I also followed much of the commentary, and then at some point I stumbled across this line, or something like it: "She has so many enemies, but like a Mary Sue, our plucky heroine rises above them all."
And I thought: That's it. That's exactly what this woman is. She's a mind-dazzling, brain-numbing, reality-warping Mary Sue. The woman created a fictional version of herself, a Sue-self insert, into the world of Harry Potter fandom.
And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to fit. Which inspired me to compose this comparison.
The Woman who Sued Herself
"msscribe: the touching saga of one woman's rise from anonymity to stardom in Harry Potter fandom in five months."
A Sue, you say? How can a real person be a Sue? The answer, of course, is that all Sues are real people -- inserted into a venue where they can be buffed up to fulfill the author's wildest fantasies. And that is the fundamental extent of what msscribe ever was; a carefully constructed fantasy, an ongoing narrative with a fictional, glamorized version of herself cast in the role of heroine. Who was the real msscribe? Who was the woman behind her? Most of us will never know, since few to no people ever met the real her; we can only feel out her shape through the lies and deceptions, guessing at the true motivations behind her actions.
But this is not a narrative about the real person, whoever she was -- it was about her creation, msscribe; the glorious Mary Sue.
What makes her a Mary Sue, you ask? Well, let's just take a look at her:
She's beautiful,1 brilliant, rich,2 beloved by all;3 she pursues -- not one, but two! -- glamorous, high paid careers,4 and yet all the while has time for knitting, cooking, fandom, music, and whatever other impressive hobbies she can whip out at a moment's leisure. She has an unusual, beautiful, euphonious name and a beautiful, unusual eye color,5 and while she considers herself Black,6 she can also "pass" for white, putting her in the convenient position of suffering the slings and arrows of racism7 whenever it is dramatically appropriate for her and ignoring it whenever it is not.
Despite being rich and beautiful and with a wonderful family,8 her life is so HARD: she undergoes tragedy after tragedy. Car crashes, hospitalizations,9 sexual abuse,10 even MORE hospitalizations months after the car crash;11 which left her such an invalid that she needs a live in nanny/full time health care assistant (one or the other, or possibly both, supposedly in one person.)12 Bravely she rises above her adversity, churning out fics from a hospital bed just days out of a coma,13 struggling in to attend her new glamorous job14 despite the fact that her right side is so paralyzed that she cannot even dress herself in the morning.15 An inspirational to all of us!
A character like this, entered into the Mary Sue Litmus Test page, would return a flat reccomendation to scrap the character and start over. But we do not recognize Mary Sues by their description alone, oh no. We know them by their works. We know them by the way they bend, distort, and reshape the world around them. So let's watch MarySuscribe go.
Immediately upon entry to the scene, MarySuscribe incurs the admiration and awe of several OCs,16 even before she'd really had a chance to show her magnificent writing talents.17 All surrounding her are in awe of everything she does. They dedicate webpages, livejournals, their entire online careers to her; her birthday is a better-known, better-prepared occasion to them than their own.18 Her blog entries are warm, charismatic, and full of the kind of noblesse oblige that only the truly rich and beautiful can have towards the rest of us.19 Like any proper Mary Sue, her sexuality is inspirational and healing; she can liberate even oppressed, beaten women from the far corners of the world with the power of her porn.20
And yet, despite what a wonderful, wonderful person MarySuscribe is, she is constantly -- through absolutely no fault of her own! -- attacked by evil villains from all sides. Nutty Christians come to her daycare to harass her children, only to be sent away frustrated by her brilliant repartée.21 Not satisfied with that, they follow her online (do you suppose they could be the same nutty Christians?) and devote their online time to flaming and attacking her, day and night.22 She gets more flames in a week than most people get in a year, regardless of how comparatively mild her writing sins.23
There is no moral ambiguity in MarySuscribe's tale. Those who side with her are angels; those who stand against her, uncomplicated bastards. Invariably they are bigoted, illiterate, antisocial, ugly,24 homophobic, and racist -- just the kind of evil villains we all love to hate. Through the depredations of these manipulative scoundrels, MarySuscribe is constantly and coincidentally pushed into the arms of the main characters25 as they are grouped together in the plots of the villains. Despite the apparent lack of any kind of useful productive talent on her part, she finds herself thrown into their company time and time again.26 And somehow, she and she alone knows the magic words to make the evil villains go away.27 The main characters are impressed and awestruck by her power, and willingly accept her into their circle, sharing the limelight.28 There's no romance or sex involved with the main characters, but the CC/MS shippers can still hope!
The fandom rules do not apply to MarySuscribe.29 Rules are for lesser folk. And so it is that not only are the OCs of the fandom evil villains to her, but her presence also bastardizes existing characters who do not flock to her side.30 Just like the Sue-author who degrades and dismisses any character she views as blocking her character's path to success and romance, MarySuscribe wages a long and devastating campaign against her fandom enemies. Though she never levels any personal accusations, somehow those who were once ordinary fans are time and time again revealed to be racist bigots,31 stalkers,32 jealous plotters, and frauds.33 They are mysteriously implicated in every fandom crime to be committed since MarySuscribe's appearance, and not a few off-line crimes as well.34 Stigmatized and ostracized, the bastardized characters fall by the wayside,35 leaving MarySuscribe gloriously beloved and triumphant.
And finally, just to cap off the Mary Sue career of msscribe, we have this: everything she does, every new chapter she puts out, is greeted with gushing praise from hundreds of reviewers. Everyone loved her. Everyone wanted to see what amazing villain-defeating, BNF-courting, self-glamorizing adventures she would come out with next.
This woman created in herself the ultimate Mary Sue, with Harry Potter fandom as the stage of her fantasy. The wish-fulfillment, the attention-hunger, the self-aggrandization, the black-and-white moralities; from start to finish it matches the pattern that every teenage girl writes in her first clumsy, fantasy-spilling, hero-seducing fanfics.
The only difference was that this was real. The people who were hurt were real. The people who were deceived, defamed, and distressed by msscribe's actions were real people who existed outside of msscribe's dramatic sideshow, and had to carry their hurt and tears away with them. They did not exist merely for msscribe's entertainment, nor for ours.
What does this all mean? It means that the next time you roll your eyes at a Mary Sue fic, before you shout at the screen for the characters to wise up already! This girl is not all that! Don't fall under the Sue-spell!, make sure that you aren't falling for the same tricks yourself.
16 OCs in this narratives refer to "sockpuppets;" fictional persons created by Msscribe for the purpose of supporting her identity.
25 By 'main characters' in this narrative, I refer to the established Big Name Fans of the Harry Potter fandom at the time. I am aware of the irony of promoting a fan to the role of hero, but from the accounts I have heard, the Harry Potter fandom (as well as most fandoms) at the time was more highly centralized and hierarchical than it is now, and most of the fandom focus revolved around one or two people, namely Cassie Claire and a few others. Because of the excessive focus on the 'inner circle,' they occupy the same emotional space in this landscape as does the main character of a series.
1 Icons of herself showed a very attractive-looking young blond woman. Msscribe's skill at taking photos and making icons out of them characterized her early career.
2 Msscribe made frequent references to her highly-paid husband and her affluent lifestyle; at one point she wrote a 'dramatized account' of a meeting between herself and an old high school friend, who had fallen into poverty while Msscribe had risen into a higher class.
3 Should need no explanation.
4 Early in her fandom experience Msscribe referred to a singing career -- she talked about 'rehearsals' and one account of her illness states that she fell unconscious 'in the studio.' A few weeks later, however, Msscribe apparently received a promotion into a highly influential political/PR career as a Senator's assistant, with her own corner office and a view. One wonders if Msscribe actually held either of these jobs, given how much time she seemed to have to spend on fandom.
5 Dionne. Although she cannot be blamed for her own real name, there are also some indications that this is her middle name rather than her given first name, so there is still an element of self-recreation there. 5.5 Or at least, unusual for her ethnicity. In one blog entry Msscribe verbosely described her blue-green eyes, expounding on them as a symbol of her biraciality, or rather, "as a symbol of the bravery it took my ancestors to cross the racial divide."
6 One of her early strawpuppets, Pottersginny, attacked Msscribe with racist epithets such as "mulatto" and "zebra."
7 In a post decrying a Civil-war themed icon late in her fandom career, Msscribe spoke apparently sincerely about "her people," "her struggle," the Black empowerment-nature of her college sorority and the deep, sacred reverence she feels for famous Black figures such as Harriet Tubman.
8 Msscribe made many posts effervescing about her young daughter and her husband.
9 While on the listserv at Portkey.org, one of Msscribe's sockpuppets posted to report that Msscribe had been in a car accident and was in the hospital. She was unconscious for several days, incurred brain damage, and was encouraged to pick up fiction writing again as 'therapy.'
10 At one point Msscribe wrote up a post detailing her survival of a sexual assault; her sockpuppet Clarabella posted it widely on various sexual abuse communities for reading.
11 A sockpuppet of Msscribe's later announced that she was in the hospital again, after having collapsed in the studio, from complications incurred from the original injury.
12 At one point Msscribe asserted that Clarabella, one of her sockpuppets, was her live-in childcare/health care assistant. At a different time, she asserted that Clarabella was an "occasional" babysitter.
13 See footnote 9; Msscribe was posting fanfiction again within days of her hospitalization.
14 See footnote 4; the supposed promotion took place during the time period where she was still an invalid.
15 See footnote 12; Msscribe claimed that Clarabella helped her get dressed in the morning because her right side was so paralyzed that she could not even pick up her daughter with her right arm.
17 The first two of Msscribe's sockpuppets created accounts on the Portkey.org messageboards the same day she did, immediately began recommending and posting glowing reviews of her fics, and never really participated in the message board or in the fandom apart from supporting Msscribe.
18 Refers to the various activities of Msscribe's first two sockpuppets, Clarabella and sarahkjames. At various times, the sockpuppets reported different and contradictory dates for their own birthdays, although they had no trouble remembering hers.
19 See footnote 2.
20 One of the OCs that Msscribe created was an unnamed woman claiming to be Muslim and Pakistani, who was sexually and physically abused by her husband. She claimed that her only solace in life was Msscribe's fanfiction, which 'liberated' her sexually despite her dismal situation.
21 Msscribe wrote a blog entry about a heavily Christian woman who supposedly brought a complaint that Msscribe's one-year-old daughter had been showing unacceptable lesbian tendencies. Msscribe's witty comebacks to the woman's clumsy accusations left the daycare handler laughing and the Christian woman in a frothing rage.
22 Two religious-themed strawpuppets, fermatojam and killiganhashope, stalked and harassed Msscribe's entries for weeks. In both cases, their first post to Msscribe's journal was made on the first day of their journals' existence, and focussed almost obsessively on her.
23 This may be a matter of opinion on my part, but from what I hear Msscribe never wrote about anything more daring than some mild heterosexual kinks and one or two femmeslash fics. An oddly inoffensive target for a true religious crusader to attack, when there was so much more explicitly shocking material out there to choose from.
24 Pottersginny, one of Msscribe's female strawpuppets, was significantly overweight and quite unattractive.
26 All of Msscribe's attackers and harrassers targeted multiple authors in their scope, making "blacklists" or "big name sinners" lists, and included the then obscure and unknown Msscribe along with bigger names such as Cassie Claire and others. Fermataojam, killiganhashope, pottersginny, watchful_entity, and fandom_scruples all made a point of listing msscribe and more well-known authors side by side.
27 Msscribe was always exceptionally witty and snarky against these strawpuppets, usually getting the last word and making them look foolish, thus increasing her own popularity and admirability.
28 Msscribe eventually became a BNF in her own right, and became close enough friends with Cassie Claire that they shared a room at a convention and spent most of their time there together.
29 Refers specifically to her sockpuppetry, trolling, and general unconcern for the feeling of others, but also covers a number of minor rule-breaking offenses on various messageboards.
30 Msscribe waged a long smear campaign against Gryffindor Tower, a pairing-themed fiction community. It would be unfair to say that she single-handedly caused their ostracization and eventual fall and destruction, but she certainly did her utmost to hasten and contribute to it.
31 Pottersginny, one of Msscribe's strawpuppets, often claimed to be a member of the Gryffindor Tower community, despite the fact that she was banned from there before ever posting and was never an approved member.
32 Msscribe heavily implied that fermatojam, the first of her Christian harassers, was a member of Gryffindor Tower. She invented a story about being stalked by him, even going so far as to pretend to file for a restraining order to keep him away from her at a convention. (Later calls to the police station confirmed that no such order was ever filed, no complaint was ever made, and the name and information given was that of a man living in New Jersey who appears to have never been involved with the Harry Potter fandom in his life.)
33 When Gryffindor Tower posted proof of Msscribe's sockpuppetry, including details of incriminating IP addresses, she declared that they had faked the evidence in a jealous attempt to ruin her reputation.
34 Msscribe claimed she had been forced to resign (or had been fired) from her job as a result of letters being sent to her boss about her writing pornographic fiction. She heavily implied that one of the moderators at Gryffindor Tower had sent the letter, which would be not only a fandom faux pas but an actual legal trespass.
35 Gryffindor Tower eventually collapsed and disbanded; though not as a direct result of msscribe's actions, they were so universally scorned by that time that it's hard to imagine them having much motivation to perpetuate the community.
[eta] Interestingly enough, another characteristic of Suethors is that despite the irony of writing fanfiction in another person's universe, they can become extremely jealous and posessive of their own works. No matter how low the chances that anyone else would want to use their extremely personalized, outwardly uninteresting creations! Even in the complete absence of threatening interest, a Suethor is liable to self-defend her creation in vehement terms. "[Insert Sue name here] is MINE!" they might say with an excess of punctuation. "Everyone else belongs to [original author,] but she's MINE! Don't use her without MY permission! DON'T STEAL HER OR ELSE!"
It seems that MsScribe, when defending her own fictionalized creation, is much the same.