Marshall Ferguson
Fictional Character
POD: Set in the future
Appearance(s): Eruption;
All Fall Down;
Things Fall Apart
Type of Appearance: Direct POV
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: 20th century
Occupation: Student, Author of Fiction, child caregiver.
Parents: Colin Ferguson, Louise Ferguson
Relatives: Vanessa Ferguson (sister)

Rob Ferguson (brother)
James Henry Ferguson (half brother)
Deborah Michelle Ferguson (half sister)

Marshall Ferguson was the youngest child of Colin and Louise Ferguson. He was a perpetual student having repeatedly changed his major, both due to academic difficulties, changing interests and to delay graduating. His father had promised to support him while he was working on an undergraduate degree so it was in Marshall's best interest to delay graduating as long as possible especially given the poor job market. While Colin had expressed his unhappiness, he continued, for the moment, to foot the bill.[1]

Marshall had started studying engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara like his brother but found calculus to be too difficult and so changed to history in his sophomore year when he landed on academic probation. He was especially interested in Ancient Greek, but then realized he needed to learn the language. Marshall found that as difficult as calculus and so switched again to film studies.[2] Thereafter, he switched once again to creative writing, this time to deliberately avoid graduating.[3]

Marshall was not immediately affected by the Yellowstone Supervolcano eruption. While he felt the resulting earthquake, it was mild and did no damage. It did affect the sunsets with the ash in the air making them wild with colors: reds, maroons, tangerines, carmines, lemons, lavenders, magentas, fuchsias and all sorts of colors Crayola had never heard of. The first time he saw one, Marshall thought it was due to the marijuana he had consumed until the coed he was with explained it was the ash. The two watched the sunset from Marshall's apartment and then let nature follow its course.[4]

Marshall was a mediocre student in his creative writing class as he had been in his previous majors. Professor Bolger, the instructor, insisted the students send out stories they had written to the professional market despite their objections out of fear of rejection.[5] Marshal did so and to his surprise sold his story, "Well, Why Not?" to New Fictions magazine for $327. Not only did this please Bolger, it impressed his father[6] and irritated his sister.[7] Bolger encouraged Marshall to continue to write and make a go of becoming a professional writer, if not full time then as a supplement to a 9-5 job. In addition, Bolger gave him an "A" for the course.[8]

Marshall was the only one of Colin's children to attend his wedding to Kelly Birnbaum since Rob was marooned in Maine and Vanessa was stuck in Camp Constitution.[9] In June the year after the eruption, Marshall graduated from UCSB with a bachelor's degree in creative writing. Both Colin and Kelly attended the ceremony with Colin treating him to dinner at China Pavilion, the best Chinese restaurant in Santa Barbara.[10]

Marshall's prospects were bleak even though he managed to sell a second story "Sunset Beach" for $286.65 or five cents a word.[11] He was forced to move back into his old room in his father's house in San Atanasio. Colin required him to spend at least a couple of hours each day at the computer writing. Rent would be one third of whatever Marshall grossed, either through writing or other work. His father did suggest one part-time job which would be to babysit his mother's new child when he or she was born. Marshall was reluctant since he blamed Louise for the breakup of the family but didn't have to immediately decide since Louise would have some mat. leave coming.[12]

Marshall did put in the hours at writing since he felt that was his only way of making it on his own. He did have the family house to himself since both Colin and Kelly had work during the day. He discovered that while inspiration was nice, determination and even stubbornness was more important to make it as a writer.[13][14] Kelly suggested he try writing a novel since that would be a more likely way to earn a living than short stories. Marshall was intimidated with the idea but did agree that all the blogs and bulletin boards on writing he frequented confirmed that novels were where the money was.[15]

Marshall agreed to babysit James Henry Ferguson when Louise returned to work. He did find it as gross and frustrating as he had expected but watching James Henry develop into a distinct human being was fascinating in its own right. However, he kept his interactions with his mother to a minimum leaving her condo as soon as she would get home.[16] But when Louise lost her job when the ramen noddle importer closed shop in the U.S., she no longer needed Marshall to babysit as much and so he lost a big portion of his income, much to his father's chagrin.[17]

After that, Colin did make Marshall look for work and while he managed to find the occasional day job loading or unloading trucks, it wasn't enough. Marshall tried to find work writing since he had enough sold stories to fill out his resume but that too proved unsuccessful.[18] Eventually, his mother did find other work so Marshal went back to babysitting and got more work of the same type when Kelly had Deborah Michelle Ferguson.

As the years went on, electrical power in southern California became more and more unreliable. Marshall had spent a lot of time online playing World of Warcraft but it became much less reliable with the power situation so he fell back on older ways. Not only was he forced to read actual hard copy newspapers like the Los Angeles Times if he wanted news, he started playing board games with his buddies. His friend Lucas' father had dug up an old copy of Diplomacy he had played as a young man which they tried. While it was different, he and his buddies did find it a good way to kill a Saturday afternoon and evening.[19]

The power situation also made it harder for Marshall to work as a writer. He did what he could on his laptop but was forced, at times, to write with pen and paper. Colin eventually found a Royal Manual Typewriter in a pawnshop which he bought for Marshall. He was reluctant at first since it had a hard touch to type with and not user friendly when he made mistakes but over time he got used to using it when the power was out.[20]

While playing a session of Diplomacy about three years after the eruption, Tim produced a fat baggie of killer dope. After the players partook, Marshall asked Tim where he scored it. After much giggling, Tim confessed he got it from Darren Pitcavage, the son of Mike Pitcavage, the San Atanasio police chief. Marshall got himself wasted hoping to forget so he wouldn't have to deal with this knowledge but failed. He reluctantly reported this conversation to his father.[21]

Marshall wasn't surprised when Darren was subsequently arrest for felony drug-dealing but was as shocked as everyone else when Chief Pitcavage committed suicide. He couldn't speak about it to his friends because he didn't want them finding out he had informed on Darren and not to his father since he was even more shocked by events. Therefore, he spoke privately with Kelly who provided him with as much comfort as she could even though she was doing the same for Colin.[22]

Literary comment[]

Harry Turtledove has previously mentioned that he flunked out of Caltech in his first year and then changed schools and majors to UCLA and Byzantine history. Unlike Marshall, he kept to his major and eventually received a PhD in the subject. In addition to the mysteries of calculus, Turtledove attributed, in small part, his obsession with The Lord of the Rings for his poor grades during his first year.[23]


  1. Eruption, pgs. 21-23, HC.
  2. Ibid, pg. 21.
  3. Ibid, pgs. 109-115.
  4. Ibid, pgs. 210-212.
  5. Ibid, pgs. 285-286.
  6. Ibid, pgs. 302-304.
  7. Ibid, pg. 310.
  8. Ibid, pgs. 383-385.
  9. Ibid, pgs. 408-412.
  10. All Fall Down, pgs. 9-19, HC.
  11. Ibid, pg. 9.
  12. Ibid, pgs. 38-42.
  13. Ibid, pgs. 112-114.
  14. Turtledove describes a similar, personal discovery in his essay "Thank You".
  15. All Fall Down, pg. 168.
  16. Ibid, pgs. 68-73.
  17. Ibid, pg. 227.
  18. Ibid, pgs. 310-312.
  19. Ibid, pgs. 216-218.
  20. Ibid, pgs. 275-278.
  21. Ibid, pgs. 346-350.
  22. Ibid, pgs. 394-398.
  23. See e.g. "The Ring and I", Meditations on Middle-Earth, pgs. 61-62.