The Mary Sue Experiments
It Was Supposed to be Fiction
NOTE: The story you're embarking upon, The Mary Sue Experiments, started as an experiment to see if an author could do a self-insert into a story scenario without becoming a 'Mary Sue'. Ten authors took up the challenge and produced this over 150,000 word collaborative work. The stated objective was to write ourselves as accurately as possible into the Hogan's Heroes world. The Hogan's Heroes world was to be treated as historically real. That is, we reinterpreted the scenario and characters to regard them as they might have been in reality, had this unit actually existed in 1943. This means the canon characters are a bit different—harsher, mainly—and the settings are altered somewhat from what we saw in the fictional television show.
You can find the Archives photos mentioned in the Hogan's Heroes Yahoo group under code number: 0876707. Go to my (GSJessica) profile here to find a link. Login and Yahoo group membership are required.
It was supposed to be fiction.
It was supposed to be a silly television show about a never-could-happen situation where the Nazis were fools and a bunch of shouldn't-even-be-there POWs ran circles around them and pulled off impossible espionage and sabotage missions right in the middle of Germany and never got caught and…
And I know I'm shook when I write run-on sentences like that.
Yet there it was and suddenly it wasn't fiction.
The day started on Sunday, mid-winter in Washington, D. C., with little traffic and few people about. I had ensconced myself in a corner of the National Archives, happily digging through old, obscure documents, when a name scribbled on a corner of a World War II service record caught my eye. "R. E. Hogan, Col.", it said, with a faded string of numbers handwritten beside it. With a chuckle, I pulled the flimsy carbon paper sheet closer to me, squinting, then fumbled for my (much hated) reading glasses. Tilting the paper toward the window, cursing the dim February light, I struggled to make out the numbers.
To be sure, I knew there were probably many "R. E. Hogans" in the world, and in that war, but chasing down little research whims always amused me. Heck, the "R" probably stood for "Richard" or "Ralph". But—and my heart gave one of those embarrassingly deluded little flutters—maybe it meant "Robert" and It Really All Was Real.
I could feel myself blush even though I was alone.
Great historical research discoveries are a matter of chasing down tiny clues, extrapolating known materials into a picture of the 'character' (even though the character is/was a real person) and deciding how that character would act, and what he would do. Then you jump over the gaps in your information to where you think that person would go/do/be and hunt in the new spot for clues. So, to make a long story just a bit longer, I used my itty-bitty handwritten clue and jumped. I knew the "character" of Hogan already. Even though he was fictional, I treated him as real for my research purposes.
Even though he was fictional… Do you know the feeling when you feel like you've been hit with a sledgehammer (but in the good way), and realize you know something no one else knows. Hogan, Carter, Newkirk, Kinchloe, LeBeau. I wanted to run around telling people. I wanted to wave the papers and files excitedly and explain how It's All Real.
Nonsense. Coincidence. False lead.
Feeling like a fool for the giddy over-reaction, I settled back and contemplated. Okay, there had been a group of men in a German POW camp with those names. Obviously (obviously?) the creators of the television show knew these men, maybe had served with them, and based "Hogan's Heroes" on real people. Maybe it had been a tribute. Maybe there had occurred some small, tiny, vanishingly miniscule fraction of the bold adventures shown in the TV show actually done in real life by these men. They probably had a tunnel , did a bold escape, and maybe even took some downed fliers with them. You know—and I started digging again—if that was true, one of them almost certainly would have written a memoir. If I could just find that…
I think the college intern working at the Archives that weekend wasn't supposed to give me Box 0876707.
The photos were the kicker. Not allowed to scan or photocopy, I nevertheless propped up the group photo of the men in front of Barracks 2 (!) and snapped a shot on my mini-camera. Out it went with a quick text message to The HH Group, even though most of them will just think I'm great with Photoshop. But maybe, just maybe, one or two will understand it's real and will come along.
You see, there was also the document wrapped around the golden gadget, and never for a minute did I believe it would really…
…in the compound at Stalag 13 looking right at none other than Colonel Robert E. Hogan himself.
What do you think in absurd situations like that? I'm afraid I went totally Mary Sue in the moment. All sense and logic and everything else went right out of my head and I found myself thinking that Bob Crane had been absolutely brilliant casting. He and the real Hogan (real!) could be brothers. Except the real Hogan had an extra element no actor could ever convey. I don't know what to call it other than reality. Depth. A look in those deep, brown eyes that…
My fangirl 'squee' moment nearly got me killed. Apparently time travel comes with a substantial bang and a dust cloud. So while I was dopily wishing I was ten… uh, make that fifteen… years younger, twenty pounds thinner, and still wearing teal contact lenses, Hogan leapt past that frozen moment of confusion and into action just like he always did on the TV show.
He grabbed me, shoved me off into the hands of Unnamed Extra #2 who hurried me into the barracks while Hogan, Carter (!), Newkirk (!) and the others created a spontaneous diversion and/or explanation for my sudden appearance. I wished I could have seen (and recorded!) it, but I was starting to feel dizzy and somewhat losing my hold on reality, such as it was.
I was in Barracks 2. No missing third wall. No stage line. No lighting grid instead of a ceiling. Sights, smells (eeww!)… In a word: reality.
Reality. Merciful heaven… reality? Or the ultimate Mary Sue fangirl delusion? And where was that pretty gold top-secret Nazi time travel gadget that dropped me here? It was a long ways back real time. More than sixty years. Longer than I'd live. If I lived through Nazi Germany, that is.
I suspect great adventures are much more fun when they come with a round-trip ticket.