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Fanfic / A Trekkie's Tale

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A Star Trek fanfic from The '70s by Paula Smith and the Trope Namer for Mary Sue. The fic is a Parody of a Self-Insert Fic in which Lt. Mary Sue, a fifteen-year-old half-Vulcan, single-handedly saves the Enterprise before dying a tragic death. The full text can be found here.

In the early '70s, fan fiction was emerging, much of it based on Star Trek: The Original Series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In those days, fan fiction was published in fan-made magazines called "fanzines" and distributed at fan conventions. Paula Smith was a fan who happened to notice that many of the bad Star Trek stories had the same plot. They always centered on a female Original Character, who is the youngest whatever in Starfleet. Everyone falls in love with her and they go on adventures with her, typically ending with her meeting a tragic death to be mourned by all. After seeing a particularly egregious example of this storyline, Paula Smith wrote a parody, which was published in the second issue of the fanzine Menagerie, which she edited with her friend Sharon Ferraro.

A Trekkie's Tale and Mary Sue could have easily been forgotten after that issue ran, but Paula Smith later started doing letters of comment and reviews for other zines. She and Sharon Ferraro started using the term "Lt. Mary Sue story" as a shorthand to refer to further instances of that plot and the term spread. Regarding the increasingly widespread use of the term "Mary Sue", Paula Smith says that "I simply named a bug, I found a new fern. I identified a piece of humanity and put a name to it, but that's all I did. Everything I know about Mary Sue I was told by somebody else."

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