STENIBELLE–A MARY-SUE??

January 1, 2017

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Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

It was bound to happen. Somebody called Stenibelle a Mary Sue.

It’s been over a year since we released  LoE Book 9: Stenibelle. Stenibelle is unique in the LoE series, it’s by far the shortest book of all, ringing in at around 54 thousand words–much shorter than my usual average of 125 thousand (Hey, I write until I’m done, then I stop. I conducted the story I wanted to tell, which happened to be 54k). It’s also the first book in the series told entirely from a female protagonist’s point of view, all of the other stories tend to be  male/female ensembles.

I really don’t like pitting one gender against another, highlighting one while denigrating the other, which seems to often be the case in many books. That approach tends to be extremely polarizing, and, for me, rather annoying. I like Humanist stories featuring positive cooperation and teamwork between the sexes.

 

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The original artwork of Mary Sue accompanying Paula Smith’s  “A Trekkies Tale”

A new term has popped up lately, and, like most things people catch wind of, everybody wants to bust it out and make  bold use of it. The term has gotten batted around the Sociosphere like a piñata. The term in question: Mary Sue, mostly in regards to the character Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

What is a Mary Sue? The term is loosely defined and can mean different things to different people. Mary Sue first came from a piece of parody Star Trek fan fiction by Paula Smith entitled: A Trekkies Tale, where a 15 year old girl named Mary Sue graduates as the youngest person ever from the academy, joins the Enterprise and quickly outperforms Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty,  takes command of the Enterprise, captures Kirk’s heart, out-Vulcans Spock, and dies a hero for which a holiday in her name is remembered ever after.

So, with that in mind, a Mary Sue is:

–A female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.

–A female character who has skills and abilities that are out-of-joint with her backstory.

–A female character who exhibits near flawless traits.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Rey character seems to exhibit all three of these criteria, though her full backstory isn’t known at this point, and, there’s always the wildcard of “The Force” to explain away pretty much everything she does: Rey could just be the greatest Force user …ever. When reading a book or watching a movie, you usually expect the characters you’re watching to grow and change in some way. With a Mary Sue (or as in her male counterpart, the Gary Stu) there’s no room for her to grow–she’s already perfect in every way. Such a character tends to be a product of lazy or just plain bad writing. In any event, such a character tends to be annoying, difficult to relate to and tends to make some people think that the film has a singular Feminist Agenda, and thus the conversation and frequent use of the term “Mary Sue” today when examining strong female characters.

So, back to my original thought–somebody read Book 9 and thinks Stenibelle, the female protagonist of the story, is a Mary Sue. Let’s take a look at the facts and see if that is the case or not.

A Mary Sue is a female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.

I honestly can’t see how Stenibelle outperforms anybody in the story. At the beginning Stenibelle is in prison, for failure and malfeasance of command during the Seeker Affair. She was captured in space, clapped in irons, frog-marched off her own ship by Lt. Gwendolyn and thrown in jail. She is saddled with self-doubt, self-loathing, is full of angst, full of self-pity and, though she, as a fully trained Tyrolese Sorceress, has the skills to escape from her imprisonment, she chooses not to as she wishes to hide from her problems.

It takes a monumental amount of tenacity and self-growth to not simply triumph in the end and conquer her personal demons, but to simply survive. Along every step of the way, her skills are put to the test and she fails as often as she succeeds. She also needs timely assistance from her allies around her, otherwise, she might nearly have been either killed or enslaved. Stenibelle does triumph, but it’s no day at the beach.

A Mary Sue is a female character whose skills and abilities are out-of-joint with her backstory.

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The VUNKULA , provided by her benefactor, Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, is one of Stenibelle’s most trusty weapons

Stenibelle has quite a few abilities that a common person about the League probably does not have, but, these abilities are all consistent with her backstory. She has the exact same training as Paymaster Stenstrom, thus, she was trained for nine years by her mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, in the ways of Tyrol Sorcery. As such, she is able to Fade into the Shadows, essentially, to  turn invisible. She is highly skilled at picking various types of locks. She is a skilled herbalist and chemist, well-versed at creating and using Holystones for a variety of effects and can conjure them at will out of thin air, along with her deadly MARZABLE throwing daggers. Stenibelle is also highly proficient at using the VUNKULA of the House of Grenville, which is a powerful weapon she makes use of quite a bit. A former lover, Lord Geryron of Grenville, taught her how to use it.

 

Given all that, nothing Stenibelle does in the  story is out-of-the-blue or unexpected and is perfectly in-line with her background and training.

And finally:

A Mary Sue is a female character who exhibits near flawless traits.

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An unused piece of concept artwork, by Carol Phillips 

Essentially, this point means the character in question is nigh invincible, needs no help, and has no defects. As I mentioned before, Stenibelle is far from flawless. She is highly skilled, but is hampered by considerable self-doubt and inexperience that must be dealt with during the course of the story. She is crippled mentally and spiritually by past failures, and she needs lots of help along the way to discover herself, clinging to her friends, Lord A-Ram and Lady Alesta, for strength and guidance, and to her benefactor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp for financing and the exotic tools she needs for success. Even Bunged Up into a ruthless, heartless person by over-reliance on bolabungs, Stenibelle loses a brief fight with Lady Alesta–who is a monk, a Pilgrim of Merian. By the end of the story, Stenibelle discovers her confidence and her courage to become a truly formidable and seasoned adventurer, but it takes a long time and a lot of assistance to get her to that point.

 

So, given all of that, I’m not certain what story that person read to come up with the notion that Stenibelle is a Mary Sue. Perhaps he didn’t properly understand the term and simply busted it out in a review to sound current.

Who knows.

Stenibelle is a fully-developed human character exhibiting all the flaws, weaknesses, foibles, skills, potential, endurance and capacity for self-growth that we all have … she just happens to be a girl.

Bowl Naked
copyright 2017, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips

 

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The Liebster Awards

January 29, 2013

Leibster
I was nominated by my fellow author, the amazingly talented Chantal Boudreau, for the Leibster Award. “What is that?” I asked.

“Dunno,” she said. “Just do it, `kay.” Actually, she didn’t say that, but I just can’t help but tell stories. As you continue reading, I’m clearly one of the must boring humans on the planet.

So, here we go.

The rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks, Chantal!

2. Post eleven random facts about yourself.

3. You answer the eleven questions asked by the person who nominated you.

4. You think of a new set of eleven questions and nominate eleven others to answer them.

ELEVEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT REN (and these are all true)

1)–My folks thought I was “Mentally Challenged” as a lad for my inability to keep up with my studies. My teachers agreed and suggested DRUGS to fix my issues. After two years of mind-altering DRUGS, Darth Vader finally discovered my problem. I came out of the theater crying: “I couldn’t see anything!” I babbled. A trip to the eye-doctor and a pair of glasses later, I was fixed.

2)–I used to play ice hockey, goal tender. I’ve been knocked unconscious three times and the one-and-only time I’ve been in a hockey fight … was with a girl.

3)–A trip to a Turkish Brothel was one of the coolest experiences of my life–not to mention one of the most expensive.

4)–During my time in the Air National Guard, I was inches away from being sucked into the intake of a running F16.

5)–I’ve had a loaded gun shoved into my face twice in my life: once by the FBI and once by the Body Guard of the Prince of Saudi Arabia.

6)–I barely missed the following catastrophic events: The F5 Super-Break-out Tornado of Xenia, Ohio (1 Day), the 1989 Loma-Prieta earthquake: (3 Weeks), and 9/11 (1 Month).

7)–In an abandoned YMCA, I managed to dodge metal girders falling from the crumbling ceiling only to fall into the drained swimming pool in the center of the room.

8)–I was once engaged to a woman 20+ years my senior.

9)–I have a mortal fear of spiders, yet I have a recurring dream of sticking my hand into a tank with a tarantula and letting it bite me.

10)–While cutting through a field on my way home from school, I was chased by an Arabian Horse and bitten in the rear-end as I scrambled under the fence to get away from him. I haven’t liked horses much since.

11)–I’ve been to five places the Ghost Adventurers have been, and I haven’t experienced a thing.

Ok, that was embarrassing, now to Chantal’s questions:

1. What was your favourite childhood show? Gilligan’s Island. Still one of my favs.

2. If you could be a bird, what bird would you be and why? Common Nighthawk–just because the name is cool.

3. What is the best dessert you’ve ever eaten? I’m pretty boring when it comes to deserts. Simple yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting–or, if I’m feeling frisky, strawberry frosting.

4. If you could pick band line-up for your ultimate concert, who would you have open, follow and headline? I’m totally not into concerts. If I had to pick–Lady Gaga would open for Adam Ant.

5. What would you say is your favourite book outside of your preferred genres? I hate to say it, but I loooove Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I just love it.

6. If you had to sit through the goriest of horror movies of the sappiest of chick-flicks, which would you pick? Gory horror films actually bore me. Probably the goriest film I’ve seen that I enjoyed was John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. My fav Chick’s Flick must be Moulin Rouge by Baz Luhrmann. I actually named the planet Bazz after him.

7. Kirk or Picard? Kirk. Picard’s a $%^^&

8. What is your favourite board game? Talisman by Game’s Workshop. I have all the expansions and they’re worth a fair amount of money these days.

9. If you had your choice, quiet night at home or rowdy night out? Home. I’m not much a of Bar-Guy.

10. What are the top three colours in your wardrobe? Blue, green and white.

11. Have you ever read anything you were expecting to dislike but to your surprise you loved it? Not that I can think of. If I think I’m not going to like something, I pretty much always don’t.

Now comes the hard part–I’m supposed to forward this to 11 more bloggers. Problem is, Chantal knows pretty much the same list of bloggers that I do. I can’t think of 11 more to send to.

Ah me…