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The Big Empty: Chapter One - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
The Big Empty: Chapter One
Well, I've been thinking of the world around the "Neighbors" short, and I decided to joss the details of the bit I wrote earlier than that (about Effrim and his Uncle Colum), though the general gist happened at some point. I mostly just wanted to see what the world during the Dark Days might have felt like. So this is seven years after "Neighbors."

ETA: Okay, I'm going with it. Reflected in the title change, and I fixed it at the end to include the fact that Effrim left with the game bag he was carrying and the standard issue rifle (though he only has a handful of extra bullets).



Part One: A World of Young and Old

Chapter One
I spot the Teachers before they spot me.

They're lying in wait at dad's old office at the resort. It's mostly burned out after the riots last year, and we wouldn't have been allowed to keep it, anyway -- the shopkeepers in town have been reduced to inventory control, if they haven't been outright sent to the mines -- but I do come out here every week or so to check things out and make repairs, for when Dad comes back from the front lines.

And he will get back. He's not dead. He's missing in action. He could be anywhere. I like to think that he got knocked out at the battle of the Ghost Gulf, and just missed connecting with his unit. He's out there now, living off the land, trying to make his way back. Maybe he's having adventures and harassing the Capitol troops as he goes.

I know he's not a deserter, no matter what they whisper when they think I can't hear. Dad might not have been the first one to sign up for the war, and he never did go on the window-smashing sprees before it, but he'd never leave his neighbors in a lurch, and when he promises to do something, he sticks with it.

He promised me that he'd come back.

I'll have the place ready for him, just like it was when he left.

I know I'm not supposed to be here. My hours are supposed to be spent hunting. That's why they gave me a license to hunt, even though I'm only thirteen, the youngest legal hunter in District Twelve. I bring in game better than half the older boys.

I've hunted already. I have two rabbits and a raccoon in my game bag, and I did have every intention of turning them in to the Nutrition Center later, along with my standard issue rifle. It's not like we have a kitchen in the Community Home, and last time I brought private game to Uncle Colum's family, we all had lessons about it. Uncle Colum's lasted for two days in the cells, and since then, I haven't been allowed to stay with them on weekends anymore. All I really have now are the Purdy cousins, who live in the Home with me, since Aunt Daisy and Uncle Chick both got shipped out.

Well, them and Misty Magill. She's in the home, too, but she really is an orphan. Her daddy died at the Battle of the Bridge, defending the lifeline between the outer districts and the inner districts at the Mississippi, and her mother died six months later from an infection that went through the encampment outside District Eleven. Misty's been my friend since all of our parents were alive, though. My mother used to watch her at the cabins while her parents were at work in the mines. We don't know which of her parents was friends with both of my parents, but whichever one it was, that's how they ended up getting introduced, so Misty considers herself personally responsible for my existence. It's a little embarrassing sometimes, but mostly, it's nice to have a friend around who never thinks my father is a deserter. She doesn't think my merchant cousins are traitors, either.

It's a world of old and young here -- men and women too old to go to war, and kids too young for it. Now that the merchants have been pulled back, there are at least a few regular age adults, but a lot of people resent them for not fighting, even though it's not their choice.

And of course, there are the officials from Thirteen, who are career age people whose career happens to be teaching the rest of us how to live properly in the new era, so the wars don't start again once we defeat the Capitol. Once everyone learns everything, then no one will ever need to fight again, because everyone will have everything.

But I haven't given up thinking of dad's resort as our own place. The office has one big, gaping hole in the north wall, but the other walls are still standing. I've fixed up one of the cabins as well as I can, and the little maintenance shed is actually in good shape, since it's concrete and didn't burn. After the war is over, I want things to be like they were when I was little, when Dad and I ran the place, and the miners and merchants sometimes spent weekends out here, relaxing at the lake.

The officials from Thirteen have told me over and over that I have to give up this idea. It's the old way, way of life under the Capitol. Now, it will be open for everyone all the time, and no one in particular will own it. We'll share it, as soon as they're sure everyone is safe. I have to start thinking in the new way.

Which is why they'll want to bring me in for lessons. Again. They'll use me "trespassing" out here as an excuse for it.

Last time, I had to stay in a room with the head Teacher until I was able to memorize the Declaration of Freedom and recite it back to her. I wasn't allowed to sit down the whole time, though I did get to lean against the wall a little bit. It took until ten-thirty at night, and they brought me in at two in the afternoon.

It's four o'clock now. I don't have time for lessons. Misty and I have a huge project on the modernization of District Twelve due next week, and we have to find time to work on it.

I slip back into the shadows of the woods and climb a tree to check for other units, but I guess I'm not a real priority today. They've sent the three Teachers at the office, but I don't see anyone else.

I climb down carefully, making sure not to make a noise, and head back for town. It would be silly to go straight back to the Community Home, since they'll probably have a message for me to report to the Office of Cultural Education, so I pass through the square and head out along the narrow dirt road toward Pappy Angus's place. He's not really my relative -- at least not any more than anyone else in District Twelve -- but everyone calls him that. Angus Abernathy is the oldest person in the district, nearly ninety, and my father once told me that, when you get that old, you're everybody's pappy.

It's not really his place, exactly -- not anymore -- but no one calls it the District Farm. He and his sons cleared it out years ago, and everyone who felt like growing food could scratch a bit of it out, just because they were generous with it. "It ain't like land was worth anything then," his great-grandson Alder told me at school once. "If you wanted some of it, you just moved out of town and took it, just like your mama's people did out at the lake. Whole damned world's empty. Land's cheap, and we didn't need to use all of what they cleared. Personally, I think Pappy just got bored looking at the trees, and liked watching people work their gardens instead."

Now, land's pretty dear, since we're not supposed to have it at all, or, rather, we're all supposed to have it, with no one having any special squatting rights. The Abernathy acres are now the District Farm, and all the food goes to the Nutrition Center, which doles it out scientifically, according to everyone's nutritional needs.

The good thing about it is that everyone can put in work on the farm if we feel like it, which means it's a good place to pretend to have been after hunting. I can say I was breaking rocks. Pappy Angus will back me up.

Most folks were allowed to stay in their houses, and Pappy is where he's always been -- a ramshackle wooden house at the edge of the woods, looking out over the green fields on one side, and the green trees on the other. Additions have been made haphazardly over the years, mostly out of scrap wood, giving the place a run-down feel, even though it's pretty nice. The boards on the porches are rough and of uneven lengths, and there are no railings, which means that little kids used to use them all summer to play at war, jumping over the edge like they're storming a Capitol trench. These days, they're at more important tasks when they're not in school, like counting out beans for the rations, or putting bullets in boxes to be sent to the front.

Pappy's sitting on his back porch when I get there, out of sight of the farm overseers. He's got a full head of curly hair still, though it's snow white. He's got enough teeth left that it's not too hard to understand him talking, but they're in pretty bad shape. They've got him in the same standard issue clothes as the rest of us now -- loose fitting black pants and a gray work shirt -- though he put up a stink about it at first, saying that he didn't live more than eighty years and go to war against the Capitol just so that President Harrison could dress him up like the rest of her doll collection. They tried to give him a "lesson," but half the town got in the way of it, some taking lashes. Pappy Angus told them to stop it that second, and he'd start wearing the doll clothes if they'd stop whipping his grandchildren. He's never stopped complaining about it, though.

There's a form in the shadows beside him, a man going through a satchel, and I guess even before I get close enough to see him clearly that it's Peet Mellark, who used to run the apothecary shop. Most of the shopkeepers at least got to stay as inventory managers if they sold something useful, but Thirteen was appalled at the state of the apothecary, stocked with dried herbs and local nostrums. It's unscientific. We're to have proper medicine, not risk poisoning ourselves with plants administered by an untrained charlatan. So Peet's in the mines. His son, Carrig, is a cousin of my mother's on their mother's side, maybe with some kind of removal. I'm not sure exactly. No one around here keeps track much further than second cousins, mostly because if you start worrying about things like that, you hardly have anyone left to marry. We've all been living together for a really long time.

Anyway, Carrig married the bakers' daughter just before the war, and he's allowed to work in the Nutrition Center with her, but Peet's mostly been in the mines… though we all know if we have an ache or pain, or a little fever, he's happy to help us out if he can. It's not like Thirteen has actually sent us any proper medicine.

"Is that the Everdeen boy?" Pappy asks. His eyes aren't what they used to be, and, the way I hear it, they weren't ever especially good.

"Sure looks like him," Peet says, giving me a smile. Up close, I can see that it's his herb satchel he's poking through, probably bringing some remedy for Pappy's old bones. Most of the old folks swear by him, even if he is a merchant.

"I been working the fields for an hour or so," I say. "Breaking rocks."

"Oh, right," Peet agrees. "Why, I saw you on my way in. You should watch yourself before those rocks start breaking you, working so hard at it. It must have been even harder breaking rocks with that rifle in your hands."

"Oh, right."

"That's why you left it here," Peet suggests.

"That's just exactly it," I say, and lean the gun against the porch wall.

Peet nods. "You remember how I told you that I saw Effrim, Angus? How he dropped by to leave off the gun and game bag just before he went to the fields?"

"I surely do. Now, what brings you up to the house, boy?"

Of course, what really brought me here was the excuse we just established, but it wouldn't be proper manners to say so. I pull up a little three-legged stool and say, "Just thought I'd see you. Daddy always said not to let you get up to too much trouble."

He wheezes an old man's laugh. "Your daddy caused more trouble than anyone I ever met, including me. You remember him all right, don't you, with him gone so long?"

I nod. "I do, Pappy Angus."

"You tell me what you remember. It's important."

"I remember that he could shoot a squirrel running on a tree branch. And that he kept up the cabins just the way my mother would have liked. I don't remember her much, though."

"You weren't much more than a baby when Lura died," Peet says. "I'm surprised you remember her at all."

"I do, though."

"They got you living up at that factory in town?" Pappy asks.

"The Community Home."

"Home, my left sock. If it was home, you'd be there instead of here, and they'd be telling stories about you being in the fields."

"Yes, sir." I sigh. "But my daddy's missing in action, remember? I have to stay there."

"You could have stayed with Colum," Peet says.

"Oh, you know better." Pappy sniffs. "Boy'd get his head all turned around, living with a bunch of lying, spying Capitol lapdogs like that."

"Oh, right, I forgot about that. I guess my head's clouded up by all the merchant kids who came back from the front in bags before they realized we were all traitors."

"It's mighty confusing," Pappy says. "I'm sure it would all make sense if we were as clever as the pack of suitors from Thirteen."

"Suitors?" I repeat.

"You don't read enough, or at least you don't read the right things. Suitors, boy. The ones who overrun the home place while all the mothers and fathers are far away, trying to make sweet so we'll let them run things."

"Oh," I say. "Is that a ballad?"

"I imagine it has been at some point or another," Peet says. "It doesn’t matter." He looks around and lowers his voice. "How much trouble are you in, running up here?"

"I don't know. They were waiting out at the cabins."

Pappy frowns. "Speak up, will you? Thirteen hasn't learned to call back the jabberjays yet, though I'm sure they'd dearly love to, so there's no need to whisper, unless they're right on top of us. And since you're talking at all, I'm guessing they're not."

"Sorry, Pappy," I say, a little louder.

He nods and looks out into the distance. "When your daddy wasn't much older than you," he says, "he was sparking one of my granddaughters. Blamed if I remember which -- I never could keep the boyfriends and girlfriends straight. I barely keep the husbands and wives straight." He thinks about it. "I think it might have been Hyacinth, who married the Gormley boy. They're both stationed up around District Eight, I think. She's the sort who'd have liked Dale. She likes music, and Dale's got a fine voice. You remember your daddy's voice?"

"Yes, sir."

"You sing?"

"Now and again."

"It's a good thing to do. Your daddy -- whichever of my granddaughters he was with at the time -- used to come up here for family picnics with her, and he'd sing for us. He had a banjo. Do you have that?"

"It's at the Community Home. In the resource room."

Pappy narrows his eyes. "Don't you forget that it's your resource. When you leave that place, you take it with you."

I nod, but don't promise. I barely use it. They say we'll have a "cultural day" at some point, and maybe I'd be allowed to sing a ballad -- though only if it's on the approved list, and I'll bet they'd have me learn one of theirs. But it's a "cultural artifact," and they'll probably keep it there, with the old washboards and other things we use to play music. They find the banjo funny, and the other things ridiculous. I was home from school sick one day, and I saw a bunch of them pretending to be a local band, making exaggerated faces while they strummed daddy's banjo and scraped a washboard all out of time, and made fun of our accents.

I guess maybe I don't have to tell Pappy Angus this.

He grimaces, then sighs and says, "Dale was a good boy, like you, and he grew up to be a good man. You ought to be proud to be his son."

"I am, sir."

He nods.

The three of us sit a while together, Peet making an herbal paste, Pappy and me not doing much of anything.

I'm about ready to get up and go back to the Community Home -- the sun is coming in low and golden, and the Teachers are likely ready to give up on me for the day -- when Peet says, under his breath, "Go inside, Effrim. Now."

Pappy looks at him. "Company?"

"The Carson girl is running this way. I don't like it."

Pappy nods. "I got an old blanket chest in the sitting room. Get in it. It's got a hole in the side from one of my boys kicking it, so you'll be able to breathe all right."

I don't argue. Duronda Carson, a girl two years older than I am, is a firebrand of the first order against the Capitol, but she hates Thirteen like poison, too -- if she's running up here, someone's in trouble. If I had money, it would be on me. I go into Pappy Angus's house (which he keeps about as tidy as you'd expect for a half-blind man who lives alone) and find the trunk right away. I climb inside of it. I can see a little bit through the splintery boot-toe hole in the side, but it's just the rest of Pappy's sitting room.

Pappy leaves the door ajar.

It's only a couple of minutes later when I hear Duronda thunder up onto the porch. "Everdeen," she says, panting.

"The boy?" Pappy says. "Dale's boy, isn't he, Peet?"

"Misty says this is where he'd run. Misty Magill? She's his friend. So I’m going to reckon he can hear."

"Reckon as you like," Pappy tells her, "but get on with it before anyone else gets to reckoning."

Duronda takes a couple of sharp breaths, then says, "There's a rumor that someone saw his father near a battle up along the big river. Supposedly agitating to get soldiers to desert."

I almost call out in negation, but I keep my head. If she's been followed (and it's quite possible), then I'm caught.

"Sounds like the boy might have trouble waiting," Peet muses.

"Really? You think so?" Duronda is catching her breath, and apparently sharpening her tongue on it. "I thought they just wanted to call him into the Government Building to give him hot tea and some cookies."

Pappy laughs. "Well, that's just what I reckoned."

"Well, if you see him, you tell him to get right back into the woods. Not the cabins. They're waiting there for him. Saying that he might be in contact with his dad." There's a pause, then I imagine that some sign language went around outside, because suddenly, Duronda's long legs show up in front of the hole in the trunk. Her knees bend, then one gray eye peers in at me. "Effrim?" she whispers. "Misty's getting your things. She says there's a place you've been meaning to go on the river. She'll meet you there to see you off."

I know where she means. I climbed a tree once when Misty and I were out in the woods, and saw a waterfall about half a mile further in than we usually go. I try to process the idea of just running to the woods and never coming back. I can't do it.

Duronda doesn't wait for me to answer. She just straightens up and goes out to the porch.

"You sit a spell," Pappy tells her firmly. "We'll have a nice talk while we wait for our friends up the road a piece."

I freeze.

Pappy and Peet start talking casually, asking after Duronda's family. Pappy tries to reckon how they're related -- he thinks an aunt of his may have been some number of greats a grandmother to her, which she tells him to stop doing, since she's dating one of his great-grandsons. They've switched over to the subject of which great-grandson and who his parents are (Pappy knows them all, but seems to have lost track of who belongs to who) when I hear a car engine hum up and stop, then the sharp click of the Teachers' boots.

"You ran from town," they say with no preliminaries. "Explain your actions, Soldier Carson."

"A young girl can't have herself a run if she has a mind to?" Pappy asks. "She's out here to see me, because I asked for her. I got a great-grandson she's sweet on, and I wanted to know what to get him for his birthday."

"I asked Soldier Carson, Soldier Abernathy."

"I was a soldier a long time ago, sonny, and I don't mean to be one ever again."

The Teacher apparently ignores him, because his next words are, "Soldier Carson, explain yourself."

For a minute, I think she won't come up with a story, but she finally says, "It's like Pappy Angus says. Only I didn't know it was something so silly. I just got word that he wanted to see me, and I was afraid he was sick or whatnot."

"You rushed out here to ascertain the health of your boyfriend's great-grandfather, without consulting anyone else?"

"I'm the fastest runner I know. I figured if he was sick, I could run back and get one of you to help out."

"Aw, I wouldn't bother," Pappy says. "They'd be perfectly happy if I remembered I was supposed to be dead."

There's an awkward pause after this, then the Teacher says, "Very well. But if we discover that you had any other purpose --"

"I didn't."

" -- then there will be consequences. In the meantime, it's nearly curfew. We'll take you back to town with us, as Mr. Abernathy seems to be in good health." There's another pause, then they say, "Mr. Mellark, are those your… magic plants… again?"

"They're herbs," Peet says. "I was just going to cook Pappy some dinner."

"At my age, you can't be too careful around the stove," Pappy says.

I can almost hear the hiss of indrawn breath from the Teacher. "Don't imagine I don't know. It's not worth my time today, but consider this your second warning. Do not press your superstitions any further, Mr. Mellark. The third warning will come with consequences."

"Of course it will," Peet says coolly.

No one says anything for a few minutes, then I hear Duronda complain as she's marched to the car. I hear the engine turn over, then there's a hum as they drive away.

It's been silent for about a minute when the lid of the trunk comes up. Pappy looks at me. "You heard everything?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you get out of here. You do whatever it was she told you. And don't tell me about it."

I look around. Everything seems glassy. I can't imagine just walking out the back door, down through the yard, and into the woods. Well, maybe that far… what I can't imagine is that I'll just keep going.

"I don't know what to do," I say.

Pappy doesn't pretend to think I'm just talking about the moment. "You run for it now," he says. "And then you keep running. You find your daddy. You find the others. Maybe it's time for them to come home and clear out our fine suitors."

"You don't think my dad's really agitating somewhere for people to desert the war?"

"I don't know. I do know, if he is, then he's got a reason for it, and it's not out of love for the Capitol. But the only one who can tell you what your daddy's doing is your daddy. Start south. Follow the river until it ends, then turn west, toward the sunset. That'll get you to the big river, and you can follow it south to the Ghost Gulf. I did the march myself as a young man. Find what you can from there."

I nod. I can't think of anything. I tell myself I'm dreaming. It's the only way to make my feet move. I gather up my game bag -- I guess I'll be cooking and eating it myself -- and the standard issue hunting rifle. I can't think what good it will do -- I only have five more bullets in my pocket -- but Pappy will be in trouble if they find it here. We're lucky they didn't notice it.

If I can get to the waterfall, find the things Misty has hidden for me, I'll wake up.

I dodge through Pappy's backyard and into the woods. It will be dark soon, and it's not safe to be out here in the dark, but I guess it's no safer back in town. At least it's close to the full moon, and the sky is clear.

The shadows grow and merge as I follow my hunting paths toward the river that comes up from the south, just skirting District Twelve and heading for the old ruins to the northeast of us, where it joins two other rivers. I follow its banks south, further than I've ever gone, and I'm more convinced than ever that it's a dream, even as I hear the rush of the small waterfall just ahead of me. And something else, over the sound of the water.

The quiet twang of banjo strings.

I stop and look ahead.

Misty is sitting on a rock calmly, playing my father's banjo. She looks up with a shrug. "What, they weren't going to question me if I stayed there?"

"Misty…"

"Now -- where exactly are we going from here?"
12 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 23rd, 2015 09:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Two things confused me

1) How is Peet Mellark, the apothecary, the ancestor of the Mellark family _of bakers_? How did a different family get the D12 apothecary?

2) D13 is located in what is now Canada. D13 in this story is rabidly Marxist. So how did non-Communist Canada become Marxist D13?

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 23rd, 2015 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Two things confused me

1 is in the story -- Carrig married the bakers' daughter, and Peet lost the apothecary. After the war, someone else ends up buying it, just as Ed ends up buying the hardware store later on.

2 Same way non-dictatorial America ended up under the feudal Capitol system. The city states that formed after the Catastrophes picked up whatever they felt like. I'd guess that after such a terrifying experience, too many people were looking to the "security" of absolute government forms.
willowlistener From: willowlistener Date: January 24th, 2015 01:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh thank god, you had me in a cold sweat over here.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2015 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm still in a cold sweat. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 24th, 2015 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like how Effrim sounds younger than your other protagonists. Not sure how you accomplish that, but he does. I'm getting my Everdeens and Mellarks all mixed up though, and trying to nail Duronda down in the timeline, and what was Ruth's maiden name again.... I think I'm going to have to make a chart! Looking forward to this new adventure and seeing more of the dark days. Interesting to see the grip 13 had on everyone and their attempts at social engineering. Will be interesting to see more of the countryside. ~Karen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2015 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I actually sat down on ancestry and got lines worked out, and ages. It's all kind of a daisy chain, though it's a little tangled up!

I'm not sure if I'm going much further with this one. I have an idea, but I'm just testing the waters to see if there's interest, and also wondering if I can extricate it from Panem (I'm kind of thinking that I can't; it's too dependent on the milieu.)
redrikki From: redrikki Date: January 24th, 2015 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Worldbuilding! Politics! Interesting original characters! It's everything I love about your writing and I can't wait to read more.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2015 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)
We'll see. I'm not quite ready to commit to this one.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: January 25th, 2015 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Feedback/Some Catches? Part 1

First off, not sure if you want typos for this one, but I'm crossing my fingers that you may continue, and even if not, thought you might want them in case you decided to archive on AO3 (I definitely think you could, if you used Neighbors as a brief sort of prologue; I think everything would make sense.:)way, way of life Just think you need a the before the way of.

son, Carrig Just think you need a comma after Carrig.

by all merchant kids who Just think you need a the before merchant.

going reckon he Just need a to before reckon.

as she marched She just needs to be she's.

I read this yesterday, and kept trying to get my thoughts in order, because there is so much goodness in this.

I adore your Duronda. My adoration just keeps climbing with every story she's in; I'd gladly read an entire story of her in the early Games, watching how the culture slowly shifted and evolved from a vengeance fest to a pageant, and watching the relationships of the early victors form. That first group went through something none of the others can ever understand, having to build mentoring from the ground up. I'd even read more Glass to get more Duronda; she's sharp-tongued, sure, but it's funny/snarky instead of shrewish, and she's just generally made of so much awesome. "Really? You think so?" Duronda is catching her breath, and apparently sharpening her tongue on it. "I thought they just wanted to call him into the Government Building to give him hot tea and some cookies." was hands-down the best line of the fic, in my very humble opinion. (I'd read anything you wanted about her, for that matter; that just seemed like the most likely scenario to to build a story around.:)

Now that I've expressed my adoration for a secondary character, I promise I'll try and stay more on topic. Angus; I liked Angus in Neighbors, but his brilliance climbed about 10,000% in this. We don't get to see a lot of octogenarians being awesome in fiction, and it's always something that's guaranteed to catapult a piece in my estimation. You made him such a worthy first person for the dictionary; I love how he uses the farm as a shield for so many of the townspeople, and just generally, how much he's willing to be a shield for the townsfolk in other ways. "At my age, you have to be careful around the stove." has to be my second favorite line of the piece; sure, they know it's total nonsense, but there's not any way to prove it.

I also love his irascibility and intelligence-- I'm thinking especially of "Aw, I wouldn't bother," Pappy says. "They'd be perfectly happy if I remembered I was supposed to be dead." for the first (he gets all the most awesome lines!:d) and his entire explanation of suitors for the second. This one made me especially happy, because I'd never heard the word used in that context, so I learned something new. And his last line; okay, I know it will result in the Capitol taking over, and that leads to its own indescribable hell, but that doesn't make his suggestion any less valid, because what they're living is a complete nightmare.

I love that you wrote this, not only for the brilliant characters I can't find enough adjectives for, but thematically. We knew in NP that Thirteen's solution was bad; the killing of all the Games people showed it. But this; this was absolutely terrifying; I absolutely agree with the person who was talking earlier about cold sweats. This really drove home to me on a gut level what a horrible situation the rebellion nearly put the country in trying to save it. (I now really really want that AU where Haymitch is more connected to Capitol rebels and tells Plutarch, unsuccessfully or not, just what serious bad news Thirteen is after their initial negotiations; whether it worked or not, someone really needed to for posterity.) The thing that especially hit me were the "lessons" I'm not surprised, after Haymitch's experience with that classroom in NP, but the sheer excessiveness of them was horrifying. (Seriously, how nuts do you have to be to give a nearly ninety year old man a "Lesson"?) And having to stand up for nearly nine hours, or being thrown into cells for extra food; I've been reading a very harrowing novel about the Holocaust, and they're way too similar to Nazi Germany.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: January 25th, 2015 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback/Some Catches? Part 2

And the medicine; that was the other thing that really hit home. They weren't any better an alternative than the Capitol at that point, stripping away what the people had, and not replacing it with anything, while draining the young and vital populations for war. And speaking of medicine, we met Grandy Pete!! And he was fabulous! "Of course it will," Peet says coolly. was another of the best lines; he really has a pair, doesn't he?

I think the thing that stuck in my craw most about Thirteen, and the thing that made me most glad Katniss reversed the mistakes of the rebellion, was the way they mocked the music; calling it a "cultural relic" and then mocking the accents and just generally being as disrespectful as possible. I love the music that comes out of coal country; it makes up a significant part of my ITunes library, so this one especially rankled, on top of being more proof of what an awful alternative they were.

And for all that I've spent my comment talking about other characters, I really, really liked Effrim. I love his love for his family, and his dedication to the things he believes in. And for someone so young, that kid has a core of steel; as much as the "education" from Thirteen is taking on the surface, it's not really making a dent in what he believes. That's really saying something for a 13-year-old. And Misty; your Misty has one line, and I already know she's going to be awesome. (Also speaking of Misty, I love the back-story about her "feeling responsible" for his conception. It's details like this that make your world-building feel so incredibly solid.) The final image of this piece, with her strumming the banjo and then standing up to make her declaration was perfect, both in how viscerally I could visualize it, and as an ending; I'm envisioning Huck Finn, save with gender equality and set in a world I love; I like what I'm seeing a lot.:d

I just have to mention before I stop; I can't express how much I love your use of shared family traits in this: The Abernathy's bad eyesight and just general chivalry; the Everdeens'' ability to shoot excellently. It just gives everything such a sense of continuity; these little touches of familiarity that let us identify with the characters even when they're new to us.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2015 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback/Some Catches? Part 2

I'm glad you like it.

I've been reading about, of all things, the beginning of the metric system in revolutionary France.* At first, it wasn't just a "better" measure -- if you actually use numbers, tens are easy, but most people were physically dividing actual items, and physically dividing into ten is devilishly tricky -- but a whole thinking system. It was to go with decimal currency, and even decimal time. What struck me enough that an echo came into this (not an exact echo) was that they wanted to go to a ten-day week in order to erase Sunday, so that the people wouldn't know when the Sabbath was, thereby making it impossible to hold onto their old practices. They also insisted on the new names, rather than setting a national standard for the existing measurements, because they wanted to force new thinking.

In the end, they got a pretty good system of measurement, but the thinking of the savants kind of terrifies me. It's like the Cultural Revolution in China, or a lot of early Soviet history, too. And yes, Nazi Germany. Or Manifest Destiny, eugenics, or anything else of that nature. Any time you get people who are so utterly sure that they have the right idea, and reality must now be made to conform to it -- without any guiding factor other than the idee fixe -- you get a recipe for complete moral disasters.

I like a lot of country and folk music, too. (John Denver is my comfort music, along with the Beatles.) Not all of it, but enough that routine mockery of it sticks in my craw, too.

*I ran across Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Kept Its Feet at the library. I was intrigued, because the guy who wrote it is my age, and I've also wondered about it -- we were assured from early school that we barely needed to learn about inches and feet, then suddenly, the metrics were gone. It sounds like it should be pretty dry, and it's not exactly one I can't ever put down, but it's a fascinating little story that I knew exactly nothing about.

Edited at 2015-01-25 07:39 am (UTC)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 25th, 2015 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback/Some Catches? Part 1

Thanks! I may clean it up a little and see if I can make the flow better, so I'll definitely make the little fixes. It's stuck in my head, and I want to see if it gets a better grip on my brain before I promise anything, but I'm into it enough that I've been going over the Odyssey again, since Effrim is basically pulling a Telemachus here, though if I go on, he'll be the one having the adventures, not his father.

I'm kind of fond of Duronda, too. I will find a way to put her with Misty and Effrim if I go on. She's likely in some kind of trouble in town.

Angus is fun. He's like Haymitch, except sober and perfectly willing to admit his attachments to the townspeople. Possibly because many of them are related to him, but even the ones who aren't. He's a people-watcher.

I think something happened between the Dark Days and canon, because no one seems to know anything about Thirteen except that it was bombed into oblivion, and once mined graphite. The early Games days must have been terrifying for former rebels. I wonder if they just... didn't talk about it much before they died out. The fact that Thirteen left them all twisting in the wind to ensure its own safety tells me that it wasn't an amicable split.

Edited at 2015-01-25 07:43 am (UTC)
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