Mary Sue n.

a writer who inserts an idealized version of themselves in their own fan fiction n.; such a story or character



SF Criticism

SF Fandom

  • [ 1973 P. Smith A Trekkie's Tale in Menagerie Dec. 6

    ‘Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,’ thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. ‘Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet—only fifteen and a half years old.’ ]

  • 1976 Menagerie Mar. 2

    Too willing are we to smatter down a Mary Sue story and call it high tragedy, or say, ‘I don’t care if it’s dumb, if it’s about Spock.’

  • 1976 Menagerie Aug. 2

    These are some things that MENAGERIE’s editors don’t like: 1) Mary Sue stories—the adventures of the youngest and smartest ever person to graduate from the academy ever and ever get a commission at such a tender age.

  • 1977 Halkan Council June 1 3

    Why is it that seemingly bright, intelligent women turn out to be teeny boppers who want nothing more than to sleep with and/or marry and have lots of babies by crewmen on the Big E. Ah, yes, this sounds like a typical Mary Sue story and everyone is supposed to hate them anyway, right?

  • 1980 K. Hunter Characterization Rape in Best of Trek #2 78 page image bibliography

    There is no way to discuss fan fiction or characterization rape in fan fiction without discussing the worst offender: the Lieutenant Mary Sue story. Mary Sue stories are typical groupie fantasies in which, usually, a writer transfers herself from the 1970 era into the future by means of the Guardian of Forever, a time warp, or other device of time travel, and finds herself in the Star Trek universe. In general, Mary Sue is a single, thirty-year-old female, who is incredibly beautiful, super-loving, super-intelligent, super-everything.

  • 1992 C. Bacon-Smith Enterprising Women iv. 94 page image

    Writing about women would seem to be the natural project of a women’s community, but in fact the set of genres dealing with women have had a troubled history, and none more so than ‘Mary Sue’. Mary Sue is the youngest officer ever to serve on the starship Enterprise. She is a teenager, tall and slim, with clear skin and straight teeth…. She is usually highly educated, with degrees from universities throughout the known universe in all fields of technical and cultural studies (or an equivalent head of her class in Starfleet Academy).

  • 1992 H. Jenkins Textual Poachers 171

    Fan writers also work to efface the gap that separates the realm of their own experience and the fictional space of their favorite programs. "Mary Sue" stories, which fit idealized images of the writers as young, pretty, intelligent recruits aboard the Enterprise, the TARDIS, or the Liberator, constitute one of the most disputed subgenres of fan fiction. So strong is the fan taboo against such crude personalization that original female characters are often scrutinized for any signs of autobiographical intent, though there is at least one zine which proudly publishes nothing but "Mary Sue" stories.

  • 1997 C. Penley NASA/TREK 141

    ‘Mary Sue’ stories, as the fans call them, are utterly reviled, even though such stories are often the first story that a fan will write. A ‘Mary Sue’ is any story where a young, bright, gorgeous new ensign (usually a transparent stand-in for the author) falls head over heels for Kirk or Spock.

  • 2016 SFX June 116/3 page image

    The Quebecois linguist character is so borderline Mary Sue it comes close to grating.

  • 2022 M. Olson Letter in Perryscope (#20) Mar. 13 page image

    It’s a Mary Sue story. A pretty ordinary woman from a small town…goes to giant interstellar empire and is immediately taken into the confidence of the highest officials and has sex with some of them…. She’s instinctively brilliant at politics, playing superbly in the big leagues in spite of being inexperienced and clueless.

Research requirements

antedating 1973

Earliest cite

'A Trekkie's Tale' in Menagerie

Research History
Katrina Campbell submitted a 2002 cite from an article by Robbie Hudson in the Sunday Times.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1992 cite from Henry Jenkins' "Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture".
Evelyn Ellen Browne submitted a cite from a 1990 reprint of Kendra Hunter's article "Characterization Rape"; Jesse Sheidlower found it in a 1980 reprint.
Evelyn Ellen Browne submitted a 1992 cite from Camille Bacon-Smith's "Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth."
Evelyn Ellen Browne submitted a 1997 cite from Constance Penley's "NASA/TREK: Popular Science and Sex in America". (N.B. the Bacon-Smith cite mentions that the term was coined by Paula Smith, in "A Trekkie's Tale" in a 1974 issue of the fanzine "Menagerie", and later quoted by Johanna Cantor in the winter 1984 issue of the fanzine "Archives V"; Joan Marie Verba submitted a cite from "A Trekkie's Tale" in the Dec. 1973 issue of "Menagerie". Joan Marie Verba submitted a 2003 cite from her book "Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967-1987".
Joan Marie Verba submitted a 1976 cite from Paula Smith in Menagerie.
Joan Marie Verba submitted a 1976 cite from Sharon Ferraro in Menagerie.
Joan Marie Verba submitted a 1977 cite from Halkan Council.

"Mary Sue" appears as a character in the 1973 citation; we are interested in any pre-1990 cites that reference Mary Sue as a type of story, character, or writer.

Last modified 2022-04-10 02:42:56
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.