tales from the Swamp

This blog has general things about MASH and MASH fanfic. It is now defunct. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Farewell to Arms

After a fair old time of it all, I've decided to reduce my online personae. I was writing my Buffy fiction under one name, and my MASH under another. Since I started archiving my Firefly and ER fic under my Buffy name, I decided it was easier to move all my fic under the one name.

So all my stuff is now at The Order of Aurelius and I'm formally winding this site up. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

fic: Wedding Jitters

Ack. My bad. Another fic. Well, more of a five minute ficlet. If I wrote smut, it'd be a PWP, as it is, Wedding Jitters is just a missing scene from Margaret's Wedding. Who told Margaret about the plaster cast?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

fic: Too Darn Hot

New fic: Too Darn Hot, a sequel to Under My Skin. It's a whole Cole Porter thing. I just need a fall and winter song and the quartet of stories will be underway.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

rec

Having posted nothing for months....two posts in one day. I'm clearly having a MASH re-awakening.

An author rec: Samantha. Faceless is already up at her website and is one of the most hauntingly elegant pieces of MASH fanfic I've read. She has another story, Free Falling, on her ff.net page. She has a lovely grasp of the charged chemistry of H/M. And can write PWP.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Bugbears

I admit it: I have a mild bugbear about the use of English in fanfic or, more precisely, the abuse of it. I know fanfic is something written for pleasure and for the chance to write scenarios never played out in the series. I don't think writing for pleasure automatically means ignoring basic rules of grammar and punctuation.

Yes, the rules on the use of the apostrophe may seem a little eccentric, but the English language exists as a means of communicating an idea from one head to many others. Ignoring the basic rules decreases the chance of the readers' receiving those ideas in their full glory.

If reading/writing fanfic is "just fun" then part of the implicit deal the writer makes with the reader is to be entertaining. And struggling to read a story is not fun. So this is going to be my blog entry on common errors which get in the way of the fun of fanfic. Expect a link to it to crop up in reviews on ff.net.
  • If this entry seems to stop suddenly, click on refresh. Blogspot seems to get a bit confused by long entries.
  • If you think there is something worth adding to the list of bugbears, use the comment link at the bottom of the entry.


Resources
useful things to buy, borrow or read online
I just got a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves for Christmas. It's not nearly as good as Bill Bryson's Troublesome Words (which as well as explaining the meanings of misunderstood words also has a section on grammar and punctuation) but it would be a handy starting place for writers who know they have yet to master the its/it's difference. Other places would be:

My bugbears
things that are can improve writing 100% with very little effort

I'm making up the examples, by the way.

  • dialogue formatting
    sometimes you read fanfic which is written like this:
    Hawkeye said let's have a drink. Why not said Trapper then we can go make passes at the nurses. I'm too tired for nurses Hawkeye said.
    Each bit of dialogue ought to be marked out with quote marks. Each time the speaker changes, a new line should be started. So the example above becomes:
    Hawkeye said, "Let's have a drink."
    "Why not? said Trapper. "Then we can go make passes at the nurses."
    "I'm too tired for nurses," Hawkeye said.
    Now it's easy to see who is saying what (and that we appear to be heading for Hawkeye/Trapper slash...)


  • soundalikes aka homonyms
    Some words with different meanings sound the same. If you rely on a spell checker in a word processor, it won't tell you that you have used the wrong one. A particular bugbear for me is the they're/their/there confusion. They're is a contraction of they are; their is a possessive, indicating that something belongs to someone; there is a location. For example:
    "Look at those two over they're," Margaret commented acidly to Frank, "their always getting drunk."
    "The Colonel really shouldn't allow them to keep there still."
    should be:
    "Look at those two over there," Margaret commented acidly to Frank, "they're always getting drunk."
    "The Colonel really shouldn't allow them to keep their still."
    because the words are being used as follows:
    "Look at those two over there [location]," Margaret commented acidly to Frank, "they're [they are] always getting drunk."
    "The Colonel really shouldn't allow them to keep their [possesive] still."
    This error gets to me more than the its/it's one, simply because I still make its/it's typos and know how confusing it can be whereas there is little excuse for not learning the difference between they're/their/there.


  • past/present tense
    As a general guide, it's more common for fiction to be written in the past tense. Like so:
    Hawkeye realised he was unconsciously licking his lips as he watched Trapper pour another martini from their still. He tried to believe that it was in anticipation of the drink but suspected it was from some other anticipated thrill.
    This could be written in the present tense, like so:
    Hawkeye realises he is unconsciously licking his lips as he watches Trapper pour another martini from their still. He tries to believe that it is in anticipation of the drink but suspects it's from some other anticipated thrill.
    If you're not familiar with tenses, stick to the past tense. The present tense is OK for very short stories, but is quite hard reading on longer works. Don't mix up past and present tense - it only confuses. If you're not familiar with tenses at all, check out the English Chick's notes on it.


  • POV
    The Point of View (POV) is the character whose inner thoughts we are privy to: we see events from their point of view. Ideally, stick to one POV for any given scene within a story. You can alternate POVs (fun for romance stories) but the change in POV should be indicated with a double line break or a row of asterisks. The POV is the writers' chance to show off how well they know the character. It should be possible to indicate the POV not only through having stuff like:
    As their eyes caught, Hawkeye wondered about the sudden catch in his breath.
    which tells us Hawkeye is the POV character, but through using the speech patterns of the characters:
    It was crazy, nuts, fruit-de-loop. Like Trap had seen more than could ever be spoken in that glance."
    A joy of working with POV is that you can start reducing the amount of times you type a character's name: don't be afraid of the pronouns (but always be sure it is clear which he is which!).


I think it's safe to say the previous entries here have revealed some of my narrative cliche bugbears, so that's for now. Until I read something that I just have to add to this list.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

WIP: Iowa Boy

I'm working on a story, Iowa Boy, and posting it up at ff.net as I go.

The first chapter is just setting the whole scenario up. It struck me one day that both Radar O'Reilly and Riley Finn are corn-fed farm boys from Iowa and both perform a similar role in their respective series (the naive innocent thrust into the complex world of a war, either in Korea or against vampires). I'm not particularly fond of either character, and wouldn't normally write for either of them, but I couldn't resist the urge to fit the two series together using that link. Chapter two will be more Riley based and may not be for a while yet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

fic: Cold Comfort

General Mitchell: Are you two together?

Hawkeye: In all kinds of weather.


I have a great many things I ought to be doing, what with the cold weather drawing in. Unfortunately a "first line" challenge on MASHslash caught my eye and I was unable to resist a piece of PWP called Cold Comfort.

When you watch season 1 especially, it's hard not to notice the amount of queer banter going on between Hawkeye and Trapper. I'm not especially slashy - I don't have a straight eye for the queer guy - but all the potential 'ships in MASH have evidence in their favour. H/T probably has more textual evidence than H/M, for all the panicked shagging in huts. But can you take camping it up as queer? Looked at without a slash filter the overt gay moments can be read as a way of being as unmilitary as possible. In a later story, Frank attempts to have someone dishonourably discharged (and there's a loaded term...) for being "one of them" so it seems plausible for Hawkeye and Trapper - both very confident of their hetro sexual prowess - to play up to that fear. And yet...

The idea that there is a queer subtext to MASH is in many ways more appealing to me than any other slashings. The 70s was the dawn of slash, with Kirk/Spock starting the whole thing rolling and the idea of taking a queer reading of a series was radical. Most C21st shows seem to build in unresolved homoerotic tension in the same way that the X-Files came with extra UST. Taking an intended built-in queer reading seems a lot less fun than creating your own from a couple of moments of inappropriate touching or curious eye contacts.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

fic: Strangers When We Meet

There's a new fiction, Strangers When We Meet, up.

The title is from a 1950s Hollywood melodrama. If ever there was a genre which relied on subtext for meaning, it's the Sirkian melodramas like Imitation of Life or All That Heaven Allows. The recent Far From Heaven pays a homage to the genre but suffers from bringing the hidden elements - race, gender, sexuality - into the open. It's a beautiful film with perfect colours and music yet the very fact that the subtext has become the text renders it a little redundant.

However, when I was looking for a title for a bit of slash - i.e. a bit of fiction which relies on the subtext - I figure taking it from those 1950s melodramas would work. Especially as it's set in the 1950s.

Monday, August 18, 2003

A Merry War

There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them. Much Ado About Nothing

I had a definite aim when I wrote Don't Marry Him, Have Me.

I'm a Hawkeye/Margaret fan: there's an appeal to their screwball relationship, fire in that battle of wits tempered by years of war. On the other hand, I also like MASH for the political subtexts. When Hawkeye and Trapper denounce the Korean war (sorry, police action) they are denouncing Vietnam. When Margaret demands the right to be a woman with a career and sex life, she's speaking for the women of 1970s society demanding their equality. These subtexts have softened over the years, so that the political aspects which made the series radical as well as comical are lost.

So what has this to do with H/M fanfic? Plenty. A google about the web reveals a great deal of H/M fanfic (not to mention a great deal of H/Trapper but I'll come to the slashing of MASH another time). Read enough and certain themes become apparent: Hawkeye (or Charles) and Margaret realise they love each other so they marry. Often with a MASH unit reunion thrown in. Sometimes with kids, accidents, memory loss and/or secret love childs. But always (well, nearly always) ending with a marriage. Why?

The subtext seems to be that, thirty years on from Hotlips first demanding to be taken as a career woman, marriage is still the 'reward', still the brain-mushing candy given out at the end to sweeten the tale. There's plenty in the show to suggest Margaret wanted marriage, but this is the 1950s seen through the lens of the 1970s. With Don't Marry Him, Have Me I wanted to create a different subtext, one which reflects my C21st take on gender politics. Margaret wants to get married but on her own terms. She gets given a choice of partners and chooses...well, she chooses what best suits her.