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Yes, folks, just in case you were curious, E.L. James' 50 Shades trilogy started off as Twilight fanfic. It starred Edward and Bella in a bdsm relationship, and it was entitled Masters of the Universe. No word if Skeletor and He-Man were involved. I doubt it. That would have been interesting, and if it's anything these books aren't, it's interesting.
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Inevitably, my research into paracosms and imaginary friends leads me in circles around Carl Gustav Jung, post-Freudian Swiss analyst who invented archetypes, introverts and extroverts during the beginning of the 20th century.

I keep coming back to Jung because his major contribution to the theory of psychoanalysis was to envision the psyche as home to many parts, In Jungian psychology, these parts can be personified (such as the Anima, Animus and the Shadow) and addressed in the way that people talk to imaginary characters.

Jung's technique of talking to the aspects of oneself was known as active imagination. Please note that the Wikipedia entry suggests that active imagination means watching and recording one's fantasy activity; however, Jung was very enthusiastic about encouraging, interrogating and otherwise assertively engaging with images and characters in one's head.

Jung encouraged his patients to engage in active imagination techniques. He also used these techniques on his own. For sixteen years, he plumbed the depths of his own mind, verging dangerously close to obsession and madness. In a recent New York Times article, "Carl Jung and the Holy Grail of the Unconscious," Sara Corbett describes this formative period:

What happened next to Carl Jung has become, among Jungians and other scholars, the topic of enduring legend and controversy. ...[I]n 1913, Jung, who was then 38, got lost in the soup of his own psyche. He was haunted by troubling visions and heard inner voices. Grappling with the horror of some of what he saw, he worried in moments that he was, in his own words, “menaced by a psychosis” or “doing a schizophrenia."


...[T]he [resulting Red Book] was a kind of phantasmagoric morality play, driven by Jung’s own wish not just to chart a course out of the mangrove swamp of his inner world but also to take some of its riches with him. ...

The book tells the story of Jung trying to face down his own demons as they emerged from the shadows. The results are humiliating, sometimes unsavory. In it, Jung travels the land of the dead, falls in love with a woman he later realizes is his sister, gets squeezed by a giant serpent and, in one terrifying moment, eats the liver of a little child. (“I swallow with desperate efforts — it is impossible — once again and once again — I almost faint — it is done.”) At one point, even the devil criticizes Jung as hateful.

Clearly Jung was entertaining a very rich paracosm. But were his explorations deep and fruitful or excessive and mentally ill? Jungian adherents and author Corbett have no answers, and the case of Jung and his paracosm becomes especially confusing because he turned his paracosm into the crucible of his life's work. Unlike Kirk Allen [previously discussed in a review of a Harper's 1954 article, "The Jet Propelled Couch"], Jung did not find his paracosm to be an intrusion into and distraction from his mundane job. In fact, his paracosm and his job seem to have become inseparable, as he was practicing in his paracosm techniques that he would later publish and lecture about.

Corbett's article does not deal with such fascinating topics, however; she is more concerned with the quest for Jung's paracosmic records, or the Red Book, itself. As a sensitive, deeply personal document of a famous psychoanalyst, Jung's diary of his travels in his mind has been closely guarded by his heirs and reverently visited only by a few adherents. It is soon to be published, though, with reproductions of its painstakingly done illustrations, as well as thousands of footnotes to explain its wide-ranging mythological, scholarly and alchemical allusions.

Again, Corbett's article seems to ignore the significance of the impending debut of the Red Book. It's a primary source about a paracosm, and primary sources about people's imaginary worlds are pretty hard to come by. I don't know why. It's as if scholars are interested in paracosms only for what they tell us about their creators' "serious," non-paracosmic works, not about the significance of paracosmic phenomena per se. But, as Corbett's article implicitly suggests, paracosmic works such as Jung's Red Book are indeed serious works. In these playgrounds of the mind, themes and characters develop in raw form the interests of many a creator, who then presents more refined versions of the paracosm in his or her artistry.

Why no, I'm not motivated to work today. Why askest thou? =P

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"The Jet Propelled Couch," an article [part 1, part 2] from a 1954 issue of Harper's, describes an analyst's encounter with a university professor and scientist who lives a dual life. In his mundane existence, he works at the university and researches, but, in his fantasy life, his soul travels to other galaxies, where he is the ruler of a planet, charismatic, powerful, womanizing and benevolent. His trips to his kingdom planet were becoming more frequent, interfering with his job; hence the analyst was called in.

"The Jet Propelled Couch" explores how "Kirk Allen," the subject, nurtured his fantasy world as he grew up as one of the only white children in an isolated settlement in pre-statehood Hawaii. When he chanced upon a series of science-fiction books featuring a protagonist also named Kirk Allen, this coincidence propelled his fantasy world into detailed development. Kirk began to "fill in the gaps" and "make corrections to" the adventures in the Kirk Allen series, as well as drawing maps, charts and pictures of people and places related to his sci-fi activities.

The Kirk Allen paracosm sustained Kirk for many years and gave him much pleasure, and the analyst had to figure out how to "wean him from his madness." Eventually the analyst decided to partly indulge Kirk's paracosm, getting into the spirit of his world, so to speak, taking it on its own terms. By agreeing with the reality of the Kirk Allen paracosm, the analyst showed Kirk what it was like to be a person who believed in his realm. Seeing a version of himself [i.e., a paracosm believer] in the analyst, Kirk slowly began to realize the fallacious assumptions upon which the reality of his paracosm was based. Thanks to the analyst's participation, Kirk realized that his paracosm was indeed fantastical, and he apparently resolved his conflicts between his mundane life and his fantasy life.

"The Jet Propelled Couch" is both fascinating and frustrating. It's fascinating in that it gives a view, albeit heavily psychoanalytic, of how a person's life circumstances may promote the development of a paracosm. At the same time, it's frustrating because the fact that the analyst thinks that Kirk Allen is "mad" makes the whole business of paracosms seem more insane, threatening and maladaptive than they really are. I know from my researches and personal experience that paracosms can be an enjoyable, helpful, glorious part of the imaginal development of childhood and adulthood, even though people who are foreign to the idea tend to think it's a little mad.

In my estimation, Kirk Allen was not mad and did not have a psychosis; I would say more precisely that he had an elaborate, engaging paracosm, the reality of which was interfering with the mundane reality of his life. The only problem with his paracosm was not that it was so well-developed and detailed, but that it was causing trouble with his job. In this case, madness lies not in the contents or existence of the paracosm per se, but more in its effects.

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I'm linking to this article on Teatime Brutality about the lack of a Dr. Who canon because I find its observations on the relative primacy of fictionalities very interesting. It's the glorious refusal to define a canonicity that allows fan fiction and reinterpretation to flourish. No, I don't have anything else intelligent to say on the subject right now.
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So I'm poking around on Amazon, looking for comprehensive reference books about vampires, and I realize the sheer number of books devoted to critical analyses of BTVS. In no particular order, here are the ones I found, excluding those that focus primarily on shows other than BTVS:Look -- a lors! )
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Thanks to sailorzeo, who sent me the first 12 books of Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blaker Vampire Hunter series [previously discussed here], I can now summarize books 1-6 for you.

1. Mary Sue Anita uses her Super-Awesome Bestest Zombie Powers in the whole wide world!!!!!! to solve a police procedural in which yet another Evil Sick Twisted Bastard Beyond Imagining is seriously fucking shit up. The audience turns its brains off and goes for the ride.

2. Mary Sue Anita fights with her main snooze squeeze, Richard the Hairy Wolf Dude, about how he should kill other werewolves in order to insure his status as alpha male. The audience wonders what these two see in each other, since they have no common interests and about as much chemistry of a heap of wet pine needles.

3. Mary Sue Anita fights with other main squeeze, the vampiric and ridiculously dressed Jean-Claude. The audience chokes on its laughter, since Jean-Claude appears to take fashion cues from Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, only with less sense of humor. The audience then reads the scenes between Mary Sue and Clotheshorse much more avidly, since these two seem well-matched, but Clotheshorse soon flits away, leaving the audience in a semi-dormant torpor once more.

4. Gratuitous descriptions of PARTLY DISMEMBERED BODIES!!! The audience rolls its eyes.

5. Gratuitous fight between Mary Sue and some rival for either Hair Club's or Clotheshorse's affections. The audience secretly roots for the rival to kick Mary Sue's ass, but Mary Sue's ass is impenetrable, even by her "preternatural" [which means "unusual," LKH, not "supernatural" -- DAMN YOU!] butt monkeys.

6. Repetition ad nauseam of the following: Anita's age [24], Anita's "tough-as-nails" demeanor, Jean-Claude's entirely-masculine-and-so-totally-not-at- all-androgynous-and-not-the-least-bit-sexually-ambiguous-why-would-you-even-say-that-I'm-STRAIGHT-straight-I-tell-you-iiiiiiiiieeeeeeeee! physique, Jean-Claude's "beautiful mask" of a face, fur "flowing" [?!] over a transforming lycanthrope, vampires who "flash fangs" [they never "flash THEIR fangs," which irritates me to no end], and the conspicuous absence of any gay tension between Furface and Fangface, despite the fact that they are in a menage a trois with Mary Sue, and Jean-Claude seems like the omnisexual type to use sex as a form of power.

7. Profit!

In other words, these books provided an entire weekend of mindless entertainment. But my vampires are better.
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With the final book of the Twilight Saga coming out on Saturday [woo hoo!!], Laura Miller takes a critical look at the immensely popular glurge. She correctly notes that Bella's extreme lack of personality makes her a Mary-Sue-shaped costume which the typical fan, a young teenaged heterosexual girl, can climb into so that she can have virtual smoochies with Edward:

She is purposely made as featureless and ordinary as possible in order to render her a vacant, flexible skin into which the reader can insert herself and thereby vicariously enjoy Edward's chilly charms...Edward, not Bella, is the key to the Twilight franchise, the thing that fans talk about when explaining their fascination with the books. 

Read more... )
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I just read City of Bones [Book 1, Mortal Instruments trilogy] by Cassandra Clare, in which 15-year-old Mary Sue Buffy Princess Leia Clary and her dorky friend Xander Simon [who has a crush on her] experience the supernatural world of the Hellmouth New York City.
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Twilight is fan fiction, and from this fan fictional identity derives both its strengths and its weaknesses.

While fan fiction may be strictly defined as unauthorized literary activities with someone else's characters, I would also define as fan fiction a self-insertion story where the writer uses time-worn literary devices to stick him- or herself into a story, thus fulfilling his/her wishes. This definition of fan fiction thus includes Twilight.


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I'm about 10 years late to the game, but this checklist for writers of Laby fanfic makes me crack up. It reminds me of the episodically long fanfic via E-mail I did with one of my friends during my first year of college and into the summer. I don't even remember what the plot was, but Jareth kept dragging us back and forth out of the Labyrinth. If I recall accurately, the Labyrinth was losing magic, and, for some reason, my friend and I had to be the ones to fix it. 

The one clever innovation we had was that we would write each other messages and occasionally IMs as if we were in plot ["I just had the weirdest experience; Jareth yanked me into the Labyrinth again..."], and I believe there was some writing in character from Jareth's point of view too. He, by the way, was immature, selfish, explosive, infuriating, manipulative, annoying and thoroughly unredeemable, which proved problematic as we struggled to find a justification for helping out the King of the Dickwads Goblins.

Anyway, we stopped writing after HUNDREDS of single-spaced pages. As we trailed off, I was stuck in the Labyrinth with only a pink computer for a communications device! OH NO!!! The non-ending ending amuses me because it makes me think of something like Dispatches From The Labyrinth. 

Now I'm getting nostalgic. I should look back at that file. [Yes, I still have it all in one file and NO YOU CAN'T READ IT.]
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In a paper about "150 years of Mary Sues," Pat Pflieger comments about the coup of killing off a Mary Sue -- that is, the character that is the author's shill. Why is a dramatic death the ultimate end?

1. Mary Sue is too good for you. Like the saintly, sickly paragons of Victorian novels [Helen in Jane Eyre, Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop], Mary Sues become too talented, too virtuous, too stupendously amazing, for this world. So there's really nothing else to do except kill them off. In a fanfic that's full of the highest highs, deepest lows, widest loves and most passionate hates, a Dramatic Death makes an orgasmic conclusion.

2. Hah, you really loved her, didn'tcha?!?!? Like the original rebellious female character who loved the evil man [Clarissa], Mary Sues die to afford the author and reader some perverse glee. Since everyone loves Clarissa [and the Mary Sues], everyone feels devastated when she dies. Thus, pre-death and even post-death, the author and reader can bask in the secondary characters' grief because the grief proves how greatly the main character [Clarissa or Mary Sue] was loved.

3. You'll remember her forever. Because they're so damned good and because everyone loves 'em, it's guaranteed that the characters will not forget the Mary Sue. Her virtues will shine as a noble beacon forever. Secondaries will idealize and idolize her. She will never leave their minds. More wish-fulfilling whack-off on the author's part.

Hmmm, and I thought killing Anneka was just a good way to literalize a huge change in her life. was the Orgasm of the Mary Sue!

Dear Loremistress  -- If Mary Sues are so hated by other writers, why do you think LHF, which is so obviously teeming with Mary Sues, is well-liked?

Go read what the Loremistress muses about Mary Sues. She's good. :D
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Jill alerted me to the coolest Web site, TV Tropes. It's the encyclopedia of plot devices, stock characters, cliches and genre fixtures for TV, movies and even novels. I was making smaller lists of such "archetypes" at the age of 14, and now, 14 years later, there's a whole online encyclopedia of them!

(un)real life is a dramedy because it combines drama and humor, but it's also a soap opera in the sense that the characters always experience life-changing events [never a dull moment]. Perhaps it could be best characterized as a supernatural soap opera, which gets in the constant plot twists, the high tension and the magic.

Anneka, as a hero, is probably an Extraordinarily Powered Girl, given the fact that she has vampiric powers. She also has strong Mary Sue traits, mostly because she's semi-autobiographical and physically idealized. Because she resents her special status and just wants a normal life, she's also a Part-Time Hero. Given her tendency to depression, suicidal thoughts and holding grudges, she may also have some anti-hero in her.

Will, as a hero, is most obviously an anti-hero. Specifically, his cynicism and cock-sureness make him an Ineffectual Loner. He makes sarcastic remarks about almost everyone, ensuring him the role of Deadpan Snarker.

Both Anneka and Will have a strong Beauty and the Beast aspect to their relationship. Anneka seems to be bringing out something good in Will [hmmm, maybe he'll stop killing people], and he seems to be bringing out something good in her [though we're not clear what it is]. As well, there is some Star-Crossed Lovers drama, but they keep crossing the stars by themselves. Fate has nothing to do with it.
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According to this amusing quiz, Anneka Elizabeth is a stinkin' rotten Mary Sue. Well, of course she is. She developed out of a doll called AE for Alter Ego. She's supposed to be semi-autobiographical.

I ran Jareth the Goblin King [movie version] through the quiz too. Guess what? He came up as an "Uber-Sue." I think it's because he has many traits [weird eyes, weird hair, weird clothes, weird name, magic powers, sexiness] romanticized by writers of fanfic. There's probably an essay for the Realm in here somewhere....



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