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For the Love of the Games - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
For the Love of the Games
So, I couldn't stand editing for another minute, and I've been giving thought to "The Big Empty." That's from a district POV, so I won't be getting to a lot of what happens in the Capitol at the beginning of the Games, and I just felt like checking in with our resident snakey psychopath. Snakopath?

For the Love of the Games
"This is no place for jokes," an old man says, glaring at me across the table.

I ignore him, keeping my eyes on our president, Antonius Clemm. Clemm is the smartest person at the table, other than me, and if that doesn't encapsulate the tragedy of Panem, I don't know what does.

Clemm looks back at me, his long fingers steepled under his chin. "Interesting."

There's silence, then a redheaded woman in her military uniform stands up, shoving her chair roughly against the table and making the pitcher of water spill. "You can't seriously be considering this, Tony," she says, waving at a servant to wipe the table. "I don't even know why you let this seventeen-year-old child speak here." She gives me a wave none too distinct from the one she gave the servant. "Other than a moment's temper tantrum on camera, he's done nothing."

"The temper tantrum," Clemm says, "was what pushed the Capitol to pursue victory instead of compromise. When young Mr. Snow refused rescue by that District brat, it captured the imagination of our angry citizens. That shot of him coming up from the rubble and pushing the girl away is on half the posters in the Capitol. He's been a symbol of their fury ever since, and if I didn't invite him, they would tear down the walls and possibly hang us along with the rebels."

This is utter nonsense, of course. Not that some idiots have decided that I'm a great hero of the Capitol --- they have, and it's annoying -- but that this has anything to do with Clemm's inviting me here. That has more to do with information I gathered from a particular underage servant in his house, whose duties are somewhat more complex than wiping up spills. All it took was a small mention that I was friends with this particular servant, and we talked all the time, to get whatever invitations I wanted.

A second old man shakes his head. "Whipping up mobs has always been easy."

"It's using them that takes skill," I finish.

"No," he says. "It's dissipating them that takes skill. People are angry, and they have a right to be. Bombing a school was beyond the pale. But sooner or later, they will remember who put the school there and why, and they will turn on their own government. And once we're gone, they'll start turning on each other. The Capitol will be left in ruins."

"The Capitol is already in ruins," I point out. "What I'm suggesting is that we turn our attention to rebuilding it, rather than doing something that will provoke the districts again."

"You don't think that putting their children into arenas and telling them to kill one another will provoke them?" Clemm asks.

"That's the genius of it," I say. "They're already angry at the people who got them into this war. Put their children in as a mode of justice, and most of the district people -- who also lost their children to this pointless rebellion -- will go along with it. They might even be enthusiastic, if we sell it right. Then do it again next year. And the next. Every year, they'll watch children from other districts killing children from their own. They'll hate each other more than us."

"And if they refuse?" the redheaded woman asks.

"Then, they'll learn just how hot the bombs we dropped on Thirteen are."

The first man slaps his hand down. "Dammit, that's dangerous to everyone! We shouldn’t have bombed Thirteen, quite frankly."

"And how would you explain that, Rathfon?" Clemm asks. "They murder five hundred children, and we respond with negotiations?"

"Have you seen the numbers from the last census?" Rathfon says. "Just before the war -- before the war -- we were at barely five million human beings left on the planet. It's quite possible that we lost nearly half the population before you bombed Thirteen, most of the lost in prime reproductive years. Then you bombed Thirteen, a city the same size as the Capitol. That's got to be nearly a sixth of whatever was left. If we top two million in the next census, I'll be shocked. The lack of genetic diversity…" He puts his hands up helplessly.

"They want vengeance for their dead children," Clemm says. "They won't care about census numbers or genetic diversity."

I wait for this to sink in, then say, "The Games would solve that, as well. They'd be a symbolic vengeance, but ultimately, they'd only take twenty-three children each year. Their parents would most likely still be young enough to be able to have new children to replace them, if it came to genetic preservation." I shrug. "We could even require it."

I make it sound casual, like it's an idea I just thought of, but it's calculated, and it has the right effect. The adults go into a full scale argument about whether or not the parents of dead contestants should be required to have replacement children. Of course, they'll never go there. It would be impossible to enforce, and it's ultimately inconsequential, statistically, to have twenty-three children die. But once they're arguing about the details, the general structure is taken for granted. Beyond this, the details don't interest me much.

I take out my carefully crafted presentation, and pass out copies to everyone while they argue about things that don't matter. I tell them to look over the plans, then pretend to worry about the propriety of my being here, and leave while they examine it. They'll start picking apart a dozen sections that I've left in for that purpose, and by the time they leave tonight, the notion of the arena will be set in their minds. I expect Clemm to call by next week to ask me to take over the planning. This won't be because I'm blackmailing him. It's because I'm the only one of the whole ridiculous bunch of them that understands sports.

I head out into the winter afternoon and walk through the rubble-strewn streets. There are weeping people on every corner, and the whole place looks like some disease-ridden sinkhole from before the Catastrophes. I'm going to fix that.

The Games are nothing more than an exaggerated version of a playground game called King of the Hill. The contestants will complain and probably cry, but the smarter ones will start to work out strategies before they've even admitted to themselves that they mean to play. Then they'll have to test the strategies. Then, they'll be playing, and everyone in the Capitol will recognize that it's just the districts destroying themselves again, now without risking any Capitol lives and, quite honestly, very few district lives. Not that this will matter to Rathfon's vaunted genetic diversity. I doubt we'll let more than handful into the Capitol in any given year, and most of them will just end up rutting with each other until every district breeds true (District Twelve already does, as far as I can tell), and they can be shown like engineered dogs in a best-of-breed show, but I don't actually care about that, either.

It doesn't ultimately matter to me if the districts are punished for bombing a building that our government knew perfectly well was in danger, and put children into anyway. What matters to me is that they obey. That we don't disrupt the culture any further. Putting all of this in the form of a game makes it a civilian matter. Our military is full of idiots, even bigger idiots than the ones in the civilian bureaucracy, and I have no intention of leaving Panem's culture in the hands of people who are indistinguishable from the idiots we just bombed to dust in Thirteen. The Capitol should control Panem through the culture. The military should only be there in case the people decide to do something stupid again.

They won't. The districts, I mean. They've had enough. They'll be looking north at the smoking crater of District Thirteen, and at the burning streets of their own cities, and all we'll really need to do is put someone who looks fierce in place over them. They'll know that the real power is the ultimate power: To destroy them utterly. And they'll grumble, but they'll behave. They'll play the Games. And in the end, they'll try to win them. I'm looking forward to seeing what the smarter ones do.

In the meantime, I'll get the Capitol to stop its incessant weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I've always hated crying.

Not my own. As far as I can remember, I've never cried. I must have as an infant. They all do, day and night. But even I can't remember back that far.

My earliest memory is of sitting in a high chair, in a row of identical high chairs, looking out a dirty window at the train yards. Since I know the Care Group moves children out of there like clockwork on their second birthdays, I must have been under two. I was left there as a six-month old -- a baby in a blanket, lying in the snow on the doorstep -- so that's an eighteen month window that the memory might have occurred in. I don't pretend to remember what I was thinking, if children of that age think, but I do remember that whoever the child beside me was, the caregiver was paying it attention while it cried. I wasn't receiving any sort of attention, therefore I was not crying. Any meaning I ascribe to this would be after-the-fact, so I'll refrain from making judgments. I may not have despised that child on that day. Later on, I would.

The next set of memories jumble together a little, while I was in the home for two to four year olds. There were building blocks with letters on them, and it was there that I made that flash of connection between written and spoken language. I watched a flickering television, and saw the man reading, with the words slipping by underneath. I started picking them up, and playing with the blocks, trying to imagine how my own name would look. There weren't enough blocks (whoever gave me the name "Coriolanus" was clearly not thinking about spelling practice), and no one helped me, or believed me when I read the tattered little books in the home's absurd collection. They thought I was faking it, or had somehow memorized them from our thrice-yearly visits from public figures who read to us. Because of that, I spelled my own name wrong until I was almost six.

I remember pain when I broke my ankle falling down the stairs. I was already the fastest runner. I remember the break and the pain, and I remember screaming, but not crying. I think I was older at that time, closer to four than to two, because I actually remember the story the caregiver told me. I've read it since and know it better, but I recognized it as soon as I saw it in a book. Once upon a time, there was a land called Sparta, where everyone was trained to be brave. A boy stole a fox and hid it under his shirt, but he was caught by their peacekeepers. Rather than admitting that he stole it and taking a whipping for it, he was silent while it ate him alive, and no one knew until he was dead that anything was eating him. Aren't you just our little Spartan? the caregiver said, smiling at me while they set my ankle at a local hospital.

I was in the next group home (the four to six year olds) when I can start to pinpoint memories for sure. I got into trouble for the first time just before my fifth birthday. A boy in my ward started crying and I told him to stop it. He kept going, so I went over and put my hand over his mouth, the way the grown-ups sometimes put a finger on kids' mouths if they were being loud. Only I covered his nose, too, by accident, and he couldn't breathe right. It interested me, so I pressed harder, until he fought away from me and started screaming.

A caregiver came over then and pulled me off and told me that I was a wicked boy, and then there were visits with the child psychiatrists. I took tests. I told them my memories. They harangued me about not crying (this was apparently a matter of great import), and found a dozen ways to ask if I'd liked hurting that boy (in fact, I didn't care about it one way or another, though I knew enough even then to go on and on about being sorry). They ran blood tests on me, which I suppose were meant to find my parents. If they were, they had no luck with it, as no one suddenly appeared to take me home, not even grudgingly.

The one good thing that came of these sessions was that they realized I wasn't faking it when I read. They gave me science games and math and stories, and it was finally determined that I needed more mental stimulation than the group homes could give me. They weren't in the practice of giving out potentially violent children for adoption -- we weren't the sort that adoptive parents wanted -- but they did put me in a good school. There were boarding facilities for district children, but things were already going badly. There were only six other people in boarding at the time, since most students from the Capitol commuted. Four of them were from District Thirteen. The other two came from One and Twelve. The boy from One was my roommate, and we teamed up sometimes to play pranks on the girls next door, Thirteeners who made a religious principle of having no sense of humor at all. The other three people -- a boy and girl from Thirteen, and the boy from Twelve -- were all teenagers, and we didn't see them much.

None of us were big on crying, and attention came from winning at sports and in class work. It was relief after the group homes. Sports and class work have always come naturally to me, and somewhere in the environment, I learned to be better at the other things, like laughing and playing and joking. I started to get along with the other children from the Capitol, and spend summers and holidays with their families. Once I got to be ten years old, no one was expected to cry much anymore, so no one hectored me on the subject. By the time I was fifteen (the District boarders were long gone by then, and I lived alone in the boarding halls), I was everyone's favorite party guest. Everyone's parents liked my jokes, and being called a "wicked boy" was no longer an insult.

One of my teachers suggested that I explore my wickedness with her. It was apparently of a sufficient level, as she gave me very good grades on my papers, but I didn't care for it. It seemed to be a lot of effort to get to what amounted to a full body sneeze, and after, she insisted on inane small talk. The whole thing gave me about the same enjoyment level as a prolonged cold, and once she'd graded my last paper for her class, I told her that I wouldn't come around anymore. She didn't press the issue, and I haven't bothered looking for that sort of thing since.

I might have gone on like that for a long time, just coasting through Capitol society. I could have gotten anywhere. I was already a star athlete in town, and I arranged our first intermural championships when I was fourteen. No one had really thought to have students from the different schools play each other. I set up brackets in basketball and baseball, and meets for the gymnasts and wrestlers. There was only one school that did equestrian, and I arranged for them to do a demonstration in city center. The war made their usual parade grounds outside the city unusable. But everyone loved it, so I already had the ear of people in the Capitol government, and when the Green Tower fell, suddenly, they decided I was a hero. Maybe I was. I don't know.

From the time I was ten on, the war was a constant, irritating backdrop. Supply lines were cut, and rations were imposed. People wanted celebrations put down, because the districts had decided to start killing people. When they executed the Thirteen Traitors (or the Thirteen Martyrs, as the districts call them), I had to walk by the hanging bodies for three days to get to class. One of them was the sister of my old roommate. He went home the day after the hanging, and he was probably out in the field, shooting people, until the cease-fire.

When I turned sixteen, they made me start teaching low level classes to pay my tuition, and I was teaching a class full of eight year olds the wonders of our civic system when the missiles hit. The first thing I remembered feeling was surprise. I knew they'd put us here as human shields, but I actually assumed we'd be pretty effective at it. Everyone knew that there was a school here. We were on television all the time. I never figured that they'd bomb us. But there it was: a thunderous boom, then chunks of the ceiling falling down, the walls cracking under the strain of the collapse above us.

I took the kids with me because they were there, and it seemed like a good idea to get them out. It never occurred to me to just leave them. I wasn't afraid. I knew I wasn't going to die yet. Some of them, like little Ausonius Glass, have started calling me an angel and a hero, and I have a feeling that will be useful later, but at the time, no other course of action happened to occur to me.

I hurried them downstairs ahead of the crushing sounds above us. We got as far as the lobby, and I realized that the main doors were blocked with rubble. I knew from planning the tournament that there was a media room off the lobby. Because of the electronics, it had a lot of extra steel bracing, and I was pretty sure there was a passage to the main news building next door. It was smoky by then, and Adamaris Brinn was crying and coughing. I wanted to hit her, but there wasn't time, so I just let her go on. We got into the media room just as the lobby collapsed. I did find the passage, but most of it had collapsed as well. I was still trying to dig our way out when a dark-haired girl in dirty district clothes pulled a beam away from me and pulled me up.

I saw a camera. They were everywhere, but at that moment, one was trained on me and the girl. She held out her hand again to dust me off, and I knew what she meant: To make it look like they were being merciful and generous. The great, magnanimous victors. Of course we'd negotiate with them.

I took her by the throat and told her that I didn't need saving.

There were a lot of people in the Capitol who wanted someone to do exactly that -- to tell the districts exactly where they could put their peace overtures and demands for capitulation. They were tired of war and angry that it had been forced on them by people who, as far as they were concerned, they had never harmed. (Presumably, the districts saw things differently.) We had the guns and bombs. Why were we negotiating at all?

So I became their face. It didn't convince Clemm to invite me to the meeting. He doesn't understand the Capitol all that well. But it will come in handy later.

My dormitory room is under the rubble of the Green Tower somewhere, but I haven't had a problem finding a place to stay. The Kalers gave me a new computer. The Lights let me have the run of their store for new clothes, so I'm actually dressed better than I used to be. I can go into any of a dozen restaurants and cafes for free meals, though I only plan to take advantage of that until Clemm starts paying me for my idea. The Glass family actually runs a rooming house, and they gave me the best room in the place for saving their little darling.

Said little darling, Ausonius, is sitting on the front steps when I come around the corner, and he jumps up, smiling. It's a strange expression, since he's got a shrapnel cut running from the bridge of his nose to his ear. It just missed his eye, and he looks weirdly stitched together. "Did you see the president?" he asks. "Did he see you? Did you say about the Games?"

"Yes. To all three." I go up the stairs. There's a pile of dead bugs next to where Ausonius was sitting, several of them are burned up against the wall, apparently having been backed into the corner. A magnifying glass is dropped carelessly in the dust. "Science experiments?" I ask, though I know the answer. Ausonius's "science experiments" have led to a precipitous drop in the vermin population of the neighborhood, and the disgusting little brat just keeps doing them.

He nods enthusiastically. "You have to burn all the way through the shell before they make sounds. Then they make this chittering sound like…" He clicks his tongue repeatedly, then smiles again. "You should see them squirm."

As I just made the president of Panem squirm, I'm not all that concerned about green-striped beetles, but I make the right sounds. Ausonius is always deeply pleased when I praise him, and it's gotten me a good room at the moment.

I unlock the door with the thumbprint pad and let myself in. Ausonius trails behind me, looking at my growing stash of belongings with admiration. He heads over to my window, where I've put a small rosebush that was given to me by the Strong family. Unlike most of the things I've acquired, I actually appreciate the rosebush. It lives in a deep pot that will let it grow for a while, and hopefully, by the time it outgrows its home, I'll have a nice salary and a house with a yard. I don't know why, exactly, it pleases me, but I spend a little time every night spritzing it and pruning it when it's necessary.

Ausonius goes over to it and yanks on one of its leaves.

I pinch his wrist and move his hand. "You wouldn't like it if someone pulled your fingers off, would you?"

He shakes his head rapidly, staring up at me with fear. "No! No. I only wanted to see if the leaves were sharp."

"The leaves aren't sharp. But wrap your hand around the stem and give it a squeeze."

He actually does it. I see blood come out around his fist, but he doesn't cry out. "Sharp," he says.

"Let go now."

He lets go, like a robot with a new order. There are four puncture wounds in his hand, and they are bleeding brightly.

I go to the bathroom and get the small medicine kit from under the sink. Everyone is supposed to have first aid supplies, in case of attack, but this one isn't exactly state of the art. It has a few bandages and an anti-bacterial ointment, though, which I bring out. I bandage up Ausonius's hand while he blinks at me reverently. When I finish, he holds up his hand, and I realize with a wave of revulsion that he expects me to kiss it. I don't indulge him. Instead, I stand up and turn on the television.

Ausonius doesn't pout for long. After a few minutes, he comes over and perches on the back of the sofa behind me.

"…and it is believed that this final stronghold in District Eleven is the last of the rebel holdouts," a reporter says, standing in front of a burning barn with a grim expression on her face. "Our nightmare is finally over."

"I have nightmares," Ausonius says.

"Everyone does," I assure him, though I can't think of any that I've had. As to the national nightmare, the news crews have declared it "over" at least six times since the bombing of District Thirteen, and everyone on the street still looks like they haven't been getting much sleep.

"Once, there was a giant monster, and it was eating up the whole Capitol."


"But then you were there, and you told it that it had to leave us alone! And you made it blow itself up!"

"How clever of me."

"You went right up to it and kicked it in the face, then you strangled it."

"Before or after it blew up?"

"Before. After, it was just big gross globs of meat."

"Did we make a barbeque of it?"

"You can't eat a monster!"

I shrug. "Why not? Meat's meat."

On television, they're showing scenes from the war again. Mostly, it's the end of things. In Four, the people set the rebellion headquarters to the torch before the war even ended, and now, they're trying to convince everyone that the plan wasn't to do the same thing to the Panem building. In Eight, there's no such effort. They're just getting back to work, switching the textile factories to Capitol interests. In Twelve, they show an impossibly old-looking man being loaded onto a truck and taken into the city from the acres of farmland he let the rebellion use. The fields and his house are set to the flame. It's a big expanse of land.

I can put new houses there, I think out of nowhere. All that good land. It'll be for whoever wins the Games. They'll be rich. That will make them play harder. And everyone will hate them for using the old man's land, and think that they only killed other children to get rich.

I'm not sure if it's a good idea yet, but I grab my notepad and scribble it down. It's better, after all, if people have a local target for any frustrations they may have. It will keep them out of the Capitol.

"What's that?" Ausonius asks.

"I just thought of a prize for the Games."

"District people shouldn't get prizes," Ausonius said. "District people are bad."

"The stupid ones won't play without a prize."

He frowns. "Isn't it smart people who want a prize?"

"No. Smart people play games to win them. Winning is the prize. Smart people play for the sake of playing. They play for the love of the game."

"Even district people won't love it when they have to die."

"The smart ones will think they can live. They'll play better. They'll love it. They'll hate themselves for loving it. And we won't have to worry about them doing anything else."

Ausonius thinks about this. "Will the one that lives just keep playing every year until he dies?"

I consider this closely. The notion of putting the winners in the games over and over hadn't really occurred to me before. It's worth thinking about, but I think it would be better if they move on, and play with the new contestants like chess pieces.

It won't work at first. We'll have to get a good handful of winners before I can make that happen. But I store it away in my skull for future reference. Or maybe they can keep playing until they age out, and if anyone survives every year, then he gets a house.

I discard that idea. We'll need winners right away. The Capitol will grow bored with vengeance soon. If we don't hurry up the first Games, they'll be bored before we start. So we'll need to have winners with interesting stories as soon as possible. No waiting around for a series of tests. It'll have to be a single Games for each winner.

"I think we'll just make them coaches," I tell Ausonius. "Like when I coached your baseball team after I did well playing."

He nods wisely and presses at his bandage. A bloom of blood comes up and makes a pattern on the cloth.

A house, I think. And a chance at a higher level of game play. And money. There has to be money. Not a lump sum. A salary, something that comes regularly, so they'll never burn out like the actors we sometimes see on television, who fritter away big contracts and are so flaky that they never get regular work again, and die penniless. No, our Games winners will always have money. No one else will. That will keep them as permanent local targets.

It'll take some doing, but I think I can get people to fund a trust for it, if I can sell it right.

The news ends, and I let Ausonius switch to a children's show. He keeps pressing blood spots into his bandages while an animated coyote sings a song about how the captain is a friend, and he'll protect you to the end, and an ear he'll always lend. It skips that your money, he'll always spend, and your sister's panties, he's likely to rend, but I've seen these guys in action, so I fill in the subtext on my own.

Mrs. Glass comes to pick up Ausonius for supper and invites me, but I say no. I have work to do, and I'd rather be alone. I call one of the restaurants that gives me food and ask them to send over whatever their special is today, and I get my notes back out.

My presentation from earlier was incomplete. There are so many more things I can do with the Games.

I spend the next three days thinking of prizes and incentives, and different twists I can put on the rules when it's warranted. Every five years, maybe.

No, ten. Maybe even twenty-five. I'll run out of ideas too quickly if it's only every five.

I start making lists of what we'll need as time goes on. Most of it, I won't share right away. There's a lot of cost, and it will take some doing to secure the basics. No need to alarm the legislature just yet. If I know Clemm, he's planning to disband that body soon enough, anyway.

The call comes in the next Wednesday morning, while I'm going through the motions of my physics class. My new school is a public monstrosity, and I did most of this work two years ago. A presidential guard arrives at school, and I'm escorted out of the classroom.

The car he brings me to coasts through the less damaged streets, finally slowing down as we get to the unrepaired area near the Capitol buildings. The car dips into an underground parking structure, and then I'm led over to an elevator.

Neither the guard nor the driver speaks to me through any of it.

The elevator rises for what seems like a long time, and I'm not remotely surprised when the doors open and I find myself on the top floor of the Capitol's Panem Building, looking down over the city. I can see the lake and the bright white salt flats beyond it.

Antonius Clemm is standing behind a large wooden desk, looking at the same view, until he hears us. He turns and waves off the guard.

"But sir…" the guard says.

"Oh, Coriolanus and I understand each other," Clemm says. "I'm in no danger right now. He has a long future in front of him, and he won't want it tainted with an unexplained assassination."

With obvious misgivings, the guard goes back into the elevator.

Clemm waits to see the numbers start to go down and says, with some admiration, "You really are a little psychopath, aren't you?"

"That's never come up on my tests," I tell him.

"Of course it has. No one told you, because it would hardly be useful information for you to have, but I assure you, until yesterday, your file was very clear on the subject."

"And what happened yesterday?"

"I decided to appoint you to my government. Welcome to your brand new office. Luckily, none of the people who did your tests are alive. The three who hadn't yet died in the war were in the Green Tower. You have the luck of the devil, you know."

I don't answer.

"At any rate," he says, "I decided it would be disadvantageous for my new Head Gamemaker to have that particular label. I removed it -- and all of the information pertinent to it -- before the file was reviewed. I didn't destroy it, though, and I highly recommend that you remember that I have it. It would be a shame if it were suddenly found."

I don't complain about this. He probably considers it fair payback for my own leverage. It does seem like a fair enough rule. "So why did you put me in this office? Why not just steal my idea?"

"Because I'm quite sure that you're refining it even as we speak, and will continue to work on it creatively. There's nothing you love more than the game, is there? Or anything else you love at all."

I shrug. "So, they decided to go with it."

"It took some doing."

"And will the districts sign the treaty?"

"I don't intend to give them much room to negotiate. They can agree to it, or they can be firebombed." He glances out the window, at a formation of hovercrafts coming in over the lake. "So, as far as I'm concerned, it's done."

"Why did you do it?"

"Because you're right about the image. And besides, how many other countries have managed to turn a profit on post war vengeance? Once we get this going, it will be a never-ending source of revenue. As a matter of fact, I want you to make it one of your first orders of business to insert revenue-generating aspects to the Games."

"From the districts?"

"Where would the districts get it? The districts will provide the players. But the money will almost certainly come from Capitolites. Get as much of it as you can."

I nod. It hadn't occurred to me. I rarely think about money. But he's right. We make money from the Games, and then we plow it right back into the next Games. That will take care of my more outlandish ideas. I'll start with the donations to the winners' trust fund and get people invested with that. There can be betting and parties and sideshows. Maybe I'll think of a way to get them to just send in money directly to the Games. Nothing generates devotion to something quite like paying for it.

Clemm looks at me with great, undisguised distaste. "You really are a monster, you know."

"Then I should fit right in."

He nods and goes to the elevator.

I get to work before the doors even open.

The End
15 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 15th, 2015 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)


Your ability to get inside the head of so many different characters with different motivations and beliefs never ceases to astound.

His love of competitve sports certainly makes sense of some of Snow's motivations, and his self-assured genius takes care of the rest. I guess he figured that he knew how to play the crowd better than anyone else and that's why he hated (and was so honest with) people like Haymitch who also got the big picture, and Katniss who got the same hero-worship symbol status.

I've written about how I think the Careers started, but I'd love to see your take on that as well. Also, can't wait for more of the Big Empty should it start flowing again.

One quick typo if you're going to archive:

I unlike the door with the thumbprint pad and let myself in.

should be unlock

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: wow

Heh -- blast social media for breaking the spellcheck! :D (ETA, well, grammar-check, anyway. It really shouldn't have been a verb!)

So much of what Snow does doesn't make a lot of sense, it occurred to me that the Games themselves might be his tender point, which would explain why messing with their machinery would cause him to do stupid things.

The odd thing is, I think he doesn't actually hate Haymitch or Katniss or Peeta. I think he understands them as individuals better than he understands most people. He may even think of them, on some level, as equals.

Edited at 2015-12-15 04:39 am (UTC)
From: queen_bellatrix Date: December 15th, 2015 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Man, I thought Snow playing with legos was about as bad as my Snow-related trauma could get, but then, there's this. Which's to say: this's very, very good. I want to have a second read to catch all the nuances--and if you want to Archive, I can have a gander at grabbing some of the typos?--but yeah, this sets so much stuff up. Like, as rebellious as Haymitch was, in certain ways, he was just playing into what that bastard knew smart people would do. And he used Pappy Angus's land; that makes me irrationally angry as an Abbernathy family enthusiast, despite knowing there's much worse stuff to get angry at.

And this "relationship" he has with Glass. Gods, that's creepy. Not so much the adoration, because we always knew Glass had Snow adoration issues that wouldn't have been healthy even if Snow weren't insane...but the way Glass's twisted little mind feeds into the worst of Snow's ideas, even as he remains firmly in control of the relationship. (And I have to applaud you for getting the psych dynamics spot-on with them, because psychopaths traditionally either look for people they can dominate/protect, in some twisted way, or form alliances with--as best I understand it, the need for protection stems more from their "protective" abilities displaying their ultimate power in the relationship, rather than y'know normal protective reactions--so someone who he can always be in control of but that serves as a sorta subordinant partner in crime; so much set-up for everything they become right here.

And then Glass y'know killing bugs; that's way too Glassish a thing to do. (Before I get off Glass, was he in love with Snow, before the whole hand-smashing, in your head? Because there feels like a massive childhood crush developing, but I can't tell if it's just platonic hero-worship stuff, and we do know he's...open to alternative sexuality, even if it's in a very disturbing fashion.

But yeah, just a really fabulous character study--I'll get into more of this on my second read, but you did a marvelous job making the entire way Snow views the world just slightly off; it almost sounds reasonable for a minute, and then he comes out with some off-the-wall observation, and you remember that you're not in the head of a sane person by any stretch of the imagination.

(Btw, I owe you an apology for just vanishing for the last few NP Chapters. Life's just been...really difficult for this last little stretch, but things're getting better, so I'll try and be about more. Though I entirely sympathise with your exhaustion over editing--editing stuff you've already crafted is probably my least favorite part of writing. You're enriching it so much, but that doesn't make it go any faster.:) And yay for more "Big Empty" I for one most definitely haven't forgotten, though I can't speak for anyone else. ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
At least Haymitch gets the land back later, and Pappy'd probably approve of it being the site to launch the rebuilding of Twelve. But yes, tormenting an old man for no reason is infuriating. It's not like he donated it for Thirteen's use, either; they'd already taken it out from under him. But at least they let him stay on it!

Glass. Hmm. I think he has an almost religious devotion to Snow, and would do anything asked of him, including sex, but I don't think there's a real erotic core to the worship. It would be more of a desire to submit himself totally in whatever way happened to be required. Later, of course, he used it to force Snow's enemies to submit.

Sorry your life has been difficult -- that just sucks. Glad it's getting better.

I don't mind the editing so much, but it's been a bit of a slog lately.

I just have to figure out how to get back into Big Empty.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: December 15th, 2015 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I like it, in a really disturbing kind of way. I mean, I can see why he thinks it makes sense and that freaks me out a little. I did like the backstory behind his name -- there's a touch of Tom Riddle about Snow's history, isn't there? Except there's more a sense of him being himself and not being doomed by his prehistory (I didn't really love the Riddle thing where it's implied that he's evil because he was conceived through deception). Do you have any head canon on Snow's birth parents and why he was left on the doorstep?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 05:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't really have a head-canon on it, no. Maybe his father was of some importance and his mother wasn't, and she had the baby against his wishes? Or they were a well-to-do couple who just didn't want a baby? I have a doorstop-baby ancestor (not a psychopath, as far as I know), and there's just no way to get past it, or at least there hasn't been so far. Basically, Snow is just someone who creates himself.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 15th, 2015 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)


It is a bit off-topic, but I was wondering if you were going to incorporate some of the new canon-information into your older fics? For example, you have Johanna winning the 69th games; she actually won the 71st games. Augustus Braun won the 67th games, etc.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 15th, 2015 06:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Question

Also, the "Green Tower Incident"...there has been some inconsistency. In some works, the number seems to be around 500 (explicitly stated here, and in another I think Glass said equal to 20 years of games deaths). But in another, Snow says the HG have only killed a fraction of the number lost in the Green Tower.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Question

I'll have to find the Snow line. He could have been messing with Haymitch, or I may not have been thinking of the result of the shrinking population in regard to school sizes. ;p Or maybe Snow was thinking about everyone, not just the school?

(AKA, yup, screwed that up.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 06:58 am (UTC) (Link)

RE: Question

I rarely pay attention to non book info, and my 'verse is almost done. I'm not planning, particularly to make major changes -- I honestly don't know the source of those, I'm so bad at keeping up with random fan keep up!
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 15th, 2015 07:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Question

It was on the Hunger Games Wikia. Might be movie-inspired; something Lionsgate put out.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: December 15th, 2015 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)
You have never forgotten that Hunger Games is, first and foremost, about the power of narrative. And there's some seriously good stuff in here. Obviously the refusal of help comes first, but I think it's fascinating how the way the Games producers kind of drifted into a ratings-blitz mentality just completely wrecked the idea Snow was developing here.

And some of Snow's narratives are pretty freaking familiar, aren't they? Death-oriented utilitarianism. A clinical and materialistic, if not overtly revolted, view of pretty much every deep human interaction. You hit first, for a certain definition of "first", and I am never ever going to forgive you.

Talking of narrative, I had the chance to see Disney's Tomorrowland as an in-flight movie not long ago, and I was seriously driven to tears by it. Chiefly during the happy bits. And then I came to the reviews and found that every single one of them, "fresh" or "rotten", aggressively missed the point to an extent where you have to wonder if the evil MacGuffin is an actual thing. I had the false memory that you had a review of it on Elements of Fiction. But if you haven't seen it, it's precisely your bag and please do.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
That meta narrative about narrative is really what makes the thing tick. The other books I've seen it compared to don't seem to hit that mark at all. (Though I just had the terrifying notion of Jack Merridew from LotF trying to work the island narrative back home. It was part of one of my first fanfics -- an English class assignment about the boys at home, and Ralph comes out of private life when he finds out Jack is running for office -- but I was fourteen and didn't know much about the subject.)

At least Katniss outgrows her incipient psychopathy. Snow grows into it!
redrikki From: redrikki Date: December 15th, 2015 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
"You really are a monster, you know."

"Then I should fit right in."

You had a lot of different monsters on display in this. Snow is the obvious one, but then you had sadistic little glass, the greedy president, and the man only concerned with his fellow human beings as it relates to genetic diversity. Some of them, like Snow, are born psychopaths, but others seemed to have learned to be awful by having their worst instincts encouraged and indulged.

Someone else mentioned that Snow's backstory is very Tom Riddle, but I was struck by the same thing reading this.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2015 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Riddle never occurred to me while I was writing, but I can see it. He's slipped into my skull as an archetype, I guess. Either that, or I'm a Horcrux. ;p

I was tempted to put someone less monstrous in, but I guess, in the Capitol, that was the time the monsters were on the rise.
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