Gadge Day Reflections: My Journey with Gadge
This might be a bit of a rambling mess (I’m running on so much anxiety and so little sleep), but here goes:
I’m the kind of girl who sees romantic ships everywhere - the stray word, the slightly too-long look, the almost-unnoticed touch - and pounces on them. Which is why it’s rather painful to admit that I didn’t see Gadge as a ship till it started cropping up in the fanfics I read, and even then I didn’t understand where the pairing had come from. (This was circa 2012, by the bye. All three books were out and the THG movie was in theaters.) I remember wondering at one point why people would ever put Madge and Gale together and being mortified that Madge bringing the morphling after Gale was whipped hadn’t given me proper shipper pause. It wasn’t so much that I’d overlooked the scene or its significance; rather, I identify strongly with Katniss and she hated the implication (made by Haymitch, who I’ve never been able to stand) that something might be going on between Gale and Madge, and somewhere between that and the wretched post-whipping Galeniss, the notion of any sort of relationship between Gale and Madge vanished like wisps of vapor. After all, Madge was Katniss’s friend, so it made sense (to me at the time) that she would make a courageous gesture to help Katniss by helping Gale.
At this point in my little shipper head, Gale was little more than an obstacle to Everlark, especially since I was still in that purist “T-rated canon post-MJ fics only” stage, which meant at the very best, Madge might show up in Katniss’s nightmares. My very first fic - which started as a joke with my sister and quickly turned into a legitimate premise - was Something Good: a gender-reversed (canon post-MJ) Everlark story loosely based on The Sound of Music - naturally, with no Madge whatsoever and Baroness!Gale as a major obstacle.
And just before I could post the first chapter of that fic, in a twist that even I couldn’t have predicted, I was unexpectedly, abruptly, intensely inspired to write an Everlark version of “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”
“What has this to do with Gadge?” you may ask. For starters, it was the first time I had to be a grown-up and write Gale (in spite of my feelings) as Katniss’s friend, however briefly, as they part in the woods in Ch 2. And then I wanted Madge to come over and say goodbye in Ch 3, which meant that someone had to go and tell her that Katniss was leaving. And that’s where all the trouble started. ;)
Gadge exited Stage Left of the WtMiverse at that point (some four years ago) but they were still dancing around the fringes of my fics, for those with eyes to see. I’d discovered a passionate fondness for AU!Gale, who was easy to make a relative of Katniss and therefore no longer an obstacle-to-Everlark, so I had no trouble writing said Gales as attractive and deeply fascinating (i.e., the gamekeeper cousin in The Threshing Floor and Eomer!Galen in The Steward and the Bow-Maiden), but of equal importance, I think, was the fact that I was starting to envision and even imply Gadge relationships on the fringes of those fics. In Threshing Floor Haymitch accuses Peeta of never noticing Wessex girls till Katniss showed up in the field and makes a special note of “Viscount Undersee’s girl [riding] across your field in her petticoat at Midsummer,” which I always assumed was something to do with Hawthorne the gamekeeper (be it to impress him, get his attention, or meet him for a lover’s tryst), but as I never went back to write the epilogue I’d intended, the question was never answered. Bow-Maiden was supposed to have an epilogue too (”The Bride of Ithilien”), in which a Tolkienesque wedding night would be preceded by Eowyn!Katniss receiving new bride counsel from Queen Anniwen and - guess who? - Madriniel, princess of Dol Amroth and new wife of Eomer!Gale. (Heck, somewhere in there I was determined to write my own version of Marion Chesney’s delightful Six Sisters series, in which Regency era social divide!Gadge was very much on the docket, particularly as Madge would be the only one with prospects for a decent society marriage!)
And then a whole dump-truck of very bad life stuff happened to me (there’s no other way to say it :/) and all things writing fell away for a very long time. I managed to produce a little more WtM from the mire but trying to write anything at all was like trying to walk on a broken leg. (It still is, for the majority of the time. :( The prolific enthusiasm has never come back.) But some way, somehow, from the depths of that morass, I got an impulse to write Six Months to Strawberry Time, or rather, what I thought would be the entirety of the fic: one quick spiky Gadge oneshot to show Madge becoming Gale’s hunting partner (something I’d intended for the WtMiverse almost from the beginning but which wasn’t supposed to come up till Everlark visited the district in spring, by which time Gadge might also be in a romantic relationship…).
I felt pretty good about the oneshot (for so I thought it would remain) and figured I’d leave the fic in-progress in case other quick oneshot-esque chapters presented themselves…and then this July, as I was trying desperately to work on Honey-God (and binging on adaptations of Jane Eyre, for which we might be partially able to blame my roommate), Strawberry Time suddenly roared to the forefront of my mind in thorough, lavish detail and demanded to be written. Which put me in an awkward place all around, but these were the only words that had come to me in many months and so of course, I had to chase them.
Three months later Strawberry Time is sitting at just under 40,000 words (and counting), and I can only be grateful to the Gadge devotees for letting me crash their party so late in the game and apologetic to my Everlark readers, to whom this fic (and especially my Gadge Day queue) must feel like a massive betrayal. I most assuredly didn’t plan to start a massive multi-chapter Gadge fic but I’m curiously glad that I have - in part to finally explore these characters and their dynamic (and let me tell you, having to write Gale honestly telling Madge about his feelings for Katniss was hard as nails) but also because opening the door in the other direction - into Twelve rather than the woods - has provided a delicious opportunity to follow all the parallel rabbit trails, from Primko’s windowsill courtship to Rooba’s mythical bacon buns. Strawberry Time has already given me opportunities to drop hints about future (and significant past) stuff in the WtMiverse that would never have fit into WtM itself, and of course we’ll soon have Gadge kisses (and very possibly Gadge smut ;D) as the icing on the strawberry cake.
Will I ever write Gadge outside of the WtMiverse (ex. Jane Eyre, Beauty and the Beast)? I truly have no idea. Depression is relentless and brutal, and I had to claw my way to the surface just to produce this Gadge Day queue. But Gadge presents a delicious dynamic all their own (as do Marko/Prim and Jack/Raisa, if you’re me :D) and once they’re a part of your shipping lineup, you start getting besieged by plot bunnies you would never previously have thought twice about - bunnies that could be made to serve other pairings but into which the perfect pairing fits like a key in a well-oiled lock. Which gets you wondering if maybe you should start spending more time with that pairing that fits so well into all these wonderful plots…
I know this isn’t really a “why I ship Gadge” piece - I tried to write one such and this is what came out, and I’m far too tired to try again - but I really hope it will suffice, if for no other reason than to begin to explain to folks following me why I crawled out of my dark hole and spent an insane amount of hours tagging and scheduling over 100 Gadge-centric posts for the blog I haven’t worked on in many months. Thanks for letting me ramble. *hugs*