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Old July 7 2013, 12:11 AM   #30
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Allyn Gibson wrote: View Post
To be fair, Roddenberry had some legitimate reasons to despise Star Fleet Battles.

Two or three years later, Dreadnought! wouldn't have been published. That's unfortunate.
Hey, I agree with you! I wasn't trying to be unfair. The whole "What is canon?" thing came about from incidences at conventions, such as when techie minded fans challenged Roddenberry on why the movies weren't using the "cool" designs of Franz Joseph and SFB, or why the UFP wasn't declaring war upon the Klingons and Romulans.

I recall my announcement of the then-upcoming "Dreadnought!" in our Trek fan club newsletter of the day. I predicted, knowing of Roddenberry's then-recent convention outbursts about SFB, that the design would "probably be declared a failure" in the context of the novel. In those days, GR himself was supposedly vetting the tie-in manuscripts, although it was probably Susan Sackett on his behalf. (She had definitely been vetting the Bantam titles, and Richard Arnold didn't start on them until the ST IV novelization, six months after "Dreadnought!")
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