Each season we announce our new titles individually, each in their own post, to give you a little extra background behind the book. If you’ve missed any, you can check them all out here. All of Fall 2012”²s intro posts are here.
For The Panem Companion, our latest companion book, on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (from Mellark Bakery to Mockingjays), we’ve asked the book’s author, V. Arrow, to write the intro post. Read her thoughts on writing The Panem Companion below! And don’t forget, you can sign up on the book page to get a free excerpt.
If I had known that staying up until 3 a.m. with a carton of ice cream to talk to my best friend about The Hunger Games could lead to a book deal, a speaking gig at GeekGirlCon 2012, and an appearance in Entertainment Weekly, I would have . . . well, lived my life exactly as I always have. But it was an unexpected, and amazing, confirmation that fandom has gravitas and importance in the way that its fans interact with media, and the world, around them. Around us, since I am one!
Part of what I wanted to focus on most with The Panem Companion, then, was making sure that it applies to Hunger Games fandom, and not just casual readers of the series. Hunger Games fans already know the series’ most basic symbols and allegories, and already spend their time discussing where the districts might be or who might live there. The fandom concerns itself not just with where Katniss and Peeta’s shared life goes after Mockingjay, but where they came from before the series, in the time before Katniss’ narration begins and outside of the scope of her narrow first-person account of life in District 12. I didn’t want to interact with such deep and engaged thinkers, be a part of their dialogue, and then turn around and give them a broad book of information they’ve already discussed to District 4 and back again.
The topics in The Panem Companion are nitty gritty. They delve into single lines of text–or possible meanings behind them, different readings of those lines, different meanings behind those meanings. I looked at characters that not only the movies cut out, but so do most reviews and analyses. (Rooba, anyone? Martin from District 11?) And most importantly, The Panem Companion seeks to look at just why the fandom for the Hunger Games is as affected and engaged as it is: how is the Hunger Games, such a bleak and post-apocalyptic story of violence, connected to the contemporary real world of its fans?
Of course, this depth doesn’t apply only to Hunger Games fans who really want to talk about why, exactly, “crying is not an option” on camera for Katniss Everdeen. The connection between the Hunger Games series and our own world is written into the fabric of its very inception, when Suzanne Collins was struck with inspiration while flipping back and forth between Iraq War coverage and a reality television competition. We live in a world where the realism of reality is degraded more and more by the mixing of fiction and nonfiction media, and, like the Capitol viewers captivated by Katniss and Peeta’s thrilling love story, we may not know where truth ends and fantasy begins. When that dissonance is coupled with adrenaline heightening violence, exploitative sexual content, and reliance on stereotyping, it’s easy to see how harmless Ryan Seacrest could morph into Caesar Flickerman or Peter Dickson could be replaced by Claudius Templesmith!
I can’t speak to Suzanne Collins’ motivations in writing the Hunger Games, but I can speak to how it affected me as a fan–and that is what The Panem Companion stems from. If the Hunger Games had not inspired my friend Meg and myself to wonder exactly what happened to North America to create the districts themselves, I would have been less likely to wonder what happened in all those districts Katniss doesn’t visit in the canon text. And if I hadn’t been driven to learn more about Katniss’ world, I would know far less about my own.