From the Editor: A Farewell to The Mary Sue (Or a New Regeneration)
Just pretend you're Rose Tyler.
Don’t panic! At least not until you’ve read the entire article.
Actually, please still keep from panicking after that too.
I started The Mary Sue at the end of February in 2011, very nervous that me and then-intern Jamie Frevele would be perceived as frauds, not as Fake Geek Girls by the larger nerd community, but, worse, as posing panderer’s to the so-often betrayed and ignored community of women in geek culture. I was a woman starting a women-focused site without ever having taken a women’s studies course. I was a geek starting a geek site without ever having seen Doctor Who. (Well, actually, I’d seen most of “The Next Doctor” once while flipping channels, possibly the most confusing introduction to Doctor Who you could get.)
But despite those fears, I think things worked out pretty okay. It’s been amazing to walk down an increasingly solid yellow brick road towards a diversely extended definition of the audience for “genre” media (okay, okay, for GEEK STUFF) over the past four years, and maybe even help lay some of those bricks. The Mary Sue has put me in contact with a lot of amazing people, including some of my biggest heroes and some of my closest friends. As well as a number of amazing interns whose further college and professional careers I’ve proudly watched unfurl.
The site has been the star around which my life’s planets have revolved for more than four years now, if you count the months I spent directing design, hiring, and writing before it went live. But that’s got to change. Really, it’s already been changing for me for a while, a process that’s been as bittersweet as it’s been necessary, and now it’s time to tell you, our community, who I love, about it.
You may have noticed that my byline has been appearing less frequently on the site since this summer. And I could start the story there, but to really do it justice I’m going to have to walk things back a bit further. I’m also going to have to get a bit personal, so I hope you’ll bear with me. (If you follow me closely on Tumblr or Twitter, you might know this part of the story already.)
In spring of 2012, my mother, with no family history of the disease, was diagnosed with three different kinds of cancer. At the beginning of December, avenues of treatment exhausted, she decided to transition to hospice. She died the day after Christmas. And then I did something dumb that at the time seemed necessary: I took three days off and then just kept working. After that, a thing I’ve always tried to be very studious and vigilant about avoiding happened. I burnt out. I burnt out pretty bad. In mid-August, I was finally forced to take a break from the site for longer than a few days.
In fact, for a month and a half, all I did for the site was write Pull It Together and Sailor Moon Newbie Recaps. In the rest of my time, I started working with my good friend Becky Chambers (formerly of The Mary Sue! currently of a really fabulous debut novel!) on her digital magazine Mathom House. I started a Twitter account that tweets the events of The Lord of the Rings in as close to real time as possible. I went on a long awaited trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I wrote an article for Publisher’s Weekly. I reignited my ongoing quest to write a graphic novel, and now I’ve got a whole first issue script under my belt, with more on the way.
And I thought a lot about why I had burned out and what I wanted to do about it. I’ve been working on The Mary Sue for as long as I have ever spent in one school, and I’ve been working at Abrams Media for even longer. It was my first real job out of college, the job that let me start an independent adult life. I am unutterably proud of The Mary Sue, and even prouder that it may have had a miniscule effect on the perception of women in nerd culture, or that it’s touched the life of any nerd out there in a positive way. But it was also now clear to me that I didn’t want to be 100% in charge of an entire website anymore. And that meant that I’d have to say my goodbyes to my grownup baby website. I needed, if you’ll pardon the reference, a new Regeneration.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to put any of the perfectly applicable .gifs of David Tennant in here, I don’t want the office to be completely awash with tears.
So today is my last day at The Mary Sue, although I hope it won’t be the last day my byline appears on the site. I leave you in the superlatively capable hands of Jill Pantozzi, Victoria McNally, Carolyn Cox, Sam Maggs, Dan Van Winkle, and Alanna Bennett. What’s next? Well, I’m sorry to do this to you, but you’ll have to tune in next time. I’m very excited about where things are going, but I’d like to keep those developments on the down low for a little while, and give myself a little break from the internet. I can promise you’ll only have to wait until the beginning of March. And if you’d like to make sure that you keep tabs on me, I’m on Twitter and Tumblr as @nerdgerhl, I tweet about Lord of the Rings events @onthisdayinLotR (where things are about to get REALLY REAL, guys, ohmigosh), and I’m still co-editing Mathom House, a magazine that’s only about interesting things, but believes that everything is interesting. I also sing in an amateur nerdy a capella group, if you can believe that.
I joked on Twitter a little while ago that if this article, which has been quoted by a lot of people in some deeply flattering places, was my online legacy, I wouldn’t have a lot to complain about. The internet makes it very easy for us to assume we know everything about a person, whether it’s how nerdy they really are or how much is going on behind the scenes, and in the spirit of that article, if I’ve got anything to leave you all with, it’s to be kind. To your editors and to your fellow commenters and community members.
We often use this phrase on the site when people whose work has had a big impact on our lives reach the end of theirs, but I hope you all won’t mind if I change the sentiment slightly and direct it at you, The Mary Sue community.
From the bottom of my heart: So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Oh, and here’s the companion photo to the one at the top, just because I love it.