A recent blog post by Charlie Jane Anders (http://io9.com/infodump-mary-sue-and-other-words-that-authors-are-1663345948) titled “’Infodump’, ’Mary Sue’ And Other Words That Authors Are Sick Of Hearing” caught my attention. Because this piece was written about science fiction, a genre I seldom read and don’t write, many of the terms didn’t resonate with me. However, ‘Mary Sue,’ especially when used as a verb, piqued my attention because I have a female protagonist. The author of the blog quoted other writers who want the term expunged:
Says Seanan McGuire, author of the October Daye and InCryptid novels:I genuinely wish that everyone would delete the word “Mary Sue” from their vocabulary. In its original, fanfic usage, it described a character who was, yes, usually female, but whose greatest crime was not perfection: it was twisting the story. A Mary Sue in that sense literally walks into someone else’s world and makes everything about her. Flash forward to the modern day and it’s a rare female protagonist who doesn’t get accused of being a Mary Sue, and hence worthless. Here’s the thing: she can’t distort the story if the story already belongs to her. The protagonist, regardless of gender, is awesome and interesting and has a milkshake that brings all the boys, girls, or genderfluid space pirates to the yard, because that’s why they’re the star of the story. So calling female protagonists “Mary Sue” is sexist, belittling, and reduces them in a way that is very rarely applied to their male counterparts—even when those male counterparts are just as guilty of being a little too perfect to be real.
Elizabeth Bear (The Steles of the Sky) adds that Mary Sue seems like “a term which had some useful specificity when it was coined, but has since become a broad-brush catchall used to dismiss any competent female character who acts like a protagonist.”
I hope I’m not accused of Mary Sueing the reader because Tookie is the center of my stories. However, I doubt if anyone accuses me of writing her as being “a little too perfect to be real.”