So you're scratching your head and wondering who the heck Mary Sue IS, hm? Well, "Mary Sue" is an unkind term used to describe a certain kind of character, a style of writing. She (or he) is created to serve one purpose: wish fulfilment. When a writer invents someone through whom he/she can have fantastic adventures and meet famous people (fictional or real), this character is a Mary Sue. (We don't have a name for the male version -- suggestions?)|
Although storytellers have been rehashing Mary Sue since the dawn of time, she did not receive her current name until the early 1970s. The original was Lieutenant Mary Sue ("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet -- only fifteen and a half years old") as immortalized in Paula Smith's "A Trekkie's Tale," which she wrote and published in her 1974 fanzine Menagerie #2. (According to Katherine Langley: "Paula is still active in fandom and, to be sure, suitably bemused that Mary Sue lives on.")
Mary Sue, as this archetype became known, was at first any brilliant, beautiful young Starfleet officer who joined the Enterprise crew to be the center of attention, set everything right, make off with the main male canon character's heart (or several of them!), and/or die dramatically in someone's arms. I'm sure you can make a similar analogy within your own fannish experiences. Mary Sues exist in every fanficdom:
I'm sure you can think of more. And of course there are non-fanfic Mary Sues, characters who only exist in their creators' minds, on well-worn RPG character sheets or in secret notebooks. Thre are even actual canon Mary Sues, though that gets hard to judge because they are canon. Good examples include Jean M. Auel's Ayla, Michael Moorcock's Elric, Anne McCaffery's Menolly, and Anne Rice's, well, anyone...
To set the record straight:
Mary Sue is any original or deeply altered character who represents a slice of his/her creator's own ego; s/he is treasured by his/her creator but only rarely by anyone else. More negatively, a Mary Sue is a primadonna (usually but not always badly-written) who saps life and realism out of every other character around, taking over the plot and bending canon to serve his/her selfish purposes.
However, to be fair, even the most trite Mary Sue serves a psychological purpose for his or her creator...and sometimes, believe it or not, the best can wind up being lauded as legitimate characters and gathering fans beyond their original scope. You never know... Which is why I've created this page.
Starting to make a little sense? Okay! Go back to the main page for the rest of this little tale...I mean, you can stay here if you like, but nothing else is going to happen.