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Challenges 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 1
New Panem actually finds a group of living people on another continent. What is the response to that. for Anon



The waters are receding.

That was the first surprise. We've been exploring pretty regularly for the forty years since the war, but no one thought to survey the coastlines. No one really lives along River Bay, and no one noticed that it's receded for nearly a mile, shrinking back toward its old, Mississippi River origins. And almost no one lives along the coast. The fishermen in District Four had reported that things "seemed a bit shallow," but it's been gradual, and Four is low-lying, anyway. But after we settled District Fifteen, down in the sweltering forests at the place where the continent narrows, Finny took it upon himself to photograph the east coasts of the Americas, and compared it to an official government map. It's certainly nowhere near its pre-Catastrophic shape, but it's considerably altered as the ice caps have started to grow again.

Ever since that discovery went public, there's been a surge of public support in the explorations, like nothing we've seen since the Great Ingathering.

Which may be how we missed the second surprise, the settlement at Tirafego.

It's on an island at the very tip of South America -- isolated, cold, and far from the disease paths that ravaged so much of the continent. There was some kind of bomb dropped there; maybe the in-gathering assumed total casualties. I don't know -- it doesn't make sense to me. The bombing indicates that there was always a settlement here, even before the climate changed and left the temperatures more temperate. Why wouldn't the gatherers have looked? But they didn't.

At any rate, the climate is cooling again, and the New People, as they're breathlessly called in Panem, crossed the sea and started moving north. A remote sensor someone placed in the high plains and promptly forgot about suddenly came to life, lighting up a console that had been on silent display at the Museum of the Ingathering for decades.

The tour guide, a girl of about eighteen with a high and breathy voice, reported it to the Culture Authority.

The new president, Amelia Farnsworth -- a brusque, middle-aged woman who was born in Eleven, but made her reputation almost single-handedly building District Seventeen, a new settlement on the rocky shores of northeast Panem -- ordered an immediate investigation.

We found the initial group of explorers camping along a river. For the first few months, we thought we were doing hidden surveillance. There were articles and breathless television specials, with aerial footage of campers hunting and fishing ("They look like Katniss and me," Dad said one night, rolling his eyes at the narration about primitive survival techniques). One of our scientists managed to get a bit of tossed-aside fruit, and they traced the DNA. There's a pronounced founder effect, probably accounting for the ubiquitous green eyes in the group. All of the original group they studied (and so far, everyone else we've met) is green-eyed, with light brown skin and black hair. Ginny Dalton, who's our team geneticist, suspects that there may be some congenital diseases ("There almost always are with populations this small"), but we haven't seen any sign of it.

Three months into our stealthy observation, the scientists came back to their own camp to find three of the new people waiting there for them, casually flipping through the aerial photographs. They'd brought the photos they'd been taking, and clearly wanted a trade. The problem was, we couldn't communicate at all, which created a whole new project.

I didn't end up in charge of it because my dad was president before Farnsworth, despite what the papers say. I didn't end up in charge because Mom has a habit of threatening people with axes, either.

I ended up in charge because, when I was ten years old, I went on a dig near District Two, just as a guest, and found a sign written in old Spanish. No one really knew the language -- Plutarch jokes that we don't really know the English that was also on the sign -- and no one else seemed interested, so I started digging for more. I buried myself in the library to get away from reporters, and by the time I got to college, I was more proficient in Spanish and other Latin based languages than anyone else in Panem… which isn't saying much. No one has spoken anything but our odd varieties of English for a very long time. I created my own field of study, and did a paper on how Spanish had impacted what we currently think of as Capitol-based English, which spread to the inner districts when the Capitol started colonizing. I felt very clever, as I recall.

I was the only real choice to be in charge of Panem's first diplomatic delegation, simply because it was clear that they were speaking some kind of Spanish, and they were aware that we were speaking some kind of English. I went to a big Quonset hut that they constructed on the dry plains of central South America. I met their linguist there, and we're still meeting there, every day.

It took us about two minutes to realize that trying to speak was an exercise in futility. Writing was only marginally possible. You'd think that two literate cultures would have been better at keeping the shape of the language recognizable, but I'm here to tell you: It didn't work. The other linguist, whose name is Camila, writes a beautiful line of English prose that uses words I've never seen, spells them in ways I've only encountered in pre-Catastrophic literature, and conjugates verbs in ways that I think pre-date even that. Judging by the look on her face when she reads my Spanish, I guess I'm in the same boat.

At least with writing, we don't have to deal with accents.

Half of Panem is expecting a full report on the cultural history of these people -- and they expect it yesterday -- and Camila and I have barely gotten the basics of "Hello" and "How are you?" (This is even worse than it sounds, since in their language, it's combined in the single word, "Mostas." She's one-upped me by learning, "Hello" and "How are you?")

I take a deep breath, put my hand on the door to the Quonset hut, and push it open. Camila has beaten me there, as usual. She's smart, and one of the prettiest women I've ever seen. I wish I could have a real conversation with her. Preferably not about politics.

"Hello, Caleb" she says, grinning. "How are you?"

I smile back. "Mostas, Camila."

She thinks for a minute, then gives up on a word and gestures me over to the table, where she's spread out a map. I realize that there's an open canister; it must have just come. It's from Farnsworth -- a map of Panem's lands, which the Council just voted on boundaries for. The southern boundary crosses an isthmus between the continents. There used to be a canal there, or at least that's what the District Three engineers say.

Camila taps it three times, then raises her eyebrows.

I sigh. Boundary conversations are difficult even when everyone speaks the language. I put my hand down on the map, over North America. "Panem," I say, then point to South America. "Tirafego."

She makes an expansive gesture with her hands, then rolls her eyes.

North America is bigger. Of course. We're at that. I move my hand over the tundra to the north of Panem and say, "Frio." I shiver theatrically.

She taps the southern land near Tirafego, and shrugs.

I point to myself six times (somehow, that's come to mean, "the people of Panem"), then write down the population of Panem -- last census, four point seven million, up twenty percent since the war ended. People are taking their repopulation duties seriously (at least if they were never victors; the victors have kept their families small for some reason, which leaves Indigo Abernathy as the closest thing I have to a sibling).

Her eyes go wide.

I tap her shoulder six times.

She writes down, "30,000," then waves her hand to show an approximation. It's many more than we've estimated. I wonder how many settlements they're in.

I decide to attempt some Spanish, even though it both puzzles her and makes her laugh. I point to several districts. "Vivemos aqui, aqui…" I raise my eyebrows, and point to her.

I watch her for a few seconds, while she parses out whatever archaism is in my Spanish, then she nods. "Places?" she says. "Places to live?"

"Yeah… yes. Si."

She starts to touch the map, at the island we know, then in another place in the mountains west of here. Then she stops and makes a cutting off motion with her hand. She doesn't have leave to tell me where their towns are.

I bite my lip. "But how many…" She frowns, and I try to think of another way. I tap each of our districts -- the original thirteen, plus the Capitol, plus the four new ones, and say, "Seventeen," I hold up all of my fingers once, then seven in a second pass.

She raises her eyebrows, and casually shows me eighteen.

Of course. I forgot to count the Capitol. But she knows what I said, anyway.

She holds up four fingers and shrugs. I point to the map and hand her a pen, then point vaguely toward where their contingent is camping. She seems to get it: Can you get them to mark the settlements? She nods, anyway.

She gets a sly smile on her face, and moves the pen over the Atlantic ocean. She points to Africa. "Tirafego."

I tap Eurasia. "Panem."

We both laugh, mostly because neither country has enough people to support much expansion. District Sixteen, in the deserts southwest of the Capitol, is on the verge of collapse as it is, and is always begging for settlers. With thirty thousand souls, I doubt Tirafego is in any shape to handle more than its current four settlements, either.

Neither of us mentions the idea that there could be another small settlement anywhere. I don't know about her people, but I know that Panem -- at least as it is now -- isn't interested in conquering. But I also seriously doubt that there's anything to conquer. We have the sensors all up and running now, and are even dropping new ones. There's nothing.

She points to Australia. I pull a coin out of my pocket and balance it to flip.

She laughs. We get back to the work of learning to talk to each other.

When I get back to camp at sunset, there's a call from Plutarch, wanting to know why I haven't found out how they survived the Catastrophes and why they've hidden all these years.

I shake my head, and start making out the day's report.


Anything from Mags in the direct aftermath of Doolin's death to the actual convo that got alluded to in the challenge where she found out how to reach Blight to her rallying the District post-Annie's games. for queen_bellatrix



Technically speaking, it's not against the law to be Catholic. Or Protestant. Or Jewish. Or pagan.

Technically, we can believe whatever we want, as long as we do it privately. Unapproved public gatherings of any sort are forbidden, though, and religious gatherings are not approved. Seminaries don't exist, and "professional credentials and initiations" may only be issued by Panem, so it's illegal for priests to be ordained. They can't stop men from keeping celibate if they're of a mind to do so, but men who are conspicuously unattached (to women or men) have a tendency to be dragged off for "re-education," accused of all manners of secret debauchery, or, at the very least, ridiculed and derided. No holidays except state holidays are on the calendar, and businesses may not close for non-approved holidays. Only state-licensed therapists may offer counseling. "Divisive" adornments (including all symbols of allegiance to anything other than Panem, which of course includes crucifixes) are summarily removed by the Peacekeepers.

Because of this, our church is a large tackle shop, we celebrate holidays behind closed doors, our priests are outlaws who have to jump trains to meet with each other, and our confessional is an old dock house, used for cleaning fresh catches, with a battered canvas sail hung from the ceiling. The Peacekeepers don't come in here often because it stinks of fish guts, so they always buy the idea that it's a place we repair sails, and they see a different one each time. Every Easter, we dye it to keep up the illusion.

It's still pretty freshly dyed (a kind of dingy green) the week after Doolin Odair died.

Finnick doesn't dare go anywhere. If the Peacekeepers aren't following him, the reporters will. So when Father Quinn -- Tiggy -- slipped him Carolyn's string crucifix yesterday, he couldn't very well follow up on it. She was a newcomer to the faith when she arrived, and like many converts, she became more devout than those of us born to it. Finnick slipped the crucifix over to me, along with a sealed note, then started weeping that his father hadn't even finished with his last catch. Between the two things, I figured out where Carolyn had been hiding since we got word they meant to arrest her for murdering Doolin.

I waited a day, in case anyone noticed me taking something from Finnick, but this morning, I decided that it was time to get myself some penance to atone for my sins.

It's not always easy getting into common areas as a victor, but I've stayed friends with a lot of the fishers over the years, and a lot of the ship owners. Captain Cresta, one of the best of them, makes a great show of inviting me to lunch, then going for a walk along the beach with me, which happens to go by the old dock house. He abruptly remembers a meeting he has to be at, and I say I'll stay down at the shore. As soon as I'm sure I'm alone, I duck inside.

I go up to the sail and say, "Bless me, father, for I have sinned. Been about six months. And I'm real worried about sins catching up with people."

"Bless you, Mags," Tiggy says on the other side. "Do you want to confess?"

"No."

"I didn't think so. Give me a second."

I hear him moving around, then there's a creak of hinges as the trapdoor comes up. Beneath us is a small equipment room, and on the floor there, hidden under crates that I hear Tiggy moving, is another trap door. This one leads to what looks like a pumping station under the dock from the outside but is actually where we keep vestments and wafers and anything else that we don't want confiscated.

Including, apparently, Carolyn Odair.

There's another shuffle of movement, then I hear two sets of footsteps coming up. The sail moves, and Tiggy beckons me around.

"I'm glad Finnick knew better than to just follow me," he says. "I was afraid he would. I was afraid the Peacekeepers would. I went halfway around town to make sure they weren't after me."

"Finnick didn't get through that arena by being brainless," I say as I come through.

Tiggy nods, then goes out to keep guard. I hear him move some of the heavy nets. I think he repairs them to keep himself fed.

This side of the curtain is pretty sparse -- just a small table with a pitcher of water on it and a battered, paint-splattered old chair for Tiggy to sit in. There's a window, but it's covered with moth-eaten cheesecloth, lighting the room in a kind of hazy sunshine.

Carolyn is standing there blinking in a patch of that strange sunlight, her eyes deep and somehow bruised. I hug her. "How are you, honey?"

She hugs me back, then pulls away shakily. "How should I be? Doolin's dead. They're framing me, Mags. Finnick knows it's a frame-up, doesn't he?"

"Of course he does. I don't think he'd entertain the idea of you doing this for even a second." I lead her to the chair and sit her down, then lean on the table across from her. "What are going to do? I bet we could get you out of the district. Maybe over into Ten. They're mostly the same as we are, so if you fit here, you'll fit there. It's bigger and easier to get lost in, too. Toffy'd help you get settle somewhere -- "

"No, I'm not leaving. No more running. They've destabilized Finnick's life enough."

"If they have you, they can use you against Finnick."

She looks up, surprised. "I always thought you were a loyalist."

"Everyone does. I like it that way." I smile. "The Capitol did right by me, mostly, once I got out of the arena. So I did right by it. But it's been getting worse since I was a kid. You've seen it. And they have their claws in Finnick now."

"And I don't know how to stop them!" She slams her hand against the table. "Dammit, Mags. When I was still… when I was Gia… I got their claws at least a little bit out of Haymitch, just by my own say-so. Now it's my little boy, and I know what they mean to do with him, and I can't do anything!"

I look around, out of reflex. Carolyn has never outright admitted to me that she was Pelagia Pepper, but we knew each other reasonably well in the Capitol. I watched her fall in love with Ollie Hedge, and I knew it would end badly. I tried to warn her off of it once, but she was so naïve that she shrugged it off. Ollie worked out her escape with Doolin, but he knew she'd need the District Four victors to make it work -- one person shouting, "That's Gia Pepper!" would have been the end.

We all knew Gia, but when Doolin showed up with his new bride, we all met her for the first time. There weren't even snide comments about how she looked like Gia. We've gone on like that for years, and Gia has slipped into the past. Carolyn is the reality.

Except that she used to be Gia, and she once did for another boy what she can no longer do for her own.

The first thing that comes to my mind is to ask her how to reach her people -- her rebels -- in the Capitol, but further thought suggests that this isn't a good idea. She's barely accepting that I’m not a loyalist. If I demand to know her contacts, she'll cut me off, and assume I'm spying. I would if I were her, anyway. Instead, I say, "We'll look after him as best we can. Everyone took a shine to him. Jack Anderson already risked an assault charge against a Capitol citizen for him."

"What about Ollie?"

I don't say anything. Blight Hedge has made a fifteen year career of trying to get even with Carolyn for her quick marriage. I don't know if he thought she was going to come down here and join the "ladies' brigade" (our convent, which masquerades as sea widows in a communal home), or if he just thought she'd pine away, but either way, he took it very personally when she married Doolin and bore him a child. I think he'd end up on Finnick's side, if it came to it, but I can't promise it. Instead I say, "Haymitch is looking after him. And I don't think he has the slightest idea who his mother is, so it's all about Finnick himself. You know that's good."

She nods. "Yes. But none of you can do anything. You couldn't do anything for the poor Anderson boy."

There's no arguing with that. I reach into my pocket and hand her Finnick's sealed note. "He's probably telling you to get safe," I say.

She unseals the note, reads it, then shakes her head. She hands me the note.

It's very short: I miss you, Mom. Please come home. They can't put you in jail for something you didn't do, and I need you. Love, Finnick.

I close my eyes slowly, then open them again. "Carolyn, he's fourteen. He probably believes it. But I can explain -- "

"No, Mags."

"They'll take you right in. They'll put you in jail, and we both know that the real crime you'll be in for is being Pelagia Pepper. For sneaking out under Snow's nose, and using his own tribute train to do it. You'll never see the outside of another cell."

"But there'll be visiting hours."

"Not if they drag you to the Capitol."

"They won't, for a local crime."

"They could hang you."

She shakes her head. "They won't. Like you said, they can use me."

"And you'd let them?"

"I don't know what to do, Mags! This is a long game. The longest one. I don't know how to win it. I don't know who my allies are. I don't -- "

"I'm your ally. Finnick's your ally. Hell, Blight probably is, if you push him hard enough. And Haymitch. But you have to run. I'll explain it to Finnick. He must know. Somewhere inside him, he has to know that they wouldn't give you a chance. Does he know who you are?"

"He knows I'm from the Capitol. I raised him with Capitol manners. I didn't tell him who I was there."

"He's not crazy, Carolyn. He'll understand. And if you don't go, they'll hold you over his head for the rest of your life."

She puts her head down and starts to weep. I put my hands on her shoulders as comfortingly as I can (comforting has never been my strong suit). Finally, she sits up and nods. "You'll take care of him?"

"As well as I can. We all will."

She cries a little bit more, then gets herself together. She's like Finnick that way. She feels very deeply, but she can build a wall around herself when she needs to. I hug her again before I go, and tell her that I can contact Toffy Taggart, but she says that she needs to break away from the victors, or she'll be traced. She knows some of Doolin's contacts in Eleven.

She goes back to the storage room. I talk to Tiggy for a few minutes, then go home. Finnick looks at me eagerly when I cross into Victors' Village, but I shake my head.

Three days later, there is a huge commotion in town, as the Gulf Patrol Peacekeepers drag in a raft. It's handmade, and has a fairly freshly dyed dingy green sail. Carolyn is cuffed and shoved onto the shore, and the raft is set to the flame.

She swears that she stole everything from Tiggy, but they whip him anyway. They tend to do that whenever something suspicious happens in Four.

The trial is barely even a formality. She's convicted without a single witness being allowed to speak for her. ("The evidence speaks for itself," the judge says, although no reasonable evidence is presented.)

She's in jail within the month.

Finnick never misses visiting hours.

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Comments
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 23rd, 2015 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I just had a beyond hectic day in RL, and am finally, finally getting to sit down and read this. (It's been taunting me since this morning when I realized it was posted, but couldn't dive in.) I'll comment properly in the morning, when I've had time for multiple rereads (because omg, the opening paragraph of mine starts with District/Capitol religiosity culture; this is going to be so freaking awesome and require multiple viewings, I can tell!), but there were no comments and I felt awful for being so late to get to this, so just wanted to let you know I'd seen and was enjoying.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2015 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I hope you like it when you have a chance to breathe.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 24th, 2015 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Feedback 1/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

The entire reason I leave vague, open-ended prompts on your challenges is epitomized in mine; the things you come up with are so, so much better than anything I could imagine prompting. I've read this more times than I should probably admit today, and I'm going to finally try for some coherence, though this is probably just going to descend into the Net speak equivalent of dolphin noises.

Guh, you fit Odair family feels, Mags/Carolyn friendship, and D4 culture into one piece, and you included Tiggy, too! I knew this was going to be something else when you started it off with that phenomenally clever doublespeak from the Capitol. One of the things I adore in everything you write for this fandom is that you make it feel like this is a society that could have survived for three quarters of a century; in half the pro dystopian things I'm reading, my inner political nerd is going: "Okay, technically, you could pass that law, but how could you enforce it?" I've never felt that with your expansion of the verse, and I love that the religious suppression is fundamentally just an extension of everything else the Capitol is doing. They know they can't forbid people to think things, but thinking in a social vacuum, without being able to share/expand your culture/sedition/what have you doesn't get you very far. I love that, like with the random transfer of Capitol workers from district to district or reeducation, they're attacking the social root of religion. And I love that Tiggy and the other priests/religious leaders are fighting it as hard as they can; Mags' musings here pair perfectly with Annie's pre-games confession story to show how religion is thriving, if in a much reduced form, even in the most trying times.

And the Ladies Brigade; ah, I want to know more about the Ladies Brigade! It must take a tremendous amount of resources to make the peacekeepers look the other way, especially because many of those women probably have never married, so masquerading as sea widows must be tricky. Gaaah, you slip in the most amazing cultural details; I'd never even thought there could be a way for a form of convent to survive!

Also on the cultural front: I love what you're doing with each of the districts in terms of rebellion. You've got 12, 11, and 7 that are the hothead districts; you've got 2 that's just sorta simmering. And then, you've got 4. Four, to me, feels almost like...the French or Danish resistance in WWII. They're not the hotheads; they're the ones playing a much, much subtler game, trying mostly to protect individuals, and certainly starting little rebellions as a result, but they're just sorta biding their time and waiting for an opportunity. They've got more motivation than Two, but I like that as much as their methodology reminds me of some of the WWII resistances, they're usually not anywhere near open rebellion; like I said, they help individuals, and they hide out-district strangers, but they're very much somewhere on the bottom end of the spectrum of districts that would rebel without very good cause until after Annie's games. I just really appreciate your very subtle cultural differentiations through rebel philosophy, and how giving them more motivation than Two helps emphasize that while "red-haired stepchild" thing they've got going on; your version of Four fascinates me almost more than any of the other districts.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 24th, 2015 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback 2/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

Mags is a triumph in this; I love how you're capturing that very tenuous "halfway to family" thing Collins implied was going on with Finnick and Mags; I adored that as much as things getting worse was part of her motivation for stepping away from the Capitol, that "and now they've got their claws in Finnick" really exemplifies how much of her change of heart was more about fierce tiger surrogate Aunt/Grandmother being ready to burn the whole thing down to keep them away from her family, and her rage over Finn really finally letting her consciously feel her fury over what had happened to everyone else in place of the pragmatism that just made her grit her teeth and do what she could while knowing it wasn't enough before now. (I love even more that you can imply all that in such a short piece.) I'm so glad you wrote this after playing about in the dark days, because understanding how bad the dark days really were explains why her pragmatism held for so long. She's smart as a whip, which I also really appreciate, exhibited wonderfully by her working through the consequences of asking about contacting rebels. And the "comforting has never been my strong suit" such a pitch-perfect character detail.

And I love that the Carolyn/Mags friendship is just...a thing. You never explain it, but the obvious warmth and physical affection between them is a brilliant use of showing and not telling. Really liked getting a glimpse at their Capitol history, especially the bit about her having warned Gia off Blight; oh Mags, you must have seen so many awful things in three quarters of a century and gotten so tired because you'd seen it all crash and burn before.

And Carolyn herself, ah, Carolyn. Every time I think there is no possible way I can adore this woman more, you write something else, and I do.
She feels very deeply, but she can build a wall around herself when she needs to.
Such a fabulous line; so much character in such a gorgeously economical brushstroke. I'm smiling in fellow author admiration just from pasting it in here. It explains so, so many of her prior actions, and is this perfect coda/addition to Haymitch's thought in GM that she was moving on from both he and Blight when she left, even if you've shown here that, like many of Haymitch's observations, it's somewhat unreliable and she's never entirely forgotten/minimized either of them, even as their importance/impact has changed with distance/Carolyn becoming the reality, as Mags so succinctly puts it.

You show her intelligence so well throughout this, and I'll get to the other instances in a minute, but I love that once her decision to leave is made, she realizes she's got to break away from the victors, and I adore that even when everything goes to hell, she keeps her head enough to try and protect Tiggy.

I love her practicality/pragmatism so much, that at the end of the day, she tries to take Mags advice, love how much that decision exemplifies Mags' line earlier. But I love even more that it never for a second strays into callousness, that it's hard and wrenching and that being a mother is so crucially important that she almost doesn't, that it is, in fact that they can use her against Finnick that's ultimately the tipping point. I love how you write parents, love that being a parent, be they good or bad at it is so important to so many of them, that it certainly isn't their top concern every second, but it is their top priority, or they're at least self-aware enough to know that it should be. "But there'll be visiting hours" Ah, Fern, are you trying to break me?
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 24th, 2015 07:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback 3/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

One of the many, many things I'm impressed with is how well you melded this with Galvanized; there were moments in that one where I didn't quite get the name dissonance that Blight and Mags were using, but I do now. I love how you've metamorphosed Gia's character, shown so fabulously by the fact that Gia's first priority was her "victors" and Carolyn's is her son. And your musings on identity, and what a complicated thing that is are a grand thing. Because as much as you've metamorphosed the character, Carolyn was Gia, and that doesn't just vanish because Carolyn "became the reality" I love all the mentions of Blight and Haymitch here, and the really subtle motif you used to show how much of Carolyn is still Gia with all the talking of "games" and allies etc. etc., the fact that the influence of her time with the victors will never entirely fade. (Also as someone who really started to like her along with Haymitch in their etiquette lessons, it made me grin so hard that she taught Finn Capitol manners. Also was really glad to see exactly what Finn did and didn't know at this point in the timeline about who she'd been.)

Seeing Mags' rage here, and seeing how that rage is amplified once things actually start happening to Finn was glorious. And the way that this conversation feeds so perfectly into Mags' line about "reminding" her that they can use Finn because we've now seen the first time it was brought up: again I'm tipping my author's hat.

Love how done Mags is with Blight's jealousy issues; reason number one million to adore your Mags.

And Finn, oh Finn. Confession time: the thing that got me into your HG fics was scrolling through your LJ, I think to find an HP challenge before I found the handy tag, right after MJ came out, and seeing one of your little previously things in which you talked about a convo between Haymitch and Finn somewhere in GM. I was devastated about Finn's death, especially as I couldn't help feeling like Collins used him as a bit of a red shirt, made even worse by the fact that Prim's death came so shortly on the heels of his, and we didn't need his death to bring home the "horror of war"; her death did that. But I was looking for good Finn portrayals, and you'd done secondary characters brilliantly well before, so I went back and randomly read the previous section, fell hard for your Haymitch, and well. Point being: I've always adored your Finn, and that note broke me, especially with how young and naive he was; your Finn is my favorite interpretation precisely because you let him start out naive and become worldly along the way. "I need you" Oh, resisting that would be so, so hard.

I've quoted lines all over the place, but I also have to say that your imagery is gorgeous; the image of Carolyn standing in the patch of sun, especially.

And the way that you're showing how the rebel network will slowly build, bringing in cameos of people like Annie's dad.:d This is nuanced, and I know I'm missing things, but thank you so much for this!

Everything with the construction of the church/the hiding of the vestments etc. etc. got me thinking how plausible all your resistance stuff is; how much research have you done for the structure of the rebel communications etc. etc.?

Also loved the first one. Your world building again is fabulous, especially how you extrapolate the linguistics problems from the fact that high jacking is Old English according to Plutarch. And ah, Plutarch, you will never change, as shown by your cameo. While Gail will; I loved his reference to he and Katniss, and how it had no bitterness whatsoever; it's such a wonderful bit of Gail maturation, and fits so well with all his maturation in your stories, which is one of your post-cannon bits I appreciate the most.

And Camila, again, fabulous character work in very few strokes!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2015 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback 3/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

I put in a throwaway line in "These Are the Names" (which wasn't throwaway on my end, but Effie didn't ruminate on it) that Finnick was more concerned about his tributes' manners than their escort was, and that he didn't even try to cover it with "to get sponsors" rhetoric. Of course that was Gia's doing. She may well have used Capitol response to convince the D12 kids to do it, but what she really believed (as Effie does, ultimately), is that it's free to acquire the skills, and the kids owe it to themselves to behave in a way that won't have people disrespecting them and calling them ignorant rubes.

And it's so easy to forget that Finnick is a fourteen year old kid when he becomes a victor. Yes, fourteen-year-olds can have moments of extreme clarity, but they then turn around and have wildly swinging emotions (often caused by their hormones doing the wacky at the age), and will reach for the parents (and sometimes their stuffed toys) when they're scared. It's the height of the idealistic age, when they believe that everything wrong can be put right if approached properly, and everything is about their personal experience of the world. Finnick will learn too fast that this is a dangerous mindset in Panem, but really, up until now, it's mostly worked for him.

On the second, I kept trying to think about the challenge (I don't actually buy the scenario), and all I kept coming across was the idea that they wouldn't be able to talk to each other at all. Any English the new people knew would be like walking down the street now and spouting Elizabethan English... to people who'd never studied it. Not quite the language shift of old or even middle English, but it would take a lot of explaining... which isn't easy when the Spanish you're speaking is the Spanish of Cervantes. And with a bad accent.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2015 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback 2/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

Whatever happened in the Dark Days, it had to be bad, because signing a treaty like the one they have is extreme. So Mags would remember, and she'd be loathe to start the whole thing up again. But Snow just. keeps. pushing. And finally, with Finnick, he pushes too far.

I thought after I decided that Gia was Finnick's mom about the fact that there were a goodish number of victors down there who would know her, and changing out of silly Capitol clothes only does so much. So why not have the friendship be something that pre-exists?

Haymitch sees clearly about a number of things, but when it comes to people who love him, which he doesn't get, he makes some seriously unreliable observations. He and Blight interpret Gia's actions very differently, and I don't think it's because of the different (sort of) types of relationship they had with her. Blight goes off on a jealous tear. Haymitch interprets it as, "Well, it probably was more important to me than to her, and I'm sure it she was just walking away gracefully." In both cases, they kind of... ignore her, which isn't good. Neither of them thinks, "Wow, this was really hard for her, and she turned to someone who was helping her through it."

But she does have it in herself to do the right thing, even when it's emotionally difficult. She doesn't have the luxury to be the mother pining away in jail while her son heroically stands up for her, and she knows it, because she understands her position. Unfortunately, they caught her anyway.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2015 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback 1/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

The Ladies' brigade may count on either Peacekeepers who get transferred a lot, or ones who look the other way. Either that, or they "marry" monks on paper, then the 'sea widows' is metaphorical, like 'football widows,' and the monks spend their time at sea, emulating the disciples as fishers of men? (Sadly, in Panem, no one exactly has to fight to keep the vow of poverty.)

The "social root of religion" is a good phrase, and it's really the only way to attack a belief system: Make it so difficult to practice the little things that the less enthusiastic members just give up. I mean, sure, you'll get pushback from the real zealots, but for a lot of people, it just gets too tiring. I mean, if you only sort of believe (which is the case for a lot of people), then is it really worth it to face the wrath of Rome to take Communion or go to Confession? So the priests' job here is finding a way to turn the laws into challenges that can be met (the people aren't going to chase the confessional around, so make one that they all sort of "own").

It's good observation about the different rebellions, though I hadn't thought of it specifically that way. (I can almost see a summit looking like the Congress in the musical 1776 -- "What is this independence but the private grievance of Massachusetts? Why is it always Boston that breaks the king's piece?") Four, I think, wants to be left alone, and as long as the Capitol more or less ignores their "little rebellions," they'll stay out of the big ones.

(ETA: It's my inner political nerd that loves these books, or at least the fanfic writing part of them, so much. What an opportunity to really look at the way politics work in the world! Every time I look at a historical scenario, I try to figure out how the people there were reacting to it, and my working theory is simple: It's always more complicated than it looks, and also simpler. People in close proximity bounce off of each other in ways that have nothing to do with politics and power, but ultimately end up causing huge occurrences. Trying to break up history into neat lines is an exercise in futility. I mean, I picked up a book on the history of the metric system, for God's sake, and it included angry mobs and the storming of the Bastille. Not to mention academic egos clashing, idealists running up against realists, and, I kid you not, an international argument about longitude.)

Edited at 2015-05-24 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 24th, 2015 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Feedback 1/3 (I would be sorry about verbocity if this weren't so awesome!)

Hey Fern,

I too enjoy the political intrigue, especially the way you work it into every crevice of the HG world. I noticed you told a poster earlier this week that you hadn't read Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones series).

If you enjoy politics and how it effects a fantasy world, this is definitely a book series for you. If you didn't know, it's based loosely on the war of the roses with a massively built world and an interesting take on fantasy magic. As the previous poster said, highly highly addictive.

-Maraudercat
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