Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mary Sue and the Mental Fanfic Adventure

I was so very, very good yesterday and met all my deadlines. Yay, me! Now that means today I have to get down to work.

But first, more on the mental fanfic topic. That was pretty much how I played as a kid, either alone or with friends. I was an only child until I was six, and there weren't a lot of other kids my age in the neighborhood where we lived until I was almost seven, so I had to amuse myself during the early part of my life. That meant I pretty much lived in various fantasy worlds. Back in the Dark Ages before home video, you couldn't just pop in a movie and watch it over and over again. The only ways to see movies were to go to the theater or watch them when they happened to come on TV. The closest equivalent I had were the Disney story albums. These weren't the little "turn the page when Tinkerbell chimes" read-along books. They were LPs with books in the album cover, and the content of the books wasn't a word-for-word narration of what was in the album. The album told a story of a particular Disney movie, with a narrator and sometimes character voices acting it out, and then songs from the movie inserted. Sometimes the narrator was a character in the movie, telling us the story, so it became like a first-person narration version of the movie's story, very much from that character's perspective (and it was usually a secondary character instead of the main character telling his/her own story). In some of these albums, they didn't use the actual movie cast voices or even the songs from the soundtrack, but I didn't realize this because, for the most part, I hadn't seen the movies themselves. A few had been re-released at theaters or shown on the Wonderful World of Disney, but otherwise, the album was all I had. For the animated movies, the illustrations in the accompanying books more or less matched the films, but for the live-action movies they didn't use photos from the movies. They had illustrations that sometimes had nothing at all to do with the movie.

One of my favorite story albums was Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It had all the elements that really push my buttons -- magic, World War II, a more "contemporary" fantasy setting (as opposed to the standard medieval-like fairy tale setting), and a hint of romance. Though, I guess since I was pretty young (5-6) during the phase of that obsession, maybe this was where I developed many of those interests. This was one of the albums where the illustrations bore no resemblance to the movie. Instead of drawings of Angela Lansbury in the main role, the album storybook showed a pretty young woman with short, dark hair and glasses. I really liked this character and was very disappointed when I finally saw the movie and the role was played by Angela Lansbury, who was more prim than the slightly kooky character in the album, and who was blonde, which seemed all wrong to me. I had a whole dress-up outfit based on the album version of Eglantine Price and spent many hours playing out my own stories that spun off from the movie/album story. I think I've read the novels this was based on, but I don't recall enough to know if maybe the album illustrations were more based on descriptions given in the books. Otherwise, I have no idea why they illustrated the album based on a movie starring Angela Lansbury with drawings of a younger dark-haired woman.

At any rate, here's my version of Eglantine Price, from when I was about six (rediscovered thanks to my dad's recent sorting of family photos). And yes, that is a wig. I really liked that wig, apparently. It also shows up in a lot of Halloween costume photos.

At the next place we lived, there were plenty of kids in the neighborhood, and we generally played what you might consider group live-action fanfic, as we were always playing "make-believe" in which we acted out our various favorite TV shows and movies, like M*A*S*H, Bewitched, Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, Charlie's Angels and later Star Wars. Sometimes we did do original stories, where we played pioneers or World War II without basing it on any existing story or characters. I guess this was my first experience with a "Mary Sue" situation, since if there weren't enough roles in the original story for the kids playing, we had to make up new characters to add to that world so we could all play, and, of course, you always made up the kind of character you'd want to be in that setting. (As an aside, in case there's someone -- like Mom -- who doesn't know the term Mary Sue, that's generally used for a character who's inserted into an existing world to represent the author. It's often used with a negative connotation because it's generally very obvious wish fulfillment, as Mary Sue has all kinds of wonderful talents, saves the day, and gets romantically involved with the character the author has a crush on.) Charlie's Angels was about the only thing we played where there were enough girl roles to go around (I was always Sabrina, the Kate Jackson character), so the girls had to make up their own characters to play anything else. I did usually get to be Princess Leia when we played Star Wars, and my best friend was usually Darth Vader's wife (who was a much more interesting character than Padme turned out to be, mostly, I guess, because she was evil instead of just boring and wimpy).

In my own mental fanfic that I played with before going to sleep or during long car trips, I don't recall doing too much Mary Sue until I was older. I generally identified with one of the female characters, and in my mental stories, that character was the one who represented me. It was only when I started to find the men more interesting that I would create a Mary Sue to throw into the story if there wasn't an interesting woman I related to who had the potential to be involved with the man I liked. If there was a female character I liked, I just stuck with the one in the original story. For instance, there's no point in me trying to throw a Mary Sue into the Harry Potter universe, as Hermione is already more of a Mary Sue for me than I'd create if I were going to try to create one (though it would be fun to decide what Hogwarts professor or other adult role I'd play if I tried to stick my current self into that universe).

I actually have a standard "Mary Sue" character that I use when a mental story needs a role for me to play in it. This character actually first appeared in a dream, and I really liked her, but I've never known what to do with her. I audition her for a role in just about every book idea I come up with, but she hasn't quite fit yet -- she's more of a science fiction or action/adventure character than she is a good fantasy character. Because she gets bored sitting in my head with no story of her own, I let her out to play in other universes that need someone like her. She's not really a true Mary Sue as she isn't basically an idealized version of myself, but she does have enough in common with me to serve as my representative in other universes. Someday, though, I hope her own story will come to me and I can really bring her to life.

But enough with this trip down memory lane. I need to get to work.

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