Pixel Scroll 11/9/19 You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Pixel Scrolls

(1) VIEW TRANSIT OF MERCURY ON MONDAY. These occur on average about 13 times each century.  The next one won’t be until the year 2032. Let EclipseWise tell you about Monday’s event in “2019 Transit of Mercury”.

On Monday, 2019 November 11, Mercury will transit the Sun for the first time since 2016. The transit or passage of a planet across the face of the Sun is a relatively rare occurrence. As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible….

Observing the Transit

Since Mercury is only 1/194 of the Sun’s apparent diameter, a telescope with a magnification of 50x or more is recommended to watch this event. The telescope must be suitably equipped with adequate filtration to ensure safe solar viewing.

(2) SUPERNATURAL EPISODE RECAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the latest episode of Supernatural a character was introduced who said she made her living as “the number-one purveyor of non-authorized ‘Supernatural’ collectibles on Etsy.”  She also wrote fiction set in the Supernatural universe, although it wasn’t clear if this was fan fiction or professional fiction.  But what made the fiction distinctive was that instead of the typical Supernatural episode, which has, for 15 thunderous seasons, pitted Sam and Dean Winchester against vampires, assorted monsters, and the forces of Hell itself, the fan fiction had the Winchester brothers doing laundry and other chores.  This made the stories very popular.

The episode didn’t do much with the main character other than having her deal with another character who was struggling with writer’s block.  “The only way to deal with writer’s block is to write,” she said.

This is the first TV episode I’ve seen where fan fiction characters were referred to in the episode…

(3) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. When John Hertz looked at Walter Day’s Science Fiction trading cards he noticed that a photo of Isaac Asimov appears on both Asimov’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s cards in the online gallery. It brought to mind an anecdote about the two authors which is retold in the “Isaac Asimov FAQ” at Stason.org.

5.5 What is the Asimov-Clarke treaty?

The Asimov-Clarke Treaty of Park Avenue, put together as Asimov and Clarke were travelling down Park Avenue in New York while sharing a cab ride, stated that Asimov was required to insist that Arthur C. Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Isaac Asimov was the best science writer in the world (reserving second best for himself).  Thus the dedication in Clarke’s book Report on Planet Three reads “In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the second-best science-fiction writer”.

(4) SIGHTS TO SEE. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari called attention to recent additions to their online collection, photos from the 1959 Worldcon, and scans of calendars featuring work by two great fanartists, George Barr and Tim Kirk.

Thanks to Karol DeVore Sissom, we are scanning photos from the collecton of Howard DeVore. Today, we put up 19 photos from Detention from Howard’s collection.Scans by Joe Siclari. http://www.fanac.org/worldcon/Detention/w59-p00.html

We also added two calendars today, one from 1960 (George Barr) and the other from 1969 (Tim Kirk). They’re now in a directory set aside for calendars, and I’m sure there will be more as we go forward. Scans by Joe Siclari. You can see it at: http://fanac.org/fanzines/Calendars/.

(5) CAREER CHANGE. “In today’s political climate, battling supervillains might seem an easier gig“ — “X-Men’s ‘Rogue’ is now a Liberal MP”and The Star has the story.

Actor-turned-politician Lenore Zann is finding a second act in politics just as one of her most well-known roles finds a second life on the streaming screen.

Zann, a longtime New Democrat MLA from Nova Scotia, arrived in Ottawa this week as a newly elected Liberal MP.

Rogue, the character Zann voiced in the iconic 90s X-Men: The Animated Series, will be on Disney’s new streaming service along with the rest of the superhero team when that service launches in Canada next week….

(6) MALTIN PODCAST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s podcast with James Gray, they talk about cosplay beginning at minute 14, when Gray asks, “At what point did adults start dressing up like Captain America at Comic-Con?” and then segue into Martin Scorsese’s complaint about the MCU films not being cinema.  Gray argues that the decline in the humanities in the past decade meant that more young people don’t have as deep a knowledge of film as previous generations do. At minute 20, they switch to deep and interesting film talk.

Gray never discusses why he decided to make a sf film with Ad Astra, although he did say he enjoyed working with Donald Sutherland.

Also, Leonard Maltin revealed at the end of the podcast that he always sits through the credits because “the movie isn’t over until you’ve been threatened with civil and criminal prosecution.”

(7) MEET MARY SUE. The Rite Gud podcast introduces listeners to a bit of fanspeak in “Writing Mary Sues, or What Even IS a Mary Sue?”. Go direct to the podcast here.

In this episode, special guest Jennifer Albright of Have You Seen This?  drops by to talk about Mary Sues, a term used to describe an overly-perfect female character created as a self-insertion wish fulfillment vehicle for the author. The discussion traces the expression Mary Sue back to its origin in Star Trek fanfiction and tries to grapple with its current usage. Does Mary Sue mean anything anymore? Is it a misogynistic term? Is Rey from Star Wars a Mary Sue? Is James Bond a Mary Sue? Does it really matter if a character is a Mary Sue?

(8) BOOKS FRANK MILLER LOVES. Shelf Awareness brings you “Reading with… Frank Miller”, best known for Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300. 

Favorite book when you were a child: 

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, because he went for impossible adventure.

Your top five authors: 

Isaac Asimov: He was the godfather of modern science fiction. He took us beyond the rocket ships and bug-eyed monsters.

Raymond Chandler: For his urban romantic poetry that celebrated 1940s Los Angeles.

Dashiell Hammett: His town was San Francisco; his dialogue was clipped, yet wildly evocative. His heroes were tough and very, very alone.

Dorothy B. Hughes: She brought a distinctly feminine edge to the hard-boiled genre and, in her own way, was ready to take us to darker places than any of the rest.

Mickey Spillane: For his pounding and frenetic portrait of New York City in the post-World War II era.

(9) URBAN MYTH. Snopes debunks “The Strange Case of Time Traveling Rudolph Fentz” – for a very genre-related reason.

In 1950, a New York City police officer who was working missing-persons cases examined the body of an approximately 30-year-old man that was brought into the morgue. The man had shown up in the middle of Times Square at 11:15 p.m. that evening, “gawking and looking around at the cars and up at the signs like he’d never seen them before,” then was quickly hit and killed by cab when he tried to cross a street against the traffic lights.

The pockets of the deceased’s clothing held multiple pieces of coinage and currency of forms that had not been produced for several decades, yet many of them were in mint condition. His possessions also included items from types of businesses that no longer existed in New York City (i.e., a bill from a livery stable and a brass slug from a saloon), a letter postmarked in 1876, and cards bearing the name Rudolph Fentz with an address on Fifth Avenue….

(10) SERLING DOCUMENTARY. The Hollywood Reporter learned from a film that will hit theaters next week that “‘Twilight Zone’ Creator Rod Serling Feared He’d Be Forgotten”.

Rod Serling remains one of the more influential writers in the annals of science fiction. As creator of The Twilight Zone, he took took viewers to strange dimensions and pushed the boundaries of what the genre could do. Yet, part of him feared he would not leave a lasting legacy. That’s one of the topics tackled in Remembering Rod Serling, a new documentary that will be unveiled Nov. 14 in theaters via Fathom Events to celebrate The Twilight Zone‘s 60th anniversary.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1886 Ed Wynn. He appeared on The Twilight Zone in “One for the Angels” which Sterling wrote specifically for him. He appeared one more time on the series in, “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”.  He provided the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and played The Toymaker in Babes in Toyland.  No doubt his best-remembered film appearance was in Mary Poppins as Uncle Albert. Bet you can name the scene he’s best remembered for! (Died 1966.)
  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Alan Caillou. The Head in the Quark series. If you have to ask… Last role was Count Paisley in Ice Pirates and his first was on the One Step Beyond series. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited Nebula, Infinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 65. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1973 Gabrielle Miller, 46. Her first genre series was Highlander: The Series.  And yes, she had long red hair in it.  That’s followed by M.A.N.T.I.S., Outer Limits, X-Files, The Sentinel, Dead Man’s Gun, Stargate SG-1,  Viper, Poltergeist, Welcome to Paradox… oh, you get the idea.
  • Born November 9, 1974 Ian Hallard, 45. He was on Doctor Who as Alan-a-Dale in “Robot of Sherwood”, a Twelfth Doctor story; in Sherlock as Mr Crayhill in “The Reichenbach Fall”; and he played one of the original directors of Doctor Who, Richard Martin, in An Adventure in Space and Time. And he wrote “The Big Four” episode with Mark Gatiss for the Agatha Christie series.

(12) JFK. Gideon Marcus (Galactic Journey) is lining up fans who are interested in a free alternate history story.

(13) C.S. LEWIS BIOGRAPHY. Publishers Weekly does a Q&A with Harry Lee Poe: “New Biography Examines C. S. Lewis’s Earliest Reading Life “.

Harry Lee Poe, a professor of faith and culture at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., pores over the first 20 years of C. S. Lewis’s life in Becoming C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Young Jack Lewis (1898-1918), the first of a three-volume biography of Lewis by Poe.

Why did you decide to look so closely at these first 20 years of Lewis’s life?

Virtually all of Lewis’s biographers have puzzled over why he devoted most of his spiritual biography, Surprised by Joy, to his first 20 years. As I first began to read the letters of young Jack Lewis from the time when he first went away to school, I realized why Lewis thought his childhood and youth were so important in his conversion. During this period, he developed all of his major tastes about what he enjoyed in life and what he hated. Many of the ideas that he would pursue in both his scholarly work and his popular writings have their genesis in his teenage years. Whether books like The Allegory of Love and A Preface to Paradise Lost, or The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, many of the ideas found in these books were topics of Lewis’s interest in letters to [lifelong friend] Arthur Greeves when he was 16 and 17….

(14) THEY DIDN’T JUST HANG AROUND. BBC reports “‘Astonishing’ fossil ape discovery revealed”.

Fossils of a newly-discovered ancient ape could give clues to how and when walking on two legs evolved.

The ability to walk upright is considered a key characteristic of being human.

The ape had arms suited to hanging in the trees, but human-like legs.

It may have walked along branches and even on the ground some 12 million years ago, pushing back the timeline for bipedal walking, say researchers.

Until now the earliest fossil evidence for walking upright dates back to six million years ago.

(15) VINTAGE MOONDUST UNCORKED. Smithsonian Magazine: “NASA Opens Pristine Tube of Moon Dust From the Apollo Missions”. Tagline: “Studying the lunar material will help scientists understand the best way to analyze new samples from future missions to the moon”

NASA scientists recently opened a sample tube of rock and soil collected on the moon during Apollo 17. The tube remained unopened for nearly 47 years, and it is the first time NASA scientists have broken in to a fresh moon sample in over four decades. Researchers are using the lunar dirt to test next-generation sampling tools in preparation for the next time humans fly to the moon.

The sample tube holds about 15 ounces of lunar regolith, or loose rocky material from the surface. Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt collected the material during mission in December of 1972, NASA’s last crewed mission to the moon. The sample, 73002, was taken from a two-foot-long tube that the astronauts drove into a landslide deposit in a feature called the Lara Crater. A second sample, 73001, is scheduled to be opened in January.

(16) A WIDE CANVAS. SYFY Wire’s video series is after big game this time — “Behind the Panel: On the hunt for Treasury Editions”.

In the latest installment of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel, we’re roaming the halls of New York Comic Con while searching for an elusive Treasury Edition: MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz. True story: That was the first-ever collaboration between Marvel and DC. But their second collaboration was a true game changer: Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.

That’s right, the unthinkable crossover already happened in 1976, with a follow-up sequel in 1981. Only the Treasury Edition format could fully capture the twin heroic icons of comics as they had their inevitable battle before their equally inevitable team-up to save the day. For the time, Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man was the comic book equivalent of a blockbuster movie. That Treasury Edition is long out of print, but fans may be lucky enough to spot it at comic conventions.

(17) FROM THE LETTERZINE ZEEN. Kim Huett shares another gem from his files with readers of Doctor Strangemind. “One of the reasons I find nosing through old fanzines so worthwhile are the contemporary reactions to stories and authors. It’s always fun to discover reviews of the big names back when they were just starting out. As you can probably imagine I was most pleased to find what I suspect was the first critical reaction to Ursula Le Guin.” — “In the Beginning”

… Take for example consider the following comments by US fan, Earl Evers, who reviewed the contents of the April 1964 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination in his fanzine, Zeen #2 within weeks of it hitting the shelves. In the process of reviewing this magazine, story by story, he had the following to say about what was one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s earliest published stories…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kim Huett also shared this link for… reasons:

Here’s an #Owlkitty video which more than adequately explains exactly why Tolkien didn’t feature cats in either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Yes, the right cat would make a great Balrog or an excellent Nazgal mount except cats have minds of their own and I can’t imagine Sauron would like that (besides, they would stare right back at him and it doesn’t take an All Seeing Eye to find that sort of behavior annoying):

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, RS Benedict, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Kim Huett, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

39 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/9/19 You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Pixel Scrolls

  1. Talk of both Kennedy and Lewis means that someone must mention that Lewis and Kennedy shared a death day with Aldous Huxley – and I guess I’m that someone.

  2. 2)This is the first TV episode I’ve seen where fan fiction characters were referred to in the episode…

    I must misunderstand what Wooster is saying here. I mean, Supernatural has a whole story line from previous seasons in which the author of not-so-popular novels about the Winchesters (the brothers find out that someone has been writing novels about all their “real-life” adventures) turns out to be God, and there’s a fanclub and… IIRC… even a con involved.

  3. 7) Does Mary Sue mean anything anymore? Is it a misogynistic term? Is Rey from Star Wars a Mary Sue? Is James Bond a Mary Sue? Does it really matter if a character is a Mary Sue?

    I despise Mary Sues. And no, they’re not misogynistic, because you can have male “Mary Sues” (Gary Stus or whatever name variant you like) just as easily.

    And no, James Bond isn’t a Mary Sue — because he’s an asshole. He’s very good at what he does, but few characters are actually enamored of him.

  4. Dangit, I forgot and included the Word of Doom (TM) in my previous post — got sent to moderation hell!

    P.S. — Thanks, Mike!

  5. 1) As bad luck would have it, Monday morning I’m driving home from Tuscon. I suppose I could have brought my H-alpha telescope and had a quick peek before I got on the road… but as it is I’ve brought an impractical number of guitars. I decided when I set out that I didn’t need any more cargo.

    7) In common usage, ‘Mary Sue’ seems to have come to mean ‘female hero whom I resent because she probably would not sleep with me’.

    11) I remember Quark – vaguely, but fondly. Sez here it’s available on DVD… at an absurd price.

    Thank you for the title credit!

  6. Tolkien does occasionally mention cats, as, e.g., the cats of Queen Beruthiel. There is a mention of her in LotR, which is enlarged upon in “Unfinished Tales”; and there are occasional references (none of them particularly complimentary) elsewhere. Tolkien was apparently not a “cat person”.

  7. Well, I just spent a very exciting Saturday afternoon. First racing back to my apartment because a brush fire was heading towards it. Then my main road was closed, so I had to use back roads to get there. Then trying to corral two cats into carriers in case we got an evacuation order. I’d already had a ‘go bag’ packed so that was the easiest part. We never got evacuated. They managed to contain the fire, but the cats had to stay in their carriers for several hours. I have very unhappy credentials.

  8. (7) I’m quite fond of “Rite Gud,” possibly because I’m quite fond of R.S. Benedict — although I feel like the podcast is still figuring itself out somewhat, it always goes deep and it’s always irreverent.

    They say something at the end of that episode which resonated strongly with me — something along the lines that any useful term will lose its substance as soon as enough people start using it. Boy, is that true for “Mary Sue.”

    I feel like the essential concept — say, “an author-insert character, and a lot of the story is about flattering that character” — is a really useful one to be able to discuss stories. It’s not even a bad thing, in and of itself — just like reading a power fantasy can be a lot of fun, reading an emotion fantasy can be fun, comforting, empowering.

    (An example I’m fond of is Spiderman — the awkward teenage nerdboi who feels responsible for everybody but is always juggling his life commitments; he is such a transparent reader-insert. And that’s a lot of what made Peter Parker so compelling and “real”! It’s not necessarily a bad thing, even when it’s ludicrous — or, you can see why being ludicrous just wasn’t an issue!)

    But even with just that, saying “(CHARACTER) is a Mary Sue” often means:
    * “This is a reader-insert story and that’s not what I want to read.”
    * “This is a reader-insert story, but it isn’t executed well”
    * “This is a reader-insert story, but it ‘s targeted to other readers, not to me”
    * “I think (CHARACTER)’s status as a protagonist is being used to engender sympathy in a way I object to”

    Complaining that (CHARACTER) is a Mary Sue can be a 100% accurate description of a reader’s experience, in the sense of “the author meant me to like this character, but I didn’t.” But it’s not very helpful in terms of criticism, unless you can actually articulate why you found the character to be flat, vapid, or hollow.

    And pegging it all on “Mary Sue” ties back into the common misapprehension that a trope being recognizable is itself a story flaw. In this case, “Oh, I can tell I’m meant to like character” or “I can tell character is being portrayed as awesome”. I can see why that can bug some people who aren’t used to paying attention to how stories work; kind of a personal sensitivity in a sea of comfortable numbness. But critiquing by “can I reduce this into a recognizable checklist item” is ultimately just bad critique.

  9. Thanks, errolwi. I’m in Los Angeles. Nothing as bad as in Australia. It ended up being only 34 acres (if it doesn’t flare up again tomorrow morning). But even a small brush fire is worrisome when it’s in your neighborhood.

  10. (4) Thanks for the calendar scans; I enjoyed seeing them. I still have my 1975 Tim Kirk Tolkien Calendar. (I also still have the original Tim Kirk wedding invitation drawn for my 1972 wedding.)

  11. @Contrarius – the con episode is one of my favorites! I think that’s when the author tells the audience: “remember, it’s not jumping the shark if you never come back down.”

  12. 2) Never really got into Supernatural, but do recall in Agents of SHIELD someone telling Daisy Johnson that was slash fic of her and Black Widow on the Internet with the pairing referred to as Quack.

    Daisy’s expression is priceless.

  13. (11) Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers 3rd ed. by Paul E. Schellinger, Elizabeth Nishiura, Karen P. Singson published in 1991 says about Alfred Coppel:

    “COPPEL, Alfred. Also writes as Sol Galaxan; Robert Cham Gilman; Derfla Leppoc; and A.C. Marin.”

  14. (2) Wooster is wrong that Becky Rosen (aka samlicker81) was introduced in this episode. She has a history with Sam and Dean from previous episodes.

    I completely agree with Contrarius that Supernatural has a history of acknowledging fans and fan activities. In season 10 there was an episode titled “Fan Fiction”!

  15. Regarding Mary Sues, I recall an interview with Roddenberry in which he described Kirk and Spock as fantasy versions of himself – Kirk as being the decisive person he wished he was, and Spock as the logical person he wished he was.

  16. (1) I had a fascinating moment of linguistic awareness while reading the statement “The transit or passage of a planet across the face of the Sun is a relatively rare occurrence.”

    (Please note that the comment is focusing purely on issues of language meaning and interpretation, and does not actually have anything to do with astronomy at all.)

    I realized that–for me–calling an event “rare” carries an implication that we’re evaluating it for probability, as opposed to making an objective statement of periodicity. After all, “rare” carries an implication of “rare as compared to what?” A planetary transit has a longer periodicity compared to the revolution of the earth, or compared to the revolution of the moon around the earth, but a far shorter periodicity than the orbit of Halley’s comet.

    But for the movements of celestial bodies, we aren’t evaluating probability at all–their movements are mathematically predictable, after all. We can evaluate the probability or “rareness” of a sizeable asteroid hitting the earth, but the probability that Mercury of Venus will, at the appropriate moment, is functionally 100%.

    This is not at all a stylistic critique of the choice of the word “rare” in the article–the meaning was completely clear to me. Just sharing a moment of “Huh, that sounds funny. I wonder why?”

  17. @Andrew: Presumably, Harry Mudd was the sticky-fingered rogue Roddenberry knew himself to be.

    (11) Alfred Coppel’s 1983 novel The Burning Mountain assumes a timeline in which the Manhattan Project fails and the USA has to invade Japan in 1946.

  18. Contrarius and Dennis Howard: I’m sure you’re right but I haven’t seen that many episodes of Supernatural which is why I qualified it by saying “that I’ve seen.”

  19. Just got alerted that Jim C Hines’ very fun Terminal Alliance is on sale for £1.49 at Amazon UK.

  20. Heather Rose Jones: Just sharing a moment of “Huh, that sounds funny. I wonder why?”

    That’s an interesting discussion — how uncommon or unpredictable does an event need to be to qualify as “rare.”

    You made me think about “rare coins” in the field of numismatics. One article I looked at says the professional definition of rare is based on an absolute number of examples known — 75 or less. However, they acknowledge the accepted marketing of “rare coin investments” where the term is unrelated to that standard, and is closer to “hard to come by.”

  21. @9: I’ve never seen that rumor, but I tend not to hang around where rumors are found. (For some reason the grocery store has fewer tabloids at the self-checkouts.) Unsurprising but amusing that somebody confused deliberate fiction with fact — and unsurprising that Finney was banging that stupid drum. (I suppose word about BCE complaints about children not being as respectful as they used to be weren’t as well-known in his time.)

    @11 typo: “Sterling”.

    @18: cute, but ISTM that a cat’s superpower is passing over gaps, not preventing them from happening. (Our last would sometimes jump slaunchwise through the mudroom doorway, from the top of the washing machine behind one post to the kitchen counter behind the other side of the other post.)

    @Contrarius: must Gary Stus be universally loved, or merely improbably successful? ISTM that a Gary Stu in particular is someone who is implausibly successful, regardless of what people think of him.

    @Standback: that seems a radically different definition of Mary Sue; ISTM that the term began as (and to some still means) someone who is so talented/successful as to be blatant wish-fulfillment, rather than Everyperson (e.g., a character the reader can identify with).

  22. @Martin —

    Contrarius and Dennis Howard: I’m sure you’re right but I haven’t seen that many episodes of Supernatural which is why I qualified it by saying “that I’ve seen.”

    You’re just a johnny-come-lately to the series. 😉 And it’s not like you’ll find the DVDS of Seasons 1-10 on my bookshelves or anything. ;-D

    OTOH, I’m a coupla seasons behind — gotta get to work on catching up!

  23. @Chip —

    @Contrarius: must Gary Stus be universally loved, or merely improbably successful? ISTM that a Gary Stu in particular is someone who is implausibly successful, regardless of what people think of him.

    I think universal (or nearly so) love is a commonly accepted component of Mary-Sueness, but the definition is so fuzzy these days that I don’t think you can really say “this characteristic is necessary and this other one isn’t” in a definitive way. For my personal definition, a Mary Sue/Gary Stu includes the characteristic that all the good guys love her/him and all the bad guys hate her/him.

    I thought Elma in The Calculating Stars was a really annoying Mary Sue, both for being impossibly accomplished and for being universally loved by all the Good Guys. The Bad Guys almost by definition were the people who didn’t like her.

  24. @Chip —

    Here’s the definition from Fanlore.org

    A character may be judged Mary Sue if she is competent in too many areas, is physically attractive, and/or is viewed as admirable by other sympathetic characters.

  25. @Chip/P J Evans:

    Yeah, the reader-insert has the concerns, fears and weaknesses of the (presumed) reader, to promote identification. An “Ace” (to use the Tvtropes term) is a paragon who can do anything and everything and whom everyone admires. Combining aspects of reader-insert and Ace creates the strong risk of Mary/Gary Sue/Stu-dom – superficially a character that the reader (or writer!) can identify with, yet somehow having no major flaws and encountering no difficulties not easily overcome.

    It’s easy to spot a Mary/Gary when one is placed in an already existing universe; everyone else in the universe must be warped to make them the best. Thus Jonathan in Buffy’s Superstar is a Gary Stu, and Barclay’s holodeck fantasy makes him one too. But even in a newly created universe, it’s possible to recognize that Wesley (who can figure out medical charts better than a doctor, solve engineering problems better than the ship’s engineer and think quicker than Data, and receive special treatment from everyone on board the ship) is a major Gary Stu (for Eugene Wesley Roddenberry).

    Or at least that’s my take on it tonight.

  26. @Dennis Howard: I completely agree with Contrarius that Supernatural has a history of acknowledging fans and fan activities. In season 10 there was an episode titled “Fan Fiction”!
    That episode is unbelievably hilarious!

  27. Somewhere in The Lord of the Rings there’s a passing reference to Sauron calling Shelob “his cat”; the narrator then notes, “…but she owned him not.”

  28. Goldfarb: It’s in the chapter “Shelob’s Lair”, but I don’t think it’s Sauron calling Shelob “his cat”, but rather the narrator likening Sauron to a man who may “cast a dainty to his cat”, where the man of the simile calls the cat “his cat”.

  29. Just read Harry Lee Poe’s Becoming C.S. Lewis, and didn’t think much of it. A few new-to-me tidbits from letters other biographies I’ve read didn’t quote, but a great many small errors and not very well written.

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