After the revolution, we’ll run more human interest pieces

CAPITOL CITY (PANEM) — Capitol University sophomore Jayden Sanderson studies a 3D simulation of a lush forest. He zooms in on a river that flows placidly through the trees. “There.” He points to a spot where the river’s bank broadens out. “It doesn’t look like much, but there’s just enough mud here for a Tribute to camouflage himself. The gamemakers didn’t count on that. The probabilities and projections always change once you add the human factor to a game. That’s the challenge.” The game design student smiles, making clear that as a hopeful future gamemaker, it’s a challenge he welcomes.

But as the Capitol gears up for the 100th annual Hunger Games, not all citizens share Sanderson’s enthusiasm. Many question whether, in this era of unprecedented prosperity for Panem, the games have outlived their usefulness.

“Sure, the Games held Panem together during a tumultuous period in our history,” says District 7 mayor Raymond Mason. “But I think it’s safe to say no one’s thinking of rebellion now.” He laughs as he gestures to the living room of his spacious townhouse, as if to prove his point. Such luxuries, a generation ago unthinkable for even the mayor of this once-impoverished lumber district, have become increasingly common among all District residents. “The Games have served their purpose. It’s time to move on.”

Hortensia Cooper, however, says Mason makes the mistake of assuming the Games’ benefits are purely political. “The economic benefits are undeniable,” insists Cooper, who serves as acting director of the Capitol Chamber of Commerce. “The prosperity we see today is a direct result of the Games, and stopping them now could propel us into a fiscal depression the likes of which we haven’t seen since the dark days of the rebellion.”

Quintillian Booth, chair of the nonprofit advocacy group Panem Remembers, counters that running the Games has a cost, too, one that can’t be measured purely in dollars and cents. “We must also consider the cost of 2,302 young lives lost since the Games began.” That’s 23 Tributes a year, plus an additional 24 for the 50th Quarter Quell. “And who can forget the 74th Games, which didn’t have a winner?” Booth asks.

It was after the 74th Games—the same Games Sanderson now studies in his classes—that this debate began. That was the year District 12 Tributes Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark shocked viewers by taking their own lives and leaving the Games without a victor. “Yeah,” Sanderson admits with an uneasy laugh. “The gamemakers didn’t count on those poison berries, either.”

“If you weren’t alive then, it’s hard to understand the horror of that moment,” says Madge Undersee, mayor of the coal-mining district Everdeen and Mellark hailed from. “When we realized what Katniss and Peeta had done, well, it changed the way we thought about the Games forever.”

Graecina Sand agrees the way we think about the Games has changed. “We’ve taken the lessons of the 74th Games very much to heart,” says this year’s Head Gamemaker, “and we’ve made quite a few changes since then. Those changes include relying solely on trained volunteer Tributes, nanobots that see to it the slain die instantly and without pain, and a ban on poisonous plant life. “We’ve moved well beyond the barbarism of our ancestors,” Sand says. “The Games today are quite humane, and taking part is a choice and a privilege, as anyone who watches the Tribute interviews can attest.” That watching those interviews is now optional is another, more recent, reform.

Yet Cooper insists, “Today’s Tributes have less choice than we’d like to believe. The sums paid to the families of those who enter the Tribute training pools is quite substantial. For young people whose families are struggling to put food on the table, there often isn’t any other choice. In the old days the process was at least somewhat democratic, but today’s Games target the Districts’ most vulnerable residents.”

Still, with recent Games budget increases and new scholarships focused on mentoring promising game design students from outside the Capitol, the Games don’t seem set to end any time soon. Recent legislation seeks to open participation to immigrants from beyond Panem’s borders as well.

“The Hunger Games are a defining part of who we are as a nation,” says President Coriolanus Snow, who like Undersee personally remembers the 74th Games. “They have a long and storied history that I see no need to apologize for. Indeed, it is an honor to be a part of it.”

Written after coming upon a fanvid with its own take on the 100th Hunger Games.

“And the world’s not falling apart / the world’s not falling apart because of me”

So while walking today I was thinking about the whole supernatural boyfriend thing, and then I got to thinking about … Eowyn. And how she looks seen through the filter of paranormal romance.

Because in Lord of the Rings, Eowyn effectively is interested in a guy who’s above her, not only in the aristocratic rank that supernatural boyfriends can be a stand-in for, but also in the sense of having (admittedly fairly distantly–but not so distantly it doesn’t affect his lifespan) elven blood. And like in many paranormal romances, she’s convinced she cannot live without this guy, and wants to die, quite literally in her case.

But she doesn’t take that depression and despair and languish around bemoaning her fate, assuming she can do nothing if he doesn’t love her. She takes it and goes out and decides that if her life isn’t worth living anyway, she can at least join the battle against the forces of darkness and do some good before she dies.

And of course, she doesn’t die, and because she doesn’t die, she has time enough to get over that guy she thought she couldn’t live without–who, as it turns out, was holding out for a supernatural girlfriend of his own, one more powerful than him and above his station, and that was the destined love Tolkien was aiming for, because unlike in paranormal romance, if LotR is intended as wish fulfillment, it is not girls that it’s wish fulfillment for. (For all that generations of girls have found it there just the same.)

But Eowyn moves on, as one does in a world where most love isn’t destined after all, and falls in love again–not in a settling for second-best sort of way, but with a guy who is truly worthy of her love, arguably more worthy than her first mad crush.

And she lives happily ever after in the world she helped save.

I have other issues with Eowyn’s arc (for all that I ship Eowyn and Faramir like crazy), but all told, that’s not a bad model for how a paranormal romance can go.

Whatever you do, don’t let them have my black ink pens

I have been having way too much fun playing with telophase‘s YA Dystopia Story Generator. (Inspired by a post by rachelmanija earlier this week; includes very occasional PG-13+ entries.)

My favorites so far:

Rage: Cartoons have been banned and the government controls construction paper. (Because dystopia for the early reader crowd is in sadly short supply.)

Dimmed: Sunlight has been banned and the government controls global warming. (Because this one actually … almost makes sense.)

And two fannish communities have already been spawned by this thing: random-dystopia and [community profile] governmentcontrolledcats.

(ETA: A sequel to Dimmed! Drown: Rain has been banned and the government controls sunlight.)

Fox and bear

So at Sirens rachelmanija turned up with gifts for several of us–clay figures based on our characters. Specifically in my case:

[Freki and Ari figurines]

Freki and Ari, in all their sculpey wonderfulness. Two months later, looking at them still makes me smile.

Almost makes me think they both must still be out there, somewhere, busy with other stories of their own …

The YA fantasy showdown continues …

… and Katsa vs Howl is a much harder call.

I voted for Katsa in the end, but it was a near thing.

It’s looking likely that whoever wins will be facing Gen, given the current status of Gen’s battle with Alanna.

I think I’d like to see that Katsa/Gen battle that someone–I think sartorias–predicted it would all come down to when this began.

The closest battle so far was Gen vs Katniss–close enough that even the writers wrote the battle both ways.

ETA: And Howl takes it by less than a dozen votes! (Sigh …)

Remember what her magic is. And vote accordingly.

So, Hermione is pretty much my favorite Harry Potter character.

Nonetheless, she cannot possibly take down Katsa, in the YA Fantasy Showdown or outside of it.

But the cage match is close. So. Go. Vote for Katsa.

Because if you don’t, you’ll never get to see Katsa face down Katniss or Eugenides or Aragorn, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves.

ETA: And it was close, but Katsa took this round, and the one after it, too!