Today we give the platform to one of my favorite authors, Janny Wurts. She wonders if you think the Mary Sue / Gary Stu critique is being overly applied by cynical critics these days. Two commenters win copies of both The Curse of the Mistwraith and Initiate’s Trial, the first and most recent books in Janny’s THE WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW.
Lately, the Mary Sue or Gary Stu label for book characters who seem ‘too good to be true’ is used freely by professional and amateur reviewers alike as a slur that implies a literary fault. Time, I think, to question the critique’s unilateral validity.
A well drawn character demands strengths and flaws to avoid being saccharine. Yet amidst a shrill trend towards ambiguity and base motivations, has the anti-hero been set on a pedestal? Deemed ‘realistic,’ lauded as the breakthrough that steps fantasy literature beyond children’s tales, the ‘new grit’ sells us a corrupted humanity, and disenfranchises upright protagonists as naïve fools enamored with the bankrupt concept of hope.
Is this ‘frontier’ the new rage, popularizing a theater of limited expectations? Cynicism itself is the MYTH of never questioning its own assumption, with the negative as status quo bloated into tyrannical pessimism. Hope, joy and empowerment are resigned by CHOICE, and what’s left? Misery triumphs. Such distortion denounces all striving against an inevitable morass of futility. The character with a moral compass — despite shortcomings — gets dismissed as a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. By rightfully belittling the literary fallacy of omnipotent perfection, perhaps the tags have been carried too far. Crabs in the bucket sell us a fad to dismiss the astounding resiliency of our human strengths.
Is today’s story hero simplistically debased because we refuse to, or cannot relate? Why strive, when defeatist wisdom insists we must fail? Has upright action been cashiered for the brainwashing crap served up by clever sensationalists who are too lazy and weak to stand firm, to foster the powerful concept that goodness can matter?
Our ‘real’ world has its sociopaths AND its Mother Teresas. We are gifted by examples of transcendence and joy amidst the villainy and shortfalls.
What do you think? Has the label Mary Sue/Gary Stu become the bludgeon to trample the qualities of a genuine voice? Speak your piece.