Ship’s Log, Supplemental: A Trekkie’s Tale

Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky! It’s Lieutenant Mary Sue!

Oh boy, here we go. Yes, my friends, the time has finally come.

“A Trekkie’s Tale” needs no introduction. A notoriously vicious bit of satire attacking a particular trend within Star Trek fanfiction, the story is infamous for introducing the world to the hated Mary Sue. It took no more than five brief paragraphs to completely tear Star Trek fandom asunder and, as a result, “A Trekkie’s Tale” has transcended fan circles to become ubiquitous in the larger pop consciousness such that it’s had a truly transformative, profound, and arguably profoundly negative, effect on the way we look at genre fiction even to this day. A case could be (and has been) made that the introduction of the Mary Sue archetype is one of the largest and most sweeping acts of reactionary silencing tactics in the history of genre fandom.

And yet “A Trekkie’s Tale” itself is misread and misunderstood by pretty much everyone.

First, some background for those perhaps less familiar with what this is than others. “A Trekkie’s Tale” is a piece of satirical fanfiction published in 1973 and featuring a character named Lieutenant Mary Sue who is the youngest, most beautiful and most talented officer in the entirety of Starfleet. On her first day on the Enterprise, Lieutenant Mary Sue outperforms everyone else on the ship, causes Kirk to instantly fall in love with her at first sight, outwits Spock with logic (that is never fully explained) and singlehandedly saves the ship, the crew and the Federation at least twice before tragically dying randomly at the end of the story to be mourned by everyone and essentially turned into a modern-day saint. Lieutenant Mary Sue, and “A Trekkie’s Tale” more generally, is fairly transparently an attack on a certain kind of Star Trek fanfiction, and is most often read as a parody of (usually female) writers who create author avatar characters as wish fulfillment, thus sidelining the original cast and narrative in the process. In the years since the initial publication of “A Trekkie’s Tale”, the term “Mary Sue” has become a stock character archetype and nowadays gets tossed around rather carelessly, most typically as a knee-jerk reaction from insecure male fans to the concept of “strong female character I don’t like and who makes me uncomfortable with my masculinity.”

What’s the most interesting thing about the Mary Sue archetype to me, however, is how uniquely Star Trek a concept it really is. Star Trek fandom has, in my opinion, a very peculiar fascination with an *extremely* specific sort of fantasy: It’s an almost omnipresent dream amongst Star Trek fans of all ages, generations and genders to be captain of their own starship, command their own crew and, essentially, to be the star of their own Star Trek spinoff. This goes totally contrary to the stereotypical conception of the obsessive fan, which would be someone fantasizing about the characters or the actors, either in a romantic or sexual way or just a desire to meet them in person.…

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