Book Thread 2018^H9


Is Batman not a wish fulfillment power fantasy? He’s a playboy, uber-rich, expert in martial arts, an expert engineer, expert detective, and has technology that borders on magic. What’s the term you suggest for characters like that? I feel like we’re arguing semantics. That point is that these characters are not relatable because they’re OP. I mean it’s fine; I love superhero stories. I enjoy power fantasies. But power fantasies are tropey in fantasy (also in superhero stories, but they’re the point there) in a way they don’t need to be. It’s interesting that this trend in fantastic fiction is somewhat recent: Bilbo Baggins isn’t a power fantasy, nor is Dorothy Gale, nor Steerpike, nor Alice. (Maybe it’s The Once and Future King that kicked that off.) And they’re far more relatable because of it. They help us make sense of the fantastic because they occupy the same places in it that we would.

Fitz is central to earth-shaking events and is a royal, a skilled warrior, and a powerful wizard. Bad shit happens to him, yeah. And he’s often (always?) bound by loyalty and duty and love and his own thickheadedness to serve people less powerful than himself. But he is powerful. And his story fits right into the fantasy tropes described above. His arc isn’t substantially different than Rand al’Thor’s or Wart’s or Garion’s or etc etc.


I don’t disagree with your point. Why I mentioned Batman, he is very much of that mold.

What irks me is the term Mary Sue, and let me be clear that this is not the context here since it was brought up about a male character, is how it is used to demean or dismiss female characters in particular. People complain about strong and talented female characters and throw the term Mary Sue out to dismiss them.

And I’ve just gotten particularly sick of it. It’s been so often used by disingenuous pricks that the mere mention of the term irks me. It’s a pet peeve. It’s a shorthand term that has been overused and abused to the point that its original meaning has been lost, and is used to describe ‘a powerful or important character with self agency that I dislike’.

Basically if there is a textual reason for a character to possess a certain set of attributes, it’s not a Mary Sue. Batman is, And is not, at various times due to the inconsistent nature of characterization due to decades spanning serialized comic stories. But I’ve never seen that criticism leveled at him.

And it is definitely distinct from a simple ‘power fantasy’. Mary Sue demands a certain perfection that is not present in mere power fantasy. Most Marvel characters could probably be termed power fantasy, but none are Mary Sue’s. They have flaws and weaknesses, and they are allowed to screw up because of them.

Bella Swan is a Mary Sue in most ways, and yes I have seen the movies because my wife, but it is a far more narrow class of character than we usually see.

Sorry for the rant. Like I said, it’s a particular pet peeve of mine. My breaking point for it was Rey from The Force Awakens


What you’re describing is more a choice of story or setting than tropes. Fitz is royalty because Hobb wanted to write about a bastard son of royalty. It’s a fantasy setting, with fantasy magic and conflict, so whether Fitz can fight and/or use magic are pretty much binary choices for the character. Is he a major character in the conflict, or is this going to be some kind of bystander account/travelogue/bildungsroman? Story choices. They’re meaningless when discussing the quality of a work. Might as well complain about the main character being a cop or a reporter in a crime novel.

Hobb definitely sidesteps the actual power fantasy tropes you seem to have problems with though. Farmboy becomes the most powerful wizard in the world? Rand: check. Garion: check. Fitz: nope. Farmboy becomes a major leader in the world? Rand: check. Garion: check. Fitz: nope. Farmboy becomes master swordsman? Rand: check. Garion: check. Fitz: was hopeless, so his instructor gave him an axe instead. I’m not sure what parallels are you’re drawing between them.


Fitz gets almost zero recognition for the good stuff that he does too. In fact, basically all of society murderously turns on him when he (and other people) are found out to have the wit. This is mitigated somewhat in later novels where he at least gets to live a comfortable life with his family. But it was a huge struggle to get to that point!


I’m sure there is one, but I’m still baffled by the idea that Kovacs “always wins”. He hardly ever wins and has the power to change next to nothing despite his personal badassery.


I think Kvothe is a Mary Sue though.


I guess I don’t really understand the term. In my mind it’s like a cartoon character in a kids show that always wins, never gets hurt, and there is never any danger really because you know that’s the case.

If getting hurt takes away Mary Sue status, then I think Kvothe will pass the test. We just haven’t seen much of that yet.

Anyways, don’t we like to read about important characters in “history” that due momentous things? Was Paul Atreides a Mary Sue? What about in real world? Was Abraham Lincoln a Mary Sue? How about Alexander the Great or Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China?

Just finished book 11 of Fitz series. One more to go. I’m feeling sad about that because I like them so much, but holy hell is it shaping up to be a great finale. I’m sure I’ll bawl my eyes out when it is all over.


I’m pretty engrossed by Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses Grant. His chapters on the Overland Campaign are excellent, nicely contextualizing a complex tactical and strategic situation. I’m just getting into the post-Civil War chapters, which go into his time as General in Chief under Andrew Johnson and then as President. I’m almost dreading all the missed opportunities and tragedies that are coming in the Reconstruction years.

Highly recommended & extremely readable.


I’ve been busy with a lot of other stuff so it’s been a slow book year so far. Finished Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky yesterday, and it was fantastic! A great concept and an excellent execution of it. I think this the book I’ve enjoyed the most since I read A Fire Upon the Deep a couple of years ago. If you like science fiction, you should read this book.


I read Provenance by Ann Leckie and enjoyed it. It’s sort of a comedy I guess. Nice book.


So I finished the first book in Robin Hobbs Liveship Trilogy. Not as compelling as the Farseer Trilogy but there is enough there to make you want to know what happens to the Vestrit family. This trilogy has more of a James Michener generational type vibe going on, although I am pretty sure Hobbs will probably keep things closer to our main characters.


The first book in Orson Scott Card’s First Formic War trilogy is on sale for $2.99 today. I know some people object to his political viewpoints but regardless, it’s on sale (for some reason Discourse hates this link and won’t render an image inline. I’ve tried to get it about 5 different ways but no dice)


Woah. OSC continued the main Ender series after Children of the Mind? Apparently Ender in Exile and Children of the Fleet?



Hmm, I’m not sure that’s a Card book anyway. It’s another author using Card’s brand, right?

(This does not mean it must be bad. Just not Card.)


I mentioned over in the Book Club thread that I planned to start reading Thomas Ligotti’s “Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe”, which I have done - read the first three or four stories. And I may be done. I’m just not feeling it, this brand of supernatural horror which isn’t really all that horrific just isn’t inspiring any horror in me.

It probably doesn’t help that I read a book of short stories by Peter Watts immediately prior, which I found much more unsettling despite not really being ostensibly in the horror genre. I guess sometimes a book clicks and sometimes it just doesn’t.


There are so many big name authors doing this “and no name author” shit. I guess they want to make money without actually writing the damn books themselves now…


James Patterson is the biggest offender I have seen. I think he just does the outline and farms off the actual work.


With Pattterson it’s an actual novel factory. He has a team of writers all working on different novels all the time.


I’ve never heard of the guy until now, but holy shit he sells a lot of novels!


Well in their defense, artists have been employing factories for ages (see: Jeff Koons), so why not writers too? :)

Just don’t ask me to read 'em.