Of late, I have been talking to people about books that I read back in the day, which lead me to a topic that, well, kind of drives me up the wall. Call it literary snobbery or even jealousy, but I hate Author Insertion in fiction--probably more than I hate Mary Sue. You could probably put Author Insertion as a subcategory of Mary Sue, which only makes me hate it more, but there you have it.
Let me backtrack and explain exactly what I mean. A Mary Sue in fandom is usually an original character, who is then inserted into whatever fandom and inexplicably loved and adored by all who gaze upon her lovely visage, but especially by the Big Players of the borrowed world. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "inexplicably" because sometimes the writer does bother to explain just why Mary Sue is so awesome, but when you read it, it sure feels like it's inexplicable. Sometimes it's just bad characterization and development: you're told that Mary is beautiful, that Mary is kind, that Mary is to be pitied to be loved, that she is noble, funny, athletic, etc. etc. ad nauseum. You never really see the evidence to back this up or all the evidence is dumped on you suddenly like being ambushed at the Prom with a bucket of pig's blood.
From the description, you can see that Mary Sue also exists in the realm of original fiction. She (or he, though I'm not sure what the term would be here) may be slightly more difficult to identify because you might not have the tell-tale sign of Main Characters falling all over themselves over her (or him), but she's still lurking around.
This brings us finally to my main point: author insertion in fanfiction and in original fiction, but especially in published original fiction. I'm not talking about writers having a distinctive voice or putting a little bit of themselves in their characters (I mean, they are putting themselves in the character's shoes or becoming the characters in some cases). I'm also not necessarily talking about writers who put a fictionalized version of themselves into a story in order to do some kind of literary soul-searching. I'm talking about a specific kind of author insertion--the Mary Sue kind, where the character in the story isn't just based off of the writer; the character IS the writer albeit very thinly disguised.
It's annoying enough to see this is fanfiction, but it drives me up the wall to see it in published fiction. Why? Because it's being inflicted on the paying public and these people should know/write better than that. Let me give you a general example to avoid singling out anyone and no names of course because I don't kiss and tell. Also, I realize everyone has done things that are/could be embarrassing, and I'd certainly appreciate it if people didn't bring up my transgressions. So I'm going to be discreet.
Main Character of the novel seems to be very much like the writer. S/he shares the same likes and dislikes as the actual writer, looks like the writer (except possibly fictionally airbrushed), shares very similar background history to the writer, and/or has the personality/habits/quirks of the writer. Yeah, yeah, writers may do a bit of superficial matching up of the MC to him/herself to help them get a better grasp on the character, but there's a line that once crossed, I--as the reader--can no longer suspend my disbelief that these similarities are just superficial. Now, I can appreciate a tongue-in-cheek joke like a reference to something the writer did in real life or maybe the MC's favorite book is something the writer's published. It's another thing when the MC does everything the writer's done with the addition of having the zomg-awesome luck of being in the world of the writer's books. The MC is the writer living the dream, having adventure, and hooking the hot Romantic Lead.
Sure we all are guilty of vanity, and hey, who doesn't want to take a romp in the world they've so lovingly created? But does the public have to be subjected to this bit of vanity press?
Joyriding through a new world with the writer at the wheel is great; I mean, that's what we do as readers. We go along with the characters for what is often the ride of their lives, but I don't want to watch the writer go joyriding off on his/her own. It's one thing to invite me into the fantasy. It's another to make me sit and watch you indulge in your own fantasy and go romping off into the sunset with your One True Love.
I don't appreciate being left in the dust.