Welcome to District 10, where we handle all of your ranching and dairy needs! We’re here to celebrate V. Arrow’s release of The Panem Companion, and to mark the occasion, we will be giving away a copy of the book, and scored a brief, exclusive interview with the author!
To win a copy of the book (sorry to trans-oceanic Mockingjays, shipping is within the U.S. and Canada only), just leave a comment to this post, and your name will be put in a ridiculous looking hat from The Capitol. Comment quick, though, because our drawing will be done on December 12th.
Below is our exclusive interview with V. Arrow, as well as the District 10 excerpt from the book. Good luck to all contest entrants, and if you don’t win, be sure to get your hands on this book. You’ll be surprised by how much you didn’t know about the beloved series.
Interview with V. Arrow:
1. What compelled you to write The Panem Companion?
I have a lot of passion for, and belief in, fan communities and the intelligence and nuance that they really bring out in looking at various forms of media. I think it’s really unfair, too, that fandom and fan communities are pretty summarily dismissed by the mainstream, or even by the “nerd zeitgeist,” when they center on a popular phenomenon like The Hunger Games (or Twilight or boy bands or YA lit in general or what have you), because the amount of care that fans put into discussing their media and transforming it via fan-works is really, really incredible and a thing that should be celebrated. So I’m really sick of fan guides that just explain basic concepts and act like fans haven’t already realized that Katniss, Peeta, and Gale were a love triangle!
2. What was the most challenging part in writing the book?
Probably organizing my ideas enough… I have a habit of jumping from Point A to Point F and assuming that people can see into my head to connect the dots, when of course they can’t, haha! I had to rewrite a few of the chapters many, many times before I’d finally explained the actual extrapolations sufficiently.
3. If you had to pick, which chapter are you most excited for readers to dive into, and why?
I’m really excited about the Gender, Sexuality, and Exploitation chapter, just because it was fascinating and horrifying to really research into how our own contemporary reality TV is reflected by Katniss- and Peeta’s Games strategy and Plutarch’s attitudes. But I also really love the chapters about District 4, District 11, and Cinna!
4. What is your personal favorite of the three books in The Hunger Games trilogy?
Catching Fire! It’s actually what helped me narrow down what I wanted The Panem Companion to be about, since TPC is about *Panem itself* and we get to see the most parts of the country and its people in Catching Fire, as opposed to The Hunger Games and Mockingjay. I loved reading about the Victory Tour and I LOVED all of the Quell tribute characters!
5. What do you hope readers come away with most after reading The Panem Companion?
For readers who aren’t or have not been involved with fandom(s) in the past, I’d love for them to come away with maybe more appreciation for how much thought and care and discourse really goes on in fan media and fan-works, because I do think that fandom can be a sort of insular world that looks… maybe facile or silly to outsiders when really, like I said, I think it’s a hugely empowering and important subculture. For fans of The Hunger Games, I just hope that I wrote something they haven’t already discussed themselves and that they have something new to debate with each other!
District 10 – Excerpt from The Panem Companion by V. Arrow:
“The obvious exception, at least outwardly, to the aromantic tone of the series is the ‘love triangle’ between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. It’s important to address this up front because, though sex and gender may play a pivotal role in the trilogy and in Panem, that role has nothing to do with the Katniss-Peeta-Gale story—which is not really a ‘love’ triangle at all.
“The most frequent understanding of the Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle is purely allegorical. Katniss, at the precipice of inevitable war and experiencing her first true chance to make affecting choices, must choose between Peeta, representing noble intentions, and Gale, representing revenge. At the time of The Hunger Games’ writing, the United States was three years into the war in Iraq and just learning that Iraq did not in fact possess weapons of mass destruction. Justification for warfare was a hot topic both in the media and among US citizens.
“Although it could be argued that the ‘love triangle’ is both an allegory and a true narrative love triangle, that is still not quite true. For the story to have been a real love triangle, Katniss would need to be in love with both Peeta and Gale, or at least romantically or sexually involved with both men. She isn’t.”
Panem Names glossary excerpt:
Dalton, District 10 Refugee to District 13 who specializes in genetic manipulation
“Dalton means from the valley town. He may be named for Sir Howard Dalton, a British geneticist who died in 2008—approximately during the writing of Mockingjay, in which the Hunger Games’ Dalton appears.”
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to review a copy of The Panem Companion by V. Arrow (available on sale December 2012 via Smart Pop Books). This in an extensively researched book; I was surprised to see the lengths the author took in researching details to which I never gave a second thought. Did you ever wonder what the meaning was behind every single last character’s name? If so, get this book. My compliments to V. Arrow in putting forth so many investigative hours to present a book to the public that will bring new depth and meaning to die-hard fans of the series. It also gave me a renewed respect for Suzanne Collins, who clearly put a lot more thought into particulars than the general public realizes.
This book is definitely for that exact demographic: the intense fans who can’t get enough of The Hunger Games series. If you do not fall within that group, it can be a bit monotonous in areas. Knowing, however, that it was written for those who want to know more about the world Katniss lives in, it does a great job illuminating details one might otherwise miss while reading the books simply for entertainment.
I’ll get the bad out of the way first. At times I felt it was stretching to look for weathered injustices such as racism, sexism, and anti-gay elements in The Hunger Games series. Obviously there are injustices in the Panem, that is sort of the whole point. But with anything in life, if one is trying to look for inequality in every corner, a person will probably be able to find it… even if said prejudices are not really there. For example: the book delves into gender role reversal in an interesting way, yet over-simplifies it. Is there anyone who really thinks completely in black and white about male and female roles or traits anymore? Who does not know a man with a few feminine qualities, or likewise, a woman who is good at traditionally “male” skills?
Now the good: I never even thought about some of the fascinating elements that are scrutinized such as a compelling look at the strong possibility of Peeta and Prim being half-siblings. (Yeah, I know… say what?!) Annie Cresta’s character study was also intriguing and well-researched; and of course, the mapping of Panem is something fans will likely adore. It’s one of the more interesting aspects of the series, and yet in some ways, one of the most underdeveloped. It also sheds light on our current reality television in a way that most people are not currently aware of. You may have the general sense that reality TV is “garbage” or a guilty pleasure, but it gives hard information on the contracts that reality stars are required to sign, therefore revealing the darker side of our own current “reality” entertainment. It makes the reader think twice about what they chose to watch after reading the book.
Overall, it’s an informative and well-researched analysis of the world Collins created, and an exploration into some of the parallels between Panem and our current society. I give it a strong four out of five stars.