caper_est: Sharpening the quill (writing)
I've just run across some excellent posts on the subject of Mary Sue and her variously-named male equivalent - that Very Special Character, arising from the world of fanfic, who can scarcely be better described than in these words of [ profile] blackholly's:

Spock gets a long-lost daughter with purple eyes who's an even better doctor than McCoy and when she arrives, Kirk instantly falls in love with her and makes her captain in his place. She takes them to the planet of the Sparkle Ponies where she defeats Khan with her beauty and that of her new glittery equine friends.

Heh! But also not so much heh, because here are some good cases made in that very article and several others within the same conversation, to the effect that 'Mary Sue' has become a lazy and insidious way of dinging on female characters disliked by the reviewer - most especially, female characters written by women - in ways which are both unfair to said authors, and in danger of limiting the public supply of awesome female characters. All sorts of subtleties of the true and false Mary Sue Effects are explored in these discussions, and I highly recommend all of them. In chronological order:

You Can Stuff Your Mary Sue Where the Sun Don't Shine, by Zoë Marriot (Aug 1st 2011)

Ladies, Don't Let Anyone Tell You You're Not Awesome, by [ profile] sarahtales (Aug 4th)

Ladies Ladies Ladies, by [ profile] blackholly (Aug 7th)

I Know a Little Girl and Her Name Is Mary Mac: the Misuse of Mary Sue, by [ profile] seanan_mcguire (Oct 11th)

What Would Mary Sue Do?, by Zoë Marriot (25th October)

Here is my head hitting the desk, repeatedly.

My only real addition to the debate concerns the case where the name's deserved. I think one good test for whether a character is a genuine Mary Sue/Marty Stu or not, is whether they have the defects proper to their virtues - or, indeed, the virtues of their defects. If what is wrong with them has nothing to do with what is right with them, except to serve as a foil for the sparkly shininess of it, this is a warning sign. And if their most salient flaw is wangst, and yet they are in no other way anything of a wanker, that is an enormous neon warning sign flashing DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER !

At the age of thirteen, I independently invented the concept of fanfic and the character - but not, alas, the concept! - of Marty Stu, as a side-effect of the dire worldwide shortage of new Pern books. To encounter him at the age of thirty as a known public nuisance was both a revelation and a sort of relief, not to mention a salutary reminder. But if his sister is now being seen more often in pieces of vaguely girl-cootied speculative fiction than the Virgin Mary has manifested in pieces of vaguely toasted bread, then it may be that the pair of them are coming to the end of their useful work as Awful Warnings.

Either that, or Marty is going to have to start pulling more of his own weight. Which one, eh?
caper_est: I dreamed all knight... (dream) not the latest addition to the Brainsssslit genre, but only my dream last night. 

I and all the abovementioned were trying, in a very-much-at-cross-purposes way, to solve a mysterious English village murder, of the flavour Agatha Christie generally farmed out to Miss Marple.  We appeared to have insufficient Brainsssss between us for the job.

The Fourth Doctor's attempt to distract a zombie at a critical juncture by performing the Dance of the Single Scarf is an image which shall live long in infamy, however much I wish it wouldn't.
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Oh sod it! It has to be expelled from my system, sooner or later!

Here, found in the ashes of a burnt-out village hall whose surviving walls bear strange and troubling markings about which I will not and must not think too curiously, are the only remaining documents in the case of You Won't Believe It!, the ill-fated off-Millbank musical based on Stephen R Donaldson's First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.

The necromancy and bibliomancy involved in assembling our all-star, all-volunteer cast has been strictly investigated by the proper Authorities, who inform me that it is not to blame for any of the subsequent unfortunate events.


The Cast, who are all completely innocent, especially the ones with tentacles. )


As to the specific cause of the disaster, the Investigator diagnosed 'Natural Justice' and departed.  I have no idea what she was talking about.

Those who have perused the cast list will readily understand that certain... improvements were necessary to render the original story fit for public performance.  The surviving passage - which it appears that the fires refused to consume, no doubt for reasons which seemed good to them - is given below the cut, and translates a notoriously problematic episode from Lord Foul's Bane into popular and family-friendly entertainment, in a style we like to think will prove both edifying and touching.


That Scene from the first act of 'You Won't Believe It!' )


Concerned citizens may be reassured that High Lord Elena turns out (perhaps unsuprisingly) not to be Covenant's daughter; so that after Lord Foul is laughed to destruction in the classic audience-participation number Behind You!, and the Creator cures Covenant's leprosy and resurrects Elena into our world to live happily ever after with him and all Drool's gold and their very own herd of Ranyhyn ponies on Haven Farm, there is nothing in any way illegal or tasteless about the miracle.  Nor about the closing song.  Believe This! is a very superior song, especially when Campaspe is performing it.  And she is not rude, as the vulgar-minded would have it.  She is a cultural and classical treasure of the Western tradition!

Concerned citizens may also be reassured that we can no longer get permits or insurance to perform this big marabou stork anywhere within the Sirian Sector or for twenty parsecs around it.  Also, everybody who knew the script in any detail was rehearsing it in the hall when... that which occurred, occurred.  No least human remains were ever discovered, so it is possible that they will some day return and enlighten us on the matter; but it is also, after all, possible that they will not very much care to talk about it.

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Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 570 words, and the repugnant aristocrats and revolting peasants still thrashing around in what's looking ever more like a classical Prisoner's Dilemma.  Don't flunk this one, guys!

A bit of scribbling and feeling out the beginning of the next section of The Popinjay, but no words on that yet.

Last night did again access Creative Energies In My Sleep (TM).  Unfortunately, it was by way of viewing an avant-garde Dutch film called, in English, If Anything About This Made You Happy, I Will Never Make It Again.  Fortunately, I have forgotten almost everything except the title, and the fact that it conveyed the spirit of the film precisely.  Fortunately or otherwise, I've never seen an actual piece of Dutch avant-garde cinema in my life.

This ugliness left me in such a foul mood that, when I woke up, I drifted into a reverie concerning Eros and Psyche, the dream-born Gilbert and Sullivan fan-operetta on which I am in no way working, in order that I could think about something nice instead.  The third-act comedy duet between Psyche and her disciple/deputy Sacharissa still does not exist, because only through a glass darkly could I glimpse either lyrics or music; but it took an unforeseen plot-turn to the dramatic and brought a tear to my eye.  A good tear, in this case.   What thoroughly nice people they both are!  Archaizing comic opera is definitely more me than avant-garde cinema.

Also, Sacharissa is a really lovely name for somebody to have, especially if one is not that somebody.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Health problems which I shall not detail at this time, but the ocular one of which has just been provisionally dealt with by SUPER SCIENCE LASERS!, have rendered today unavailable for my day job and largely useless for writing.  I may or may not have to grab a drop-in appointment tomorrow at my GP's tomorrow to deal with the gut one, since it has had its incapacitating moments and, yea, hours this week.

Its effect on my sleep, i.e. buggering it up, continues to yield strange creative results.  For last night's dream, my subconscious suggested, "Let's put on a sequel to about half Gilbert and Sullivan's operas at once, right here in this brain!"  And once again, the upshot made enough pseudo-sense that I was obliged to scribble on waking - in this case, the rapidly-crystallizing opening number, in order to get it out of my head.

The premise, such as it is, involves Lady Psyche out of Princess Ida setting up as Headmistress of an exclusive finishing school after breaking up with her irrepressibly misbehaving lover Cyril, who comes up with a ludicrous scheme to win her back.  Characters from The Mikado, Utopia Ltd., and The Grand Duke*  appear prominently.  It had no title in the dream, but would of course necessarily be called Eros and Psyche, were I ever so lost to both sloth and shame as to actually fanfic it into existence.

In a welcome nod to normality, this dream did at least have the decency to intermingle the above with a lot of random matter involving bad bookkeeping and continual boozing within the London Green Party of yore, both of which were somehow my fault.  The politicoes were possibly also the cast, and the scintillating lady with the Cyrano-esque nose may have been either our Psyche or the director - either way, it was a merry meeting - but I doubt things were really so cogently arranged as that.

* And also G&S's still more famous opus Pride and Prejudice, but let that pass!

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 270 words of circumstantial matrix for Elegant Elder Sister's Moment of Awesome, which is now fully achieved.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

I eventually broke down, and gave Sriva from The Worm Ouroboros a handful of spare paragraphs to buy some Thramnian wine with.  But as soon as my brain is my own again, who now invades it but the mutant mindchild of Pat Robertson and Sarah Palin, come to a near-future UK to start an impossible and undesirable revolution - with a very high trump concealed carefully up his sleeve.  500 words of an SF short that cannot possibly be short enough.

I think I want my Witch back.

If Sriva and the Marshall and all their cohorts don't pick my brainstem completely clean, I might actually finish my chapter by the end of the week.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

230 words this morning of a scene I hadn't the hardiness for yesterday after work - wherefore I fled to put the last coat of varnish on the new door instead, and pursue its various sequels.

This passage is actually part of a celebration, and done with goodwill on all parts.  But it's a mediaevaloid country custom, in a hard and dangerous place, albeit an unusually kind and free community.  When I saw how roughly the mock battle for the New Year was going to play out  ("She wouldn't know she'd won if she'd not spent blood nor tears on it," says the canny seamstress-witch Ciss Cross-Stitch in the back of my head, advising the Founder of Fairfields as to why it isn't always sensible to persuade people to behave sensibly), all my sensibilities both old-fashioned and new-fangled positively cringed.  Even my court-reared characters winced.

Which suggests to me that I have at least something right about the tone.  If a community of medieval peasant-pioneers on the ragged edge of Elfland thought and acted inside my modern comfort zone, I would certainly be getting them wrong.

Of course, too far outside the consensus modern comfort zone, and that's a potential problem for the reader.

What I'm trying to do, whether this particular scene survives the final cut or not, is to conjure a place in some ways rawly uncomfortable, and in others warm and welcoming - so that the whole should be seamless, and at best dearly desirable for the reader to visit, or at worst wholeheartedly believable in the way it speaks to my tumbleweed protagonists of 'home'.

Elsewhere, I am still being wormed, and Edward Lessingham has just turned up with wood and tools and interminably described ornamentation to fix up his half-cocked frame story.


Jun. 22nd, 2010 05:43 am
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Sunday I finished the audiobook of The Worm Ouroboros.  (Sigh.)  I really must get a better microphone and do my own bit for Librivox!

Random thought: the Worm is supposed, within its rather creaky frame-story, to take place upon Mercury - a conceit the author does nothing with, and swiftly appears to forget.  But I happen to be reading the Divine Comedy at the moment, and today I got to the Heaven of Mercury - in which dwell those good souls who nonetheless often put worldly honour above God.  Considering the whole mood and ethos of the Worm, and that the erudite Eddison could not possibly have been unfamiliar with Dante, I am suspecting this may not be by accident.

...The Duchess Sriva is making suggestive noises in my ear about the ambiguity of the ending, and what it might look like from the inside, and whether there is any outside and what it really is.  She points out that I really ought to get all that heavy triple-velvet prose out of my head before it contaminates Killer-Kate too grievously, and intimates that we could have a very nice time exploring the philosophical and political issues, in wasted and waterish Witchland, in Temenos by the sea.

Sriva is like that.  She has also incited Lord Spitfire of Demonland to come knocking on my door, and since Spitfire is the sort of hero whom E R Eddison thought was a complete nutter, this is not a siege to regard lightly.  Yet remain I unremoved.  Mostly.

Must.  Not.  Write.  Worm.  Fanfic.  Must.  Not...

("Lord, it is a mindworm from Witchland with her train.  She demandeth present audience...")

560 words on the actual project, and before that the lyric of the Fairfields Wassail, which does not appear in the main text but which a passing dustless cat required of me before I proceeded further.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

In a recent post, I made a throwaway joke about an Arthurian fanficcer, whose handle implied that he/she was into shipping Nimue/Balin in a big way.  I pulled this particular combination completely out of my ear, and promptly forgot about it.

Last night, pleasantly torpid with butter chicken and saag, I drifted into a dream in which the Doctor, Romana, and I were desperately attempting to stop the quantum cats destroying the universe.  We failed, they did this thing, and I was pitched into a new dream in a darkling faerie underworld.

As Sir Balin le Savage.  This is seldom a good sign.  And the lovely Nimue was riding at my side...

The reason you are hearing about this is because the shipper turns out to have got it so totally wrong.

I was forty-six - which is slightly more seasoned and experienced than I actually am.  Nim was precisely half my age.  Romance completely failed to strike me as a possibility.

And anyway, it later emerged that Nim was gay - not through her actually meeting a nice girl, but through her batshit super-controlling sorceress mother's pressing her to settle down and marry, and then throwing us both into the dungeons with much cursing and lightning-chucking when she found out why this was not happening.

Luckily, Launcelot du Lake came by and helped us to bust out.  In this reality, he had Lake magic to throw around too: could have taken down a tank in fifteen seconds.  I'm not sure he didn't.

Unluckily, the Lady of the Lake weighed in for the rematch - I think she was batshit mother's big sister.  And the Lady of the Lake did not like me, because I was Balin.  And she was a much, much more powerful enchantress than both my friendly magicians together.  Jail again!

Separate cells, this time.  But I was Balin, so I was super tough, and busted out of my dungeon and went creeping through the underwater catacombs to find her, or my friends, or someone.

But I was Balin, so a blood-guilt was on my head; and presently I found the mangled corpse in the crypt, and I shivered with guilt and grief and knew that my sins had found me out, and I was cut off from all good-hearted folk like Nim and Lance forever.  That left killing the Lady.  But it was the Lady whose head I'd cut off in the first place - which, in retrospect, is no doubt why she didn't like me much.  On a rocky shelf of dream-logic I sat down and wept.

Behind me came a noise like a gurgling, hungry bandsaw.  I leapt up, my sword hopelessly in my hand.  The Lady had invoked the Furies, and one had found me!

I defy anybody to stay asleep in the shadow of a Kindly One.  I woke like hell.  I was not sorry to do so.

Deep in the pre-dawn dungeons, my downstairs neighbour was snoring like Fury.

This doesn't score very high on my "Best Dreams Ever" list.  I didn't get the girl.  There wasn't another girl for Nim to get.  The cats got my first universe.  I was just about to get dead and damned in my second.  Also, I turned out to be a murdering shit.  By any objective measure, all of these must certainly rank as downers.

All things considered, I feel remarkably refreshed and tranquil.

But that is what I got, for inventing the idea of Nimue/Balin fanfic!

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
When I am very rich, and Oscars are showering down upon Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt for their sensitive twilight performances in Kick-Ass Kate and Bo Backhand II: Getting Medievaler!, I shall be in no position to whine about the resulting outbreak of Woodlandian fanfic. No, not even the fifty-page novella consisting entirely of the Elf-King's daughter making hot sweet'n'sour BDSM lurve to Kate and Legolas whilst cogently dissecting the folly of fantasti-Keynesian economic policy - although, should such an epic ever be perpetrated, I reserve my right as a citizen of the Universe to object to the waste of scarce typeface.

The idea of other people's playing with my characters doesn't, however, squick me by itself, as it does some authors. Why so? Because many of them are being ficced, wildly and inaccurately, even as I write them!

And it is part of their stories. I write - often from a fallible-omniscient, in-world point of view - about the sort of people of whom tales get told in their own world. I try to tell the truth about my characters, but the very viewpoint I prefer is inherently somebody telling a tale of them. Behind the veil of dramatization, we all know that people-in-life are not quite people-in-tales anyway. However, my narrators are not the only tale-tellers in their universes.

What Katy Deed Next, and the Curse of the Sapphire Slash )

Knowing that other tales than mine exist about my characters in their own realities, how should it matter to me if some emerge in my world too? Fanwriters can tell stories about fictional people, just as they can about living or historical ones: they can't touch the originals, nor change the cores of what they are.

Not even Brad and Angelina can do that!
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Over in the LJ version of the comments to this fine article by Zeborah, the author raises the spectre of 'Lancelot as Frensshe troubadour's Arthurian Marty Stu' - a spectre which makes such wicked sense, I'm not sure I shall ever be able to banish it.

Worse thoughts are following in its train.

If Arthurian fandom busied itself with creating stroke-for-stroke renditions of duels between knightly pairings who failed to fight in the source material, would that be 'hack-and-slash fiction'?

The Damosel of the Tourmaline Tower by nim4balin - Lamorak/Alisander (mtd, ft, skill<>, angst, magic, implied woman)...

AAAAAAAGH! Makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop!

Oh, and what we should make all of those tournament scenes in Malory...


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