Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Mary Sue Spirituality

image via tvtropes

image via TVTropes

Back in the early 2000s, I, like many of you, spent many hours on role play or “RP” websites. The RP site served as a platform for people to write stories together. More often than not, these were (and are!) different kinds of fanfiction. Sometimes you wrote from the perspective of a canon character, but I’d spend more time crafting my own characters to populate some author’s universe. For example, I’d create my own unique character and send them to Hogwarts, to get into all kinds of shenanigans with unique characters created by other people. Most websites had written (or at least, unwritten) rules about how these co-authoring relationships work. You couldn’t control another author’s original character without their permission, you couldn’t break the rules of the universe, you were encouraged to match your post’s length to your writing partners’, etc. One of the more popular (and nefarious) rules was “No Mary Sues”.

A “Mary Sue” character is more or less a fictional version of the author. She was a way for the author to insert themselves into the story, usually to steal all the attention. It’s hard to have fun writing when your writing partner’s character has the ultimate tragic backstory, special powers, is the constant center of attention, and usually has some out of the ordinary physical features. Mary Sues are the ultimate idealized versions of the author, inserted into the story. There’s a lot of argument of what really counts as a Mary Sue, and whether or not Mary Sue characters are even all that bad. I don’t think Mary Sues are all that bad. In fact, Mary Sues have been encouraged for centuries. I’m talking about a spiritual practice called Ignatian contemplation or, Mary Sue Spirituality.

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In Defense of The Inheritance Cycle

inheritance_cycle_by_manuelo108-d3cuskrAs I pointed out to Lady Geek Girl the other day, more than a month has passed again since I last addressed this topic, so it’s time to revisit my favorite series. I’ve spent a good long while harping on The Inheritance Cycle in the past, and while it does have plenty more problems that I could go into, Paolini did do a decent job every once in a while. This series has a good number of avid fans and followers, and I highly doubt that would be the case if the books had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. We could argue all day about whether or not they’re good books (they’re not), but even if you don’t like the series, it’s hard to deny that there is an appeal to it.

So today, I’m going to talk about some of the things that I genuinely enjoyed, or at least appreciated, about the series.

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More Adventures at My Local Comic Book Store

If any of you remember, I joined the blog back in May, and my second post was about “geek gatekeeping.” It got started because a friend of mine was harassed at my local comic book shop for not being geeky enough (or some nonsense like that) and it was gross and I went off. Pushing people away from your interests, geeky or non, either because they frighten you or because you’re frightened about the sanctity of that particular interest, is complete nonsense.

If you’d like an object lesson in how ridiculous it is, the kind folks over at The Mary Sue are glad to help you out:

But, I digress. Something that I didn’t mention back when I wrote that post was that the people doing the harassing weren’t the people who worked at my comic store. They were regular fixtures in the store, but not employees. My friend, a hopeful (and now actual!) comic enthusiast, related to me that although she had been only an aisle away from a store employee, nothing was said or done when the jerks (as I will hereafter refer to them) had mockingly questioned whether she even belonged in a comic book store. I don’t want to engage with the layers of self-delusion necessary to even ask if someone can “belong” in a store that sells books.

My friend and I were both rather miffed. Thinking about it, I was actually more miffed with the store employees than with the jerks, because the store should have every reason to object to that sort of behavior. Letting someone get harassed in your store because you’re too busy arranging trade hardcovers or something fails a basic test of common decency, and it’s also just bad for business. It’s likely to scare off potential customers who want to give you money in exchange for pictures of Spider-Man and dice with strange numbers of sides. I racked my brain for a minute as to why you wouldn’t get involved in a situation like that in your own establishment and I came up with a couple of reasons:

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What People Want?: Bioware and the Downloadable Femme Fatale

Bioware is a game company that is responsible for some great characters in this generation of gaming, both female and male. They have this way of fleshing out everyone so that they are complex and interesting to learn about through gameplay. Even the player-controlled characters fall under this routine. However, as in everything good and holy, there are times when characters are treated unfairly based on circumstances that the audience chooses to ignore partially or entirely (such as Queen Anora from Dragon Age: Origins) or on extenuating circumstances outside of the game and its universe. This latter portion is what I hope to be exploring in part today.

Recently, Bioware released a downloadable content for one of their newer games, Dragon Age 2, called ‘Mark of the Assassin’. This DLC stars a new character named Tallis and, from what I have seen, she has met with an overall chilly reception. Accusations fly about how this character is a Mary-Sue. This was my first impression, but in reality, how well do theses assertions hold up? And why is this character considered any worse than other DLC characters, such as Mass Effect 2’s Kasumi Goto? Note that this comparison is not only one concerning the two’s character quests—despite the fact that they are by and large the same quest in a different time period, and the comparison between the two could make an article in and of itself—but also a look at the motivations of each character and how she deals with the problem presented in front of her. It should go without saying but here is your spoiler alert.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Semper Victoria by Katkiller-V

avatarIt’s been my experience that people seem very open to the idea of being introduced to someone new in a published work, but not in fanfiction. I would theorize that this is because people read fanfiction mostly to further explore already existing characters, and new characters are almost always written off as being dreaded Sues. This is such a lie. Yes, a good proportion of original characters in fanfiction are bad. I think we can all agree on that. However, I can list a good number of fanfiction that feature numerous original characters that are far more than just decent, but compelling, thought-provoking, and realistic.

Semper Victoria by Katkiller-V is one such fic. It’s summary reads:

Humanity is on the brink of self-destruction, and unobtanium may be only hope for our species. A story where Pandora is not an Eden, and the shades of white and black have been washed into a sea of gray.

First published late last year, it took the author just under two months to post all forty-nine chapters and start on the sequel, Semper Furor. I can only assume she either had most of the first story written, or at the very least outlined, before she began posting. Notably, she’s been taking much longer to finish the sequel, but she manages to maintain the same quality of writing throughout, that being remarkably decent for something found on fanfiction.net. Hey, Katkiller-V obviously knows a good deal more about grammar than other fanfiction authors, so I’m not going to complain whenever I see a typo.

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