January 1, 2017
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.
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.
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.
A Mary Sue is a female character who exhibits near flawless traits.
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.
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.
copyright 2017, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips
September 7, 2015
Over nine books, I’ve introduced a number of sciences delving into all sorts of odd things. Of course, I’m not a scientist, and therefore, all the sciences I introduce are pure fantasy. As they are fantasy, I don’t hesitate to make these made-up sciences as bizarre and off the chain as I can.
Here they are in no particular order:
The science of maiming, enslaving and killing men is practiced on the dark, remote world of Carina 7. The ladies inhabiting Carina 7 are the descendants of the haremites of the Emperor King of Ming-Moorland. After centuries of being tormented by the Emperor, the ladies of Carina decided to turn the tables to some extent and created a whole science dedicated to enslaving, fighting and killing men. Any lone man who happened to make his way to the stony surface of Carina often found himself an unwilling victim and test subject as they refined their techniques.
Eventually, Gynology became a well-honed and proved science. A trained Gynologist, armed with a host of man-killing weapons, could effectively control men using various scents and an insidious device known as “The Barb”. A “Barbed” male would be enthralled to the Gynologist for the rest of his life, however long that lasted.
The Sisterhood of Light took a secretive interest in Gynology and managed to replicate some of its various tenets. What the Sisters do with this incorporated knowledge is currently unknown.
Anthecary is a mind/body enhancement technique practiced on Onaris, particularly in the south Calverland region. Onaris’ majestic Lone Rider Mountain is the home of the Stoutback, a huge, six-legged lizard the locals have (somewhat) domesticated. Those herding the creature, known as Stoutback Shepherds, must do so in the near vertical pastures dotting the mountain’s face. Unable to afford technology to assist them in getting around in this grueling and dangerous environment, the shepherds developed a mind technique called Anthecary which would allow them to “stick” to the vertical surface of the mountain using their minds. Anthecary also “hardens” their bodies, allowing them to stand upright without having to brace themselves. When the League Stellar Marines adopted the giant S/K pistol as their standard-issue firearm, they adopted the use of Anthecary to combat the deadly recoil of the weapon. “Hardened” in an Anthecary state, the S/K can be safely and accurately fired.
Xaphan Cabalism is a veritable mixed-bag of herbology, home-remedies, quack medicine, folklore, arcane investigation, machine science and religion all rolled into one. Cabalism was the Xaphans answer to the Hospitalers in the League, attempted to treat wounds and other medical maladies using pieced-together knowledge from various sources. Though rightly considered to be horrendous quacks and frauds, the Cabalists did managed to gather some practical knowledge, primarily through seducing and or abducting Hospitalers.
In the burgeoning field of communicating with unconscious and comatose persons, Mentralysis is in the forefront. Using sophisticated computerized devices known as Mentralysis Decks, one may speak with a sleeping or comatose person as if they were awake. The Gold Coast of Hoban is the home and major research center of Mentralysis.
A major breakthrough with this science came when it was discovered that within all people is a Sleeping Self (SS) which takes control while asleep. The SS has a unique and independent personality, and may be very similar to the Waking Self (WS) or may be radically different. Mentralysists, through analysis, have determined there are seven types of Archetypical people, depending on how different the SS is from the WS.
Mentralysists have determined that various neurosis due to incompatibility between the WS and the SS can be treated, and oftentimes cured, using Mentralysis techniques.
Given the fact the League is full of people with an excess of spare time, a number of novel fads have come and gone through the years. One fad that took hold and has continued to grow is Cyberlitica, where one fabricates a completely different persona of either a fictitious person or, in some cases, of themselves. Using Cyberlitica, the fabricated “Changling” has a birth-date, public records of their passing, receipts, diplomas from various universities, have taken husbands or wives, and may have criminal records. The overriding goal of Cyberlitica is to create a completely convincing persona. If a Changling happens to make the posts, that is an added benefit. One man, a Lord Sharper of Stillville, divorced his wife after he learned most if not all of her glamorous wealth and exploits were fabricated via Cyberlitica. The Sisterhood of Light doggedly investigates Cyberlitica, and those who have been found to have created a Changling face heavy fines and or imprisonment.
Never underestimate the Xaphans for coming up with crazy sciences. Bondarism, practiced in the city of Waam, is no exception. Bondarism is the notion that the human body can experience accelerated evolution if the body is rigorously stressed by placing it into unusual and uncomfortable situations. Buildings and various vehicles built with Bondarism in mind, have little to no ergonomic considerations, are suicidally unsafe and are impractical in the extreme. However, the people of Waam do appear to exhibit a number of advanced abilities, including the ability to fly and walk up walls. Perhaps there is something to Bondarism after all.
TA (Time Apparent)
TA is a form of Time Travel being studied by the Hospitalers. Time travel is a very difficult thing to achieve, though the mechanics of it are fairly well understood. Temporal Gravity (TG) is the most difficult aspect to overcome, as your TG ceaselessly attempts to pull you back into your proper place in time. Perception is also a very confounding thing to deal with, as time travelers will “forget” what they’ve come to do. (A legendary machine is said to have overcome all these problems, though its existence is in dispute)
An odd solution to the various issues with time travel is called Time Apparent by the Hospitalers. With TA, instead of sending your physical body ahead in time, only one’s consciousness goes. Once in the future, your consciousness will inhabit your body, in whatever condition your body happens to be in. You could appear as an animated corpse, a skeleton, a cloud of dust, or, in some cases, as a group of people if your material has been reincorporated into new life forms.
TA is only effective going forward from your apparent place in time. It has yet to be approved for general use by the Sisterhood of Light.
copyright 2015, Ren Garcia
March 28, 2013
I love making things up … obviously. I look around and see all that is there and I wonder, I embellish things, I make them wilder than they ordinarily would be. One doesn’t need to be an author to engage in such antics, it’s just natural, to add import to the things around one, to imagine motive or sinister intent to a harmless passerby. Therefore, when my tales wander in a direction that requires some sort of scientifical authoritative backing, I simply make it up. I created the following after witnessing how different my wife is when she sleeping than when she’s awake. I noticed a similar change in my grandmother when I was a kid.
MENTRALYSIS is the science of communicating with sleeping, unconscious or comatose subjects. It is a forbidden science, unknown and unapproved by the Sisterhood of light. In the league, you’re not supposed to do anything without the approval of the Sisters, scientific study included. Sciences invented by the Xaphans in particular are forbidden by the Sisters. A tenet of the science is the assertion that one’s SS (or Sleeping Self) is different in terms of wants, needs and objectives than the WS (or Waking Self).
Mentralysis was invented by the famed jeweler Vehelm of Waam in 0000845AX. Vehelm was one of the many Doomed Men in Xaphan space, picked to court the dreaded Queen Ghome I of Trimble. Ghome would pick her suitors for the throne of Trimble by force, selecting them usually for their money or other material possessions she wanted. If they refused, she would attack with her powerful Tri-Court Alliance. Vehelm was known throughout Xaphan space as a genius maker of rare jewelery, and Queen Ghome coveted some of his works for herself. To court Queen Ghome was to dance with death and most of her suitors were eventually killed in her deadly Garden of Zama. A tiny, studious man, Vehelm was not expected to survive.But, survive he did, quickly becoming one of her favorites. He was said to have constructed, or, in some accounts, repaired and enhanced, Ghome’s Bower Chest where she kept her prized possessions. Eventually, he made his way into her bed chamber. There, he made a significant discovery. In her sleep, Queen Ghome would cry out, would mumble in apparent agony. After many nights of wittnessing this, Vehelm came to the conclusion that Ghome seemed to be remorseful and sorry for the horrendous atrocities she was guilty of committing during the day. He hit upon the notion that, if he could communicate with her while sleeping, that she might indeed be a very different person than she was when awake. He secretly constructed the first Mentralysis Deck, a computerized device that could hone in and lock on to one’s Beta Waves. He also created a machine language code-named Serenity that could interpret the nightmare of thoughts, memories and the primal urges of the Ego and allow cogent two-communication. With Serenity 7, he was successful, and, as he suspected, the saintly voice he heard through his Mentralysis Deck, was crying out for help.
What happened afterward and the tragic fate of Vehelm of Waam is another story…
The fledgling science of Mentralysis escaped Vehelm’s death and made its way to the Ephysian Hospitalers on the Gold Coast of Hoban. The Hospitalers continually refined and expanded Mentralysis, making a secret full-time study of it. They determined through analysis that there are seven archetypes of people depending on how different their Sleeping Self is from the Walking Self.
DO: Diametric Opposite: The SS is radically different from the WS in terms of wants, needs and personality. The SS and WS are actively at odds with the other.
SC: Significant Change: The SS is significantly different from the WS in terms of temperament, needs and wants, though there might be some similarities.
NC: Noticeable Change: The SS is similar to the WS, but will vary in topical ways in terms of likes/dislikes, loves and wants. These topical changes shall be noticeable and readily apparent, though the basic personality of the SS and WS are the same.
U: Ultra: The Ultra is a median point. The Ultra might display traits of any of the other 6 Mentralysis archetypes. The Ultra will always display/demonstrate skills and abilities in the SS that is not possessed by the WS. The SS will manifest skills and talents the WS does not have or has not trained/studied for.
MC: Moderate Change: The changes between the SS and the WS are not readily apparent, though topical differences will become apparent with detailed analysis. The MC archetype is the most common and documented.
RC: Relative Comparison: The changes between the SS and WS are very difficult to determine. In an RC, the SS is very underdeveloped and beholden to the WS. RC’s are often quite young and develop into other archetypes as they age.
L: Like: There is no identifiable difference between the SS and WS. The SS does not appear to exist in an L archetype’s mental makeup. The L archetype is often temporary, manifested most often in children and disappears by early adulthood. An L archetype often changes into an RC.
There is a final classification known as G, or Gamer. Any of the above classifications can be a Gamer. Mentralysists have discovered that the Sleeping Self, when boosted with certain neural stimuli, have very specific, very detailed dreams. Gamers can dream of places they have never been, and their dreams are accurate to the smallest detail. The stimulation required to create a Gamer can be very dangerous to the Waking Self and is practiced with extreme caution. A synthetic and rather caustic neurotransmitter known as H4 is used to creating a Gaming Session. Those stimulated into the Gaming State often-times do not wake up.
copyright 2013, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips