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: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 1,750 words, again with a lot of Great Kate Coredump.  The challenges and confessions are over: now come the distorted echoes off the Wall of Men before her.  I learned something important about Mostly Okay Genius by listening to his silence here, while Kate was in my head to read it - something both fine and horrible.

Next: the advisors try to push towards endgame.  But nobody has noticed that a Puffin Superior is a piece at once black and white, nor guessed what they are settting her up for with this fatal confrontation.

I might actually get this megachapter finished in time for my birthday.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (goat)

I was getting a distinct impression that Three Katherines of Allingdale had grown into a book disproportionately dominated by female characters - that is, above and beyond the deliberate focus suggested by the title and associated choices of perspective.

If true, this seemed out of true with the setting and subject matter.  Apart from the central Three Katherines, I'd have expected things to turn out equally at best. (Fairfields is, in its post-mediaeval way, considerably closer to an equal-opportunity society than our own. Its massively larger parent culture is, as my beta-readers for Katy Elflocks will know already, most traditionally and obnoxiously not.)

But I had reason to suspect that my perceptions weren't accurate, and that active female characters might appear more salient than their numbers or spotlight-time warranted, because they are not the conventional default in this sort of fantasy. On the other hand, so many of my all-time favourite characters from my personal pantheon have always been heroic and/or active women with agency and viewpoint - Cassilde Théret and Lies van Luyt; Kesti President and Kandakay Kaoring, Locket and Sapphire and Tawn; Tindally Myl of Qorth; my fanfictional instances of Nyssa and Tegan from Doctor Who; 'Hacki' Hackenbush and Lib Cody, Lena Rushwell and Temerity Pyke;  the Crocus and Celerian and Lowerry the Red Blade, Katj and Lylat and Savafy Bistirin Yon, to mention only those outside the Kateverse who've marked me most profoundly - that surely, surely any default I have is rather in the other direction?  I'd really be stretched to come up with a roster of men from my universes who come up to that mark!

Still, I thought, it wouldn't hurt to check.

Hoo boy.  Was I wrong, or what?

My dodgiest suspicions are confirmed.  In The Deed of Katy Elflocks alone, women do outnumber men 2:1 amongst the first rank of characters (see again: Three Katherines), but the ratio drops to simple parity when the other significant characters are counted.  In Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, women still retain much of their 3K edge in the top rank, but adding the much larger secondary cast of this work moves us slightly into a male majority.  So my background is pretty much as I'd consciously visualized it.  Yet even my own perception was of a cast, by guess, two-thirds female.

That's at least a thirty percent overestimate.  And I'm the author, and I knew what I was shooting for in the first place!

I'm not prepared to fix perceptions by the pernicious lie of missing my mark so as to give the casual impression of hitting it.  The setting is painted truly.  It must stay that way.

The only solution I can think of offhand is to be especially vigilant for dullness and sameyness in the sections where a lot of the male characters congregate.  There's one particular plot-knot around the midbook where I had rather too many of them in holding patterns.  That's something I have to address anyway in the rewrite, which might narrow the disconnect between perception and reality.  Other than that, I can only see what my beta team and any future editor will come back with on this.

Still.  Sheesh!

caper_est: The Liberty Bell strikes! (liberty)
Following on from Nicola Griffith's Russ Pledge post in June, and the ongoing discussions about the literary invisibility of female authors* -

Since the end of May, guestblogger Anna at Echidne of the Snakes has been posting a Sunday series on A Literary Canon of Women Writers, beginning with Enheduanna of Ur (23rd century BCE).  She's now reached the thirteenth century, featuring the distinctly SF-friendly troubadour Marie de France.  The scope is global, the detail often considerable, and the vast majority of its subjects previously unknown to me.  But not, by any means, unknown to the literary communities of their day.  Highly recommended and a big eye-opener.  I'd be interested to hear other people's responses to it.

Echidne's archiving system is somewhat peculiar, and I can't find any way to link to the latest post directly, but it is easily found by a little scrolling down.  Direct links to all previous posts are provided at the top of the new one - though, because of said archiving system, they may initially appear not to be taking the reader to the post specified, even on broadband.  But a few seconds' wait will hit the target.

* I began to write 'women authors', before realizing that this required me to be cool with the phrase 'men authors', which scrapes fingernails down the slate of my soul. Though not as much as those charmings who freely refer to groups entirely composed of humans as 'males', 'females', 'whites', 'blacks', 'olds', 'youngs', 'clevers', 'stupids', 'sicks', 'healthies', and all those other adjective nouns which they deploy with impartial style and elegance.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
By way of [ profile] firynze, yesterday I came across this excellent LJ post from [ profile] cluegirl:

An open letter to the men of America and the world, on the subject of my feminism.

Much has been said about the supposed link between feminism and misandry. Far too little is said and heard about the more inherently and virulently misandric implications of most anti-feminist, and all misogynist, rhetoric and behaviour. This letter searches them out and skewers them eloquently, deriving instead a set of strongly feminist conclusions from the assumption that men are neither weaker nor worse than women - nor, indeed, much weaker or worse as a gender than we generally like to think ourselves. 'Dear Gentlemen,' it begins, and proceeds to take both words right seriously.

Do take a gander, if you will. It's good stuff.


caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

August 2015

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