ZERO :: the Fool (annwyd) wrote,
ZERO :: the Fool

on my new fandom.

It has been a truism for years now that I only really get involved in fandoms for works originating in Japan: anime, manga, and video games. I can like Western-made works just fine (look at how I felt and still feel about The Wire), but I don't get involved in fandom for them. I definitely don't get involved in fandom for prose novels, especially. I don't know. Writing fanfiction for books just feels weird.

Or it did. Then Suzanne Collins's the Hunger Games trilogy came along and barged into my life. Now I'm in a fandom for a young adult series, sharing it with Twilight fans and crazed shippers. What happened?

To start with, the books are actually decent. They're not perfect: there are gaps in the characterization and the pacing, there are missed opportunities, they could have used a firmer editor's hand, I won't deny these things. But they're engaging, and the central character, Katniss Everdeen, is complex, well-characterized, and a joy to read about. There's solid symbolism and coherent, reasonably complex themes throughout.

That's just a basis, though. I mean, Diana Wynne Jones writes better books, and I enjoy them, but I don't write fanfiction for them or get involved with the fandom. The real issue here is how these books grab me. In a lot of ways, they could have been written for me. I love to imagine and read about sympathetic characters struggling through pointless cruelty inflicted upon them by cruel authority figures. That's pretty much the entire basis of the trilogy, so I'm sold right there. It grips my id directly. This is the kind of world I might have made up. Speaking of which, it appeals to my setting kinks as well as my narrative ones. I love the worldbuilding. It's post-apocalyptic, with a messed-up new society rising out of the ashes of the messed-up old one. I love that shit. I love the society Collins sets up for its cruelty and its depth. I want to explore it more.

Another thing that hooked me and reeled me in: from Peeta's introduction, I was invested in his relationship with Katniss. It hits several of my relationship kinks and manages to be messed-up while still making both of them look sympathetic. I don't usually ship in books, but this one got me going enough that I did. Which made me want to keep reading more than ever. Sounds shallow, I know, but their relationship is a vital part of the story Collins has told, and being invested in it would boost anyone's enjoyment of the books.

Then there's the actual writing style. It's not that it's particularly brilliant, most of the time. In fact, some would consider it very gimmicky: first-person, present tense. But the thing about that is it's easy to emulate, and, I realize now, that's normally what keeps me from writing fanfiction of books: I feel like I should mimic the author's style, but can't quite do it. Here, it's easy to imitate enough that I feel comfortable writing while still bringing my own style to the table.

The books also leave me with a lot of things I want to write about. I'm not at all dissatisfied with the ending; in fact, I thought it was pretty much perfect. But where most books that I really enjoy leave me with the feeling that the story has been told, this one leaves me thinking that there's still lots left to fill in. And the characters are allowed to keep their damage. There's no magic cure. They find some happiness while still being broken. So I'm left with a satisfying ending and damaged people to write about. And I love reading and writing about damaged people.

So really, it boils down to this: these are reasonably good books that hit my darkest narrative kinks, grip me with their characters, and leave me lots to expand upon. There's also an active fandom, even if it is full of Twilight fans. So out comes the fanfiction.

But do I recommend these books? Well, yes, because I want more people to get involved and enjoy them with me. But I won't claim that they're perfect or near-perfect--they just appeal to me a lot. Whether they'll appeal to you depends on if you share my interest in dark stories, tales of trauma and violence, exploration of the consequences of that trauma and violence, and damaged characters. On the other hand, it involves a lot of harm to adolescents and references to torture, so for some people it might be triggering. I don't think this makes it bad, though, because Collins includes these things for a reason and addresses the horror of them in the text.

For the record, my favorite of the three books is Mockingjay (the third), followed by The Hunger Games (the first), with Catching Fire trailing in third.
Tags: books, the hunger games

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