LAVINIA versus THE CREEPING BLORCH, or, A reaction to the 'Defence of Mary Sue'

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Title: Lavinia Versus The Creeping Blorch, or A Reaction to the "Defence of Mary Sue"
Creator: Pam Baddeley
Date(s): February 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic:
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Lavinia Versus The Creeping Blorch, or A Reaction to the "Defence of Mary Sue" is a 1983 essay by Pam Baddeley.

It was printed in Communicator #10.

"It is my intention to reply, by means of this article, to Karen Maund's "In Defence of Mary-Sue". For several years, I did not really know what the term meant and so was suitably mystified by descriptions of stories as 'a bit of a mary-sue' etc. Now, however, I believe I've got the right idea. As Karln says, it's 'new-girl-aboard-the-Enterprise' who. gets Kirk or whoever -- wedding bells and happy-ever-after. Well, I feel I must take issue with Karen's conclusions on the reason for the unpopularity of such stories."

Some Topics Discussed

  • "Karen attributes lack of appreciation of Mary-Sue's to two factors; the resentment of fans that a fan fiction character should 'get' Kirk (etc.) and the reluctance of the public at large to own up to enjoyment of romance."

From the Essay

Karen attributes lack of appreciation of Mary-Sue's to two factors; the resentment of fans that a fan fiction character should 'get' Kirk (etc.) and the reluctance of the public at large to own up to enjoyment of romance.

To take her first point, perhaps I'm unusual but I don't experience burning jealousy or even a mild tinge of pique. Mostly, I'm indifferent but if I feel anything at all, it's 'good luck to her'. Aren't these stories basically wish-fulfillment,- after all, and therefore unlikely to strike a real chord in anyone but the writer who thus, vicariously, 'gets' her love object?

And that leads me to my second point; I don't blame people for not owning up to reading Hills and Boon romances - neither would!! They're as formula written as any other genre, as the publishers freely admit.

[...]

You could get a computer to churn them out if you fed in enough exotic locales, middle-class names, and stock situations/characters. They all boil down to the same thing anyway -- young, rather ineffectual, love-lorn woman meets strong, macho (usually slightly older) man in exotic land - not forgetting the fact that one or other of them is comfortably off finance wise. The woman often starts off disliking the man who behaves in a 'cold, ruthless, sophisticated' manner to quote Karen in a different context. They usually stop short of the bedroom, though if you read 'bodice rippers' you get a few rapes and what-not thrown in for your money. I worked in a library for some years and observed the popularity of such books first hand. As I don't criticise something untried, I read one from cover to cover as well as skimming various others, "romance."

'Mary-sues, like Mills & Boons and the like, generally tend to be of a Iow standard from the viewpoint of literary criticism. Written in a hearts-and-flowers, over sentimental if not downright soppy style, it's not surprising they appeal little to fans. I recently read a wish-fulfilment story that I regard as a mary-sue because its present day hersines get to put-up most of the command crew at their house and finally accompany then when they return to their own era.

Considered purely as a piece of writing, it was decidely uneven. Best was the descriptive work, with some very evocative and visual scenes of snow at Christmas, family pets, etc. But the dialogue was extremely heavy, a large part of it consisting of undigested facts that needed to be got across to the reader. On the whole, I didn't enjoy it much and I don't think that was due to jealousy of the heroines' ultimate destination. Since the age of about thirteen - I'm now twenty-five - I haven't had the slightest desire to live in the time of Star Trek. I now realise that a) the culture shock would probably be too great for one of us. b) unless we were exceptionally well adjusted and highly intelligent - preferably with a gift for the sciences - and prepared to leave family, friends, etc, without a qualm, none of us would fit in. Obviously, it depends upon individual circumstances but I can't see myself fitting in nor a lot of other people I know. The reason I groaned as I read this story is that, to me, the whole idea is basically soppy - as much wish fulfillment as the dreams of a woman working in a soap factory, of meeting someone rich and famous and living on a yacht the rest of her life, We all need dreams to survive but I'm concerned that some people may pass the point where the dreams take over and they lose grip on reality. If dreaming you can really join the Enterprise, or identifying with your character who marries Kirk or whoever, mokes you happy, it's fine by me "but beware obsession. After all, it's here and now that we have to live and the contrast between fantasy and reality could become too painful or else you could give up altogether on real-life.

I don't dispute that an alter-ego is a useful tool for a writer trying to get to grips with the characters - I use them myself, and I think most writers put a little of themselves in their characters, purely subconsciously - but it's when that alter-ego is used in such a way that the story becomes a vehicle for the acting out of a fantasy and the main characters act out of character to fit in with that fantasy, that I object.

To sum up: I'm not finding fault with love stories on the Enterprise per se - not if they're well-written and consistent with the characters - and preferably part of a larger over-all storyline. But if faced with a choice between Lavinia and the Creeping Blorch in the dark - well, with apologies to Karen, I'll take my chances with the Blorch!

References