In Defense of Faulwell

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Title: In Defense of Faulwell
Creator: Vivian Sheffield and Pat McCormack
Date(s): April 1976
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic:
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In Defense of Faulwell is a 1976 set of two essays by Vivian Sheffield and Pat McCormack.

It was printed in Warped Space #16.

The topic was the controversial original character, Sadie Faulwell who was the self-insertion persona of Paula Block in many Star Trek: TOS fics, including The Landing Party 6.

Fans were divided in their opinions about Faulwell; some enjoyed the portrayal of her as a flawed, every-woman. Others found her a tedious, flighty, promiscuis, unsympathetic Mary Sue.

Vivian's Section

Alas, poor Faulwell, she's never had it'so bad. Excessive numbers of WARPED SPACE readers seem to dislike her. Well, that may be because Sadie does not quite fit the heroic cast that is expected of the members of the crew of the good ship Enterprise. Or perhaps it is the way she tells her story. She conveys a negative image of herself and the readers respond in kind.

But consider; although she is by no means brilliant, she is intelligent and is capable of putting together the proper pieces of information to reach a correct conclusion. Nor does she forget what she has learned. Serving aboard a starship under a commanding officer who demands near-perfection, she has managed to remain there and to perform her work more than adequately. Despite her hard-headed realism, Faulwell does have feeling for something better, however microscopic or amorphous it may be. In her own way, she does dream a dream.

Probably her best characteristic is her sense of humor. A fine awareness of the craziness of the world (or the galaxy) and of the part you play in it makes the insanity easier to bear. All of that, Faulwell'has in abundance. But what if this abundant sense of humor is the kind that serves to hide something else? I'll ask this question: what attracted McCoy in the first place? Beauty? No. An easy lay? Perhaps. Her wit and irony? Again, perhaps. But the real attraction just might lie in a hidden vulnerability that he (as a bleeding heart humanitarian) could sense underneath the humor.

Vulnerability or no, most people seem outraged by Sadie's promiscuity. It is hardly defensible and neither is her treatment of McCoy, in that respect. It is real, however, and is the kind of action that springs from unconscious needs. Most of all, she wants to be appreciated, I think. And Athos certainly appreciated her!

In a sense, Sadie Faulwell represents those people of the twentieth century who feel cheated or disinherited. Not greatly endowed with talent, ambition, or physical beauty, they feel they are the oddities or freaks of the society; that they are the exception to the social norm. Somehow society has let them know that they have less than the desired qualities, or what qualities they do have are not required by society. Faulwell is an outsider wishing to get in, and not trying very hard to accomplish it. She is, like all humans, a paradox.

Goodness, how solemn and self-important this all sounds. It is hardly in keeping with Faulwell's own ability to laugh at herself. Never mind. I'll just call it a defense (?), and we'll let it go at that.

Pat's Section

One may wonder why I have devoted time and effort to write a defense of a mythical character who appeared in amateur ST fiction. My reason is simply this: I LIKE Faulwell. She's entirely believable and human. I know many people very much like her, and I cam empathize with her. THAT'S why.

Sadie Faulwell has been called many things by many people, especially in LoC's of WARPED SPACE. It is to those people that I address this glorified LOC, and primary to those who comments were critical.

On the positive side, WS readers said that Faulwell 'has character,' 'doesn't act childishly,' 'is perfect for us lesser mortals to identify with,' 'is refreshing,' 'is original,' 'is far out, real, and believable.' The last two characteristic are the most vital of ALL, for any character in ANY piece of fiction. Faulwell's 'crime' is not that she's unreal or unbelievable — it's that she's UNLIKE those who criticize her. Well — on to those criticisms.

On the negative side, Faulwell is 'an airhead paragon,' 'self-centered,' 'calculating and thoughtless,' 'spineless and brainless,' 'a yo-yo,' and 'unstable.' Several other complaints appeared, and most of them come under the category of 'I don't like Faulwell doing ______ because I don't believe in it.' For example: 'Sorry, but I'm still old-fashioned enough to believe that one does not begin a new relationship until one has honestly terminated the old one,' 'Flakey characters like Faulwell DO charm one for awhile until they do something grisly ... ' ' ... bit about not being able to say no was a cop-out,' 'I don't like the way some girls (and I know some) will hang on to one guy while trying to get a new guy just in case the new guy doesn't work out,' 'there isn't "ever any excuse for cheating,' 'Bones deserves a woman who is FAITHFUL.'

The comment expressing distaste for girls who keep one guy on the hook while looking for another seems to indicate that the writer was reading personal experience into it, perhans too much. As for 'Bones deserves a woman who is FAITHFUL,' and 'There isn't ever any excuse for cheating,' McCoy and Faulwell are not married. In essence, their ONLY ties were unsooken emotional ones. Thev never made any promises, or even any statements of exactly WHAT their 'thing' was. Hence, Faulwell was not cheating — except in the eyes of those who would NOT sleep with more than one person at a time', (and I'm ONE of those people — if I imposed MY morals on Sadie, she probably wouldn't have SLEPT with McCoy yet: However, I do not CONDEMN those whose morals are different from my own, because I often can accept their reasons!)

That brings me to Faulwell's 'crime'-- the act(s) which brought most of the criticism down on her head. She slept with Athos ... twice. O.K.— the first time Faulwell CONSIDERED sleeping with Athos, she had just come to the realization that she really did not KNOW McCoy. She also felt inferior to his lovely ex-wife, and was drunk to boot! I think that in the face of the gnawing insecurity and loneliness which Faulwell seemed to feel at the time, her consideration of the comfort of an attractive person's affection was entirely JUSTIFIED! And Athos was right ... we ARE Puritans, who hide behind social facades and often lie even to ourselves (never mind others) where emotions are concerned.

The first time Faulwell actually slept with Athos, she thought she had no choice, and when she found out that she DID have a choice, she was alone, unsure of what she wanted, and WEAK. Faulwell is NOT a heroine, she's a human being— one with weaknesses. She's afraid of herself, puts herself down, and gets bombed at parties to lessen her paranoia! I would hardly call her the calculating type! Het unstable, goofy streak is exactly what many zombies who call themselves human beings could use! We'd probably all be a little healthier if we'd let some of our irrationalities loose.

As for the second time she sleeps with Athos, Faulwell ADMITS that she is weak. It's damn hard to say no, especially when you've enjoyed something before.

What appalls me most of all is McCoy's imposition of '20th century morals' on Faulwell! He has no right to set standards for anyone but himself, and he has no right to accuse her of 'sleeping with every man on this side of Beta Niobe.'! (After all, McCoy is no angel, folks!) I fail to comprehend why fan authors seem to inevitably pair Bones off with sweet innocent fragile things. Far better he should encounter real, honest-to-God PEOPLE: Of all the characters. Bones (with his unique and shrewd understanding of human nature) is the best-equipped person to see the hidden beauty of a person like Faulwell. She'd not exactly the empty-headed sexpot that Kirk usually falls for! Therefore, she would not appeal to someone who is more concerned with exterior.

As a McCoy lover and a student of psychology, I get very involved in analyzing Faulwell and McCoy's relationship AND the personalities involved. Faulwell's morals are not mine, but I UNDERSTAND hers, and that is why I plead tolerance. She's not a saint, and for those who call her a sinner... aren't we all?