By Rob Morris
First things first. I did not create these characters. That's not just a careful legalism. Its a fact. That means I am bound by a set of rules, and a rough timeline. Mostly, it means I am bound by character. I can tweak Frank Burns, but he must remain the odd man out, for the most part. Because, even at his very best, that's who Frank is--I regard it as one of the character's strengths. The same goes for the rest. Evolution can and will occur. We saw it on the show. Certainly the Margaret and Hawkeye who went to the 'Aid Station' in Season 3 were not the same spitting cobras who saw each other as the avatars of fundamental wrong in Season 1. Some things change. Others become even more the same.
One of the things that makes this Au (alternate universe) an Au is a changed perception. The Korean War still happened, and still ran from 1950 to 1953. The healers of the 4077th still healed, hurt, and loved, and hated. Henry Blake still died, Trapper still left, as did Frank and Radar, later on. New people still arose to replace the old, and became just as well-loved.
But a hidden world has invaded the MASH Universe. It has no name, this hidden world. It just is. It has boundaries, though--because the world must continue to seem as we have known it. Radar is still squeamish about sex, while it is seemingly all Hawkeye thinks about. All is as we have known it. And yet nothing is. More, it never was as we knew it.
Who was the oldest member of the extended MASH family? It wasn't Sherman Potter. How did Henry Blake die? It wasn't enemy fire. Remember those flu shots which didn't work? Margaret and Hawkeye will never forget them. Did Radar seem different after his big argument with Hawkeye? He was. Do you remember two or three other doctors at the 4077th, at the very beginning? The man with the cigarette in his hand says you better just forget they ever existed.
The realms of sci-fi and fantasy have invaded and amalgamated with the mundane world of the 4077th. ( Mundane only in the most literal sense of the word; I certainly don't mean humdrum ). The MASH world I draw from is that of the 1972-83 TV Classic, its two-season sequel, AfterMASH, and a never-seen ( By me ) Pilot called W*A*L*T*E*R. I have even re-written the first OR session to suit my literary needs. While we all owe a debt to Richard Hooker and (Movie Director), anyone who's read the novels and seen the movie knows that the TV series is kind of its own Au. As for Hooker's later novels---they're kind of a Double Au, IMHO.
Equally as important as keeping the MASH characters true is keeping the characters I cross them over with true and not seeming like names on a story header. Most of all, the stories must seem like untold stories--or episodes. If I can't see them and hear them--then it never happened, and all my stories happen in this Au. But my bias is still toward MASH, and its characters are going to have the greater balance of the influence on those they encounter.
Here are some of the 'hidden worlds' encountered in TNEB, and why I included them, besides my affection for the characters involved.
The X-Files - Determined individuals of different approach and temperament fighting against their own government just to do their job, all the while being told to mind their own business---and never doing so.
Highlander - The world of Immortals gives the 4077th a clear link to history. Plus, the theme of good people doing what they must to survive a strange life is common to both shows.
Star Trek - The two shows share a common theme of opposing both death and despair. A little humor and sex never hurt, either.
Bewitched - Clashing cultures, some slapstick and a world where one must often jump through hoops to accomplish even the very simplest things.
Forever Knight - Decisions regretted, that must be lived with, changes that must be gone through, not reversed--and blood.
Godzilla - Once in a while, humans need to be reminded of how really small we are, and just how big our screw-ups can be. In disaster, we are allowed to briefly be at our best.
( More ex's to come )
Who you will not see is SF/F characters that change the world. Ex :
Despite some jokes I wrote into one story, no Marvel or DC superheroes exist in TNEB--with one exception, because this individual's TV incarnation keeps with the 'hidden' theme. The very presence of The X-Men, Avengers, Justice League, et al., means the world is one where such things are commonplace. If Superman, Martian Manhunter, The Kree and The Skrulls all exist, then Mulder and Scully are out of a job. The same goes for 'Alien Nation', since its canon and ST's canon are utterly incompatible.
The cartoon Transformers who were celebrities would be out. The comic book ones, who existed mostly in secret, could be allowed in, in theory. The Movie Ninja Turtles : Yes, because they are mostly unknown. The Cartoon--No, because they are quite public. ( I offer these only as examples. No such XO's are planned) There will eventually be a Gargoyles story, but only after a bit of tweaking on my part, to restore their 'hidden' status.
Lastly, there will be non-SF stories, such as where Sidney can't attend a reunion, and so asks a button-down friend to pinch-hit.
To Be Continued...........