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

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Old July 7 2013, 04:03 AM   #31
JRoss
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Mary Sue, maybe not, but very, very self-indulgent. Of course the joke is on DC as she is now immortalized on two novel covers with a hideous disco outfit and a femullet.

Seriously, though, someone involved in STID was inspired by Dreadnaught!
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Old July 7 2013, 05:17 AM   #32
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

JRoss wrote: View Post
Mary Sue, maybe not, but very, very self-indulgent. Of course the joke is on DC as she is now immortalized on two novel covers
Three. Piper and Sarda (Carey and her husband) make cameos, along with the other "Captain's Table" authors, in that six-part painting.
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Old July 7 2013, 06:04 AM   #33
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
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.
I didn't say you were. I said "To be fair," because this was a rare instance of me giving a sympathetic perspective on the Rodster.
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Old July 7 2013, 04:11 PM   #34
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

JRoss wrote: View Post
Mary Sue, maybe not, but very, very self-indulgent. Of course the joke is on DC as she is now immortalized on two novel covers with a hideous disco outfit and a femullet.
She'd look right at home with Disco Bones from TMP!
Seriously, though, someone involved in STID was inspired by Dreadnaught!
I'm sure Bob Orci has read it. I was thrilled to bits to see a Dreadnought-class ship on the big screen. And I think USS Star Empire is a much cooler name than USS Vengeance.
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Old July 7 2013, 04:54 PM   #35
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Christopher wrote: View Post
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.
No offence, Christopher, but the reason I think of Piper as a Mary Sue isn't because I'm at a loss to frame her narrative any other way, or because I can't tell the difference between a Mary Sue and a prominent "guest star." As a reader today, I'm familiar with plenty of ways to tell a Star Trek story in prose, and I still believe she fits the "formula" (IMO) quite closely, unless you use the really narrow definition you came up with.

For one thing, I'm not sure why you insist a Mary Sue has to be a guest star, since even the original Mary Sue was the star of the fanfic story that originated the term. To use an outside example, Anita Blake is the star of her own book series, and I would still describe her as a Mary Sue.

My own sense of a character's "Mary Sueness" doesn't depend on a character's abilities--or any trait that revolves entirely around how the character compares to other characters--but rather on the degree of the author's idealised self-insertion or general "self-indulgence," as mentioned earlier. (Basing a character on your own mother is certainly a step in that direction.) They can be written well or badly, but they're more common (and we tend to notice them more) in tie-in fiction because these elements often occur at the expense of the main characters we expect to read/watch in action.

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.

(...)

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.
The list you gave is a good example of how you need to give readers more credit for recognising this trope, since we can tell that some of those are Mary Sues and some of them are not. (For example, I would say that Evan Wilson and Sola Thane are Mary Sues, but Ael isn't.) Differences of opinion are more about matters of literary interpretation than about "misunderstanding" a work--like arguing whether a character qualifies as a tragic figure or not.
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Old July 7 2013, 05:12 PM   #36
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

I just don't think the Piper of Dreadnought! fits enough of the diagnostic criteria for a Mary Sue to qualify -- althoug the Piper of Battlestations! might, given how swiftly she's been promoted in rank and become a member of Kirk's inner circle. In Dreadnought!, at least, she's not smarter and better and more successful than the leads -- indeed, that's the entire point of her character in that book, that she's far, far behind Kirk in her ability and experience, even if she has a potential comparable to his.

And I don't accept her central role as making her a Mary Sue, because she's just the lead of a whole ensemble of lower-decks characters, rather than a single standout guest star. Why is she a Mary Sue if Sarda, Merete, and Scanner aren't? Sure, she's more central to the book, but what else could a first-person narrator be?

The one criterion I'll grant is author insertion, but that by itself does not make a Mary Sue. There have been some great author-surrogate characters in fiction.
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Old July 7 2013, 08:36 PM   #37
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

I still like another author's comment once, when accused of inserting a Mary Sue character into a tie-in book:

"I don't want to be her. I want to f--k her!'

(I'll be vague here, since I can't remember if that remark was for public consumption or not.)
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Old July 8 2013, 12:30 AM   #38
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Christopher wrote: View Post
I just don't think the Piper of Dreadnought! fits enough of the diagnostic criteria for a Mary Sue to qualify -- althoug the Piper of Battlestations! might, given how swiftly she's been promoted in rank and become a member of Kirk's inner circle. In Dreadnought!, at least, she's not smarter and better and more successful than the leads -- indeed, that's the entire point of her character in that book, that she's far, far behind Kirk in her ability and experience, even if she has a potential comparable to his.
Again, I don't think of being "smarter and better and more successful" as necessary "diagnostic criteria" for a Mary Sue. If your self-insertion fantasy involves you becoming a character's protégé (for example) instead of already being more talented than he is, that doesn't make the self-insertion any less a Mary Sue.

And I don't accept her central role as making her a Mary Sue, because she's just the lead of a whole ensemble of lower-decks characters, rather than a single standout guest star.
I don't accept that, either. All I was saying is that neither being central nor not-central is a determining factor for me.

Why is she a Mary Sue if Sarda, Merete, and Scanner aren't?
I think of all of those characters as Mary Sues, the author inserting her own characters (based, from what people have indicated about the book's background, on herself and her friends) into the Kirk/Spock/McCoy/Scotty roles.
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Old July 8 2013, 01:23 AM   #39
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
I still like another author's comment once, when accused of inserting a Mary Sue character into a tie-in book:

"I don't want to be her. I want to f--k her!'

(I'll be vague here, since I can't remember if that remark was for public consumption or not.)
I don't expect an answer to this, but I'm going to take a stab.

Author: Timothy Zahn. Character: Mara Jade.

I've never thought of Mara Jade as a Mary Sue, but I know a number of fans who consider her to be such.
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Old July 8 2013, 01:30 AM   #40
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

TheAlmanac, the difference between us is that you seem to want to define "Mary Sue" broadly and inclusively, whereas I see it as a term of attack and thus feel it's the sort of thing that should be used narrowly and reluctantly, applied only when there's no other interpretation that will fit.
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Old July 8 2013, 09:00 AM   #41
Therin of Andor
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

TheAlmanac wrote: View Post
I'm not sure why you insist a Mary Sue has to be a guest star, since even the original Mary Sue was the star of the fanfic story that originated the term.
But wasn't she the guest main star in a Star Trek fanfic, with Kirk Spock and McCoy the regular players? Or did Paula Smith write all of her ST fanfics about the girl?

Wikipedia says:

The term "Mary Sue" comes from the name of a character created by Paula Smith in 1973 for her parody story, "A Trekkie's Tale" published in her fanzine Menagerie #2. The story starred Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old"), and satirized unrealistic "Star Trek" fan fiction.
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Old July 8 2013, 09:18 AM   #42
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

What's wrong with a Mary Sue?
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Old July 8 2013, 01:59 PM   #43
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

rahullak wrote: View Post
What's wrong with a Mary Sue?
As Therin said, the term came from a story written to parody bad fan fiction, especially the tendency of fan authors to insert thinly veiled surrogates of themselves as heroic guest characters who were better at everything than the main cast and whom Kirk, Spock, and/or McCoy all fell madly in love with and/or needed to be rescued by. It came to be a catchall label for such unbelievable, contrived wish-fulfillment characters, particularly ones who didn't actually display any of the qualities that supposedly made them so brilliant and wonderful and adored, or ones that only outperformed the leads/won their undying love because the leads were written hugely out of character. (For instance, the guest scientist in the Bantam novel Vulcan! who's better than Spock at figuring out the psychology of an alien species, but only because Spock is portrayed as irrationally fixated on a preconceived notion about them without any evidence to support it.)

Since then, though, a lot of people have come to use it as a catchall phrase for "any guest character I don't like," or even "any main character I don't like," so the usage has blurred to the point that it's become effectively useless as a term of meaningful criticism. Which I another reason I resist defining it broadly.

For more:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue
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Old July 8 2013, 04:08 PM   #44
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

Allyn Gibson wrote: View Post
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
I still like another author's comment once, when accused of inserting a Mary Sue character into a tie-in book:

"I don't want to be her. I want to f--k her!'

(I'll be vague here, since I can't remember if that remark was for public consumption or not.)
I don't expect an answer to this, but I'm going to take a stab.

Author: Timothy Zahn. Character: Mara Jade..
Nope!
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Old July 8 2013, 05:16 PM   #45
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Re: Just reread Dreadnaught!

I agree with Mr. Governo, that self-insertion in somebody else's milieu is the characteristic property of a Mary-Sue, and with "rahullak," that even though the trope originated with a character created as a parody of bad writing, it doesn't necessarily follow that a well-written Mary-Sue character can't exist (and indeed, I regard Piper as a defining example of a well-written Mary-Sue).

I might add that there can be no more blatant evidence of self-insertion than having the entire story told in first person, in a milieu where every other officially authorized story (or very nearly so) is told in third person.

As to Calhoun and the whole New Frontier series (and Gold and the SCE series [and I, for one, would like to see the rest of that series available in hardcopy], for that matter), and other series that didn't originate in produced screenplays, I don't really see them as Mary Sues (or Larry Stus), because they aren't author insertions, so much as they're separate sub-milieus, the same as TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT and the Abramsverse are effectively sub-milieus. Ditto for Mr. Cox's books about Gary Seven, Khan, Shaun Christopher, and Mr. Bennett's books about the DTA; they revolve around characters that are already (if only by reference, in Shaun Christopher's case) canonical, but merely underexplored in canon.

Ford's How Much for Just the Planet, of course, is a veritable author- and friend-insertion festival.

Last edited by hbquikcomjamesl; July 8 2013 at 05:37 PM.
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