The Vanciana Suffusing "The Hunger Games" (1/3)

The Vanciana Suffusing “The Hunger Games”

Copyright By

Michael S. Friedli, July 2012

I’ve been an ardent Jack Vance fan all my adult life, having first encountering him in the 60’s as an adolescent. I’ve been an avid gatherer of all his works. I cannot help but re-read his novels and stories from earliest to last, including his wonderful mysteries, all of which I find reliably improve upon each re-reading, as is nearly universally appreciated by Vance fans.

I went to a recent new movie, The Hunger Games, and found I was compelled to go again the next week, then again, and irresistibly again, which after almost three months came to an astonishing attendance of six times! (Earnestly chagrined & dumbfounded as I am to admit: five times in eight weeks, then I read the books, then re-saw the movie a sixth time from that vantage). Never before in my life have I done this at any pay-ticket Cineplex, no matter what movie! (And The Hunger Games stayed in theaters for an uncommonly long duration due to its record-breaking strong draw.) Wow, I was hooked. (Each time I’d attended with my wife, who primarily, I hazard, was humoring me and being a good sport, though she did confide she enjoyed each viewing as well. When it comes to films she is wiltingly frank.)

For a lifelong and devoted Vance fan, what on Old Earth or the Gaean Reach had smitten me?!? What was the inexorable attractive pull exerted by this movie? (A bewitchment as if by Melancthe?) After some mulling it hit me: what I was watching on the screen was, to me, effectively a “Vance novel” brought the cinema!; that, if there were ever to be a movie loyal to a major Vance novel, then it would run very much like this one that had so captured me. So The Hunger Games was for me standing in as a Vance novel made faithfully into a movie, one I so fervidly would love to watch, and a movie, in light of the phenomenally enormous popularity of the The Hunger Games, to yield Vance the wider recognition and standing that his contemporaneous authors – such as Frank Herbert and Phillip K. Dick – have long been accorded.

Obviously this is my subjective take, and naturally others will not think so. Permit me, then, to cover the many amazing concordances I perceive within The Hunger Games that relate to various Vance works. Note: I’m referring predominantly to the cinematic version of The Hunger Games, particularly various interpretive effects offered on the ‘big screen’, not necessarily the book of same title it was based upon, nor “The Hunger Games” as the 3-book series; if I refer to the books I shall specify them and cite a page number. Notwithstanding my film focus, I understand the filmmakers conscientiously endeavored to be faithful to the first book, and thus many concordances are properly grounded by it. (It goes without saying that such fidelity is something we emphatically would hope for any prospective Vance movie; this film, along with Peter Jackson’s LOTR, is attestation that the film industry is capable – within the constraints of film – of honoring a fandom.)

At the outset, I perceive three general qualities of the film The Hunger Games in common with Vance works, the first two of which (and they are my layman precepts) cannot be described in any way that’s as enticing as it is to experience. First is FLOW: I find that Vance stories, from the short to novelette to full novel, possess a most marvelous flow – something Vance is specifically praised for – that carries the reader smoothly, effortlessly along the storyline, commencing from the first page and thriving until the finis. It is seamless pacing. It is cantabile. As a lifelong Vance reader, I find a very akin fluidity in watching The Hunger Games movie. Having viewed it in the theater six times, I cannot yet pin-point, for me, a ‘slow moment’ unlike nearly every other movie I’ve ever watched. (I found this is definitely not true of the book, to which I’ll return below.)

Second is TRANSPORT: Vance’s fiction is brilliant in its ability to transport the reader into the fully visualized worlds & cultures he invents. This entrancement, again, is something Vance is celebrated for. Similarly, each of the multiple times I’ve watched The Hunger Games I’ve found myself (as did my wife) wholly transported into the fetching storyline & world on the screen. It is transport without lapse or merest crack in believability, and has the same quality, for me, as when I’m transported within a Vance story. No wonder I got hooked.

Third is a closeness of APPROACH: the film keeps us close to the experiences of the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. There is a magnificence of craft in the way scenes are blocked and then edited together, and with particular care for tight close-ups. We find ourselves enticed to feel her experiences. The many fragmentary hand-held shots convey strong subjectivity. There is a linear cast. The movie thereby is imbued with a naturalistic quality. This feeling exactly corresponds with reading a Vance book, for Vance’s approach bestows always this same naturalism. It is similarly experiential. There is often a raw physicality, just as in this film. And while Vance can masterfully present intellectual dialogue (often with the wittily wry inflection of P. G. Wodehouse to boot) – and Vance is no ideologue but venerates to fairly present many perspectives – he artfully refrains from cerebral exposition.

A separate and more objective factor is the primacy of HUMAN FOCUS: A well-recognized characteristic of Vance’s speculative fiction is his giving prominence to a human story, while setting most aspects of “hard” science-fiction into the story’s environment – to serve more as background, albeit still wholly fascinating. The movie, to me, has very much this same emphasis and balance: human ordeal has the main focus while the future-world itself remains subordinated. As an exception, the futuristic technology for the Game Controllers (which is not in the book) is created in the film with glitzy computer graphics, as is typical for movies (being visual media), and this is afforded some splashes of obvious focus by the film. However, and this subtle aspect is important, as the ordeal of the heroine’s fight for survival unfolds, the movie takes precious time to show many Game Controllers becoming absorbed in watching her (for example with Peeta at their budding romance), now drawn away and distracted from their extravagant computer terminals (even if to no observable ill effect). I suggest that this is precisely something that exemplifies this Vancesque mode – it stands emblematic of the emphasis on human story prevailing over snazzy contrivances of technology – and counts as one of many instances that make this movie resonate with its Vancian feel. (Again, this digression of Game technicians toward the human drama is absent in the book, for from the novel’s first-person stance Katniss would have no way of knowing.)

At a more global level, one can also see parity of the film with Vancian categorema. Jack Vance, as all his fans know well, relishes often to mete out his prolific imagination into two modal regimes (among other formulations!), which, since they may overlap naturally, are both exhibited in The Hunger Games, and which hence doubly reinforce how the movie seems so much, to me, to be a Vancesque proffering. The two modalities around which Vance stories flourish are the Imperiled Individual, and the Young Adult. (Of course I intend ‘Young Adult’ in distinction from Young Adult Literature – only one book of which Vance ever published, Vandals of the Void, not to be further cited herein – but rather where ‘Young’ denotes the novitiate state for and with emphasis on ‘Adulthood’.)

Central to The Hunger Games is the pitting of an individual against immensely perilous circumstances, which assuredly are deadly. This is the situation for the film’s overwhelmed protagonist Katniss Everdeen, and it is the métier of so very much of Vance fiction, notably counting what is touted to constitute his Major Works, aside from the minor. We find the Imperiled Individual striver in The Rapparee (The Five Gold Bands), “Chateau dIf”, “Crusade to Maxus”, Gold and Iron, The Houses of Isms, Clarges, “The Augmented Agent”, The Man in the Cage, “The Moon Moth”, The Deadly Isles, The Dark Ocean, Emphyrio, the Miro Hetzel stories, the Cugel duology, the Tschai tetralogy, the Durdane trilogy, the Demon Princes pentalogy, the Alastor trilogy, Maske:Thaery, and large passages from both the Lyonesse and the Cadwal Chronicles trilogies, if not other works. That indeed is Vanciana galore!

The age of Katniss is Young Adult, a range I’d hold from the mid-twenties back to initial driving age – if you’re ‘licensed’ to drive a car I’d assess you’ve crossed into the neophyte stage of Adulthood – which in the U.S.A. is generally age 16, and that is the age of Katniss in The Hunger Games film and book 1 [p.13], age 17 in book 2, and presumptively age 18 later in book 3 (and older in the Epilogue). This also stands in significant cohesion with Vance, for refrains that concern the novice Young Adult simply abound throughout the Vance corpus. Araminta Station opens with the event of Glawen Cluttuc’s sixteenth birthday [V.39, p.9]: “The opportunities of life are now open to you! I am sure through diligence and duty you will, at the very least, arrive at the condition of noble and self-reliant manhood,” [p.37], and it preserves focus at that age for nearly 200 pages before advancing him to a next phase at age 19 [p.192]. Focus may not literally be age 16, notwithstanding Tschai’s Traz from The Chasch [V.21, p.14, “perhaps”], Lyonesse’s Tatzel introduced at age 16 [V.36, p.382, “about”] or Galatea Bethea, age 17, from The House on Lily Street [V.11, p.85]; rather, Young Adulthood is Jack’s regnancy, and Katniss’ age implicates that purview. (Emphyrio’s copious parallels will be addressed later, but Ghyl Tarvoke is only 18 [p.90] at his very tragic turning point, and he is but 20 [p.134] for his harrowing adventure.) Even if childhood and older adult phases also get reflected, Vance works that depict – or pass through as a key stage – the novice Young Adult are: The Flesh Mask, Son of the Tree, the Jean Parlier stories, Bad Ronald, The Languages of Pao, “The Miracle Workers”(crucial character Apprentice Salazar), The View From Chickweed’s Window, Space Opera, Emphyrio, The Anome, “Assault on a City”, Wyst:Alastor 1716, Maske:Thaery (beyond any idyll of ‘Yallow’), Lyonesse, Araminta Station, Night Lamp, Ports of Call/Lurulu. These books span from near the beginning of Jack’s long writing career (Flesh Mask written 1948 yet unpublished until ’57 as Take My Face) to his final “swansong” fiction duology, finished at last in 2004. The fact that Jack Vance selected Young Adulthood as a medium for his professed “swansong” culminating his distinguished career harbors real meaning. This certainly seems to be a favored mode for Vance to address, and he handles this formative age with supernacular mastery, as is well acclaimed.

But even all these factors, some admittedly diffuse generalities, cannot fully justify how The Hunger Games movie might be perceived as being credibly Vancesque, or – even step farther – as if the movie itself had been a Vance novel brought with fidelity to the screen, so let me roll up my sleeves for greater specificity.

{ Note: Vance page citations are from the VIE edition, due to its comprehensiveness and textual integrity, stating VIE’s Volume & page: “V.20, p.202” meaning Volume 20, page 202. For the Hunger Games books I rely on the Scholastic Press 2008, 2009 & 2010 hardcover editions, indicating book number as “HG.1” for the first book or “HG.3” for the third, followed by page number. }

Near the beginning of The Hunger Games film we observe the roaring flyover of a hovercraft, (it appears again in the middle of the film, stationary), and finally near the end we watch it descend as it arrives to pick up the victorious protagonists. For this third appearance, if there ever were a brief but poignant Vance image that has been artfully brought to life on the ‘big screen’, it is this from Emphyrio:

A sound from the sky startled them: a sudden high-pitched roar from a Leamas Line excursion ship, settling like a great portly duck on its suppressors. The roar became a whine as the force-field reacted with the ground, then passed beyond audibility. [V.20, p.38]

Vance’s superbly visual language “settling like a great portly duck on its suppressors” is lent a wonderful cinematic realization by this scene. (Much more on Emphyrio later.)

From the perspective of a Vance fan as myself, The Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen seems formed as if Vance stood in the deep background and his indelible influences had percolated through (said strictly metaphorically and as wild fantasy), for I find protagonist Katniss amalgamates Wayness Tamm and Adam Reith, adding a small portion of Kirth Gersen. (Vance fans might surely recall composited avatar Kul from The Green Pearl.) Like young Wayness, young Katniss is conscientious, resourceful, independent and clever, can believably feign and dissemble, yet is also genuine and lovable; she shares Wayness’ autonomy: “more often than not she preferred her own company to that of her peers” [Throy, V.41, p.23]. But this persona is heavily admixed with Adam Reith: his sheer “knack for survival” [V.21, p.413] and ability to persist once dropped into a direly hostile environment, and his talent to give impromptu inspirational speeches (“to fight off Green Chasch, perhaps hunt them down and destroy them. We are men! Never forget this!” [ibid. p.135]) along with his uncanny proclivity to topple existing hegemonies, the last two of which will be eventually very key to Katniss. She shares some attributes of Kirth Gersen from the Demon Princes novels: the essence of a hunter; and possessing expert lethal-weaponry skill (singly archery in her case), self-reliance and the wherewithal to exploit what’s at hand. (Of course, self-reliance and exploitive aptitude are shared by Reith and Tamms.) And as with all three of these famous Vance characters, Katniss is very adept in working under solitary circumstances, but again as with all three she is readily able to partner for success.

The opening scene of The Hunger Games film features Seneca Crane, Head Gamemaker (much more centrally portrayed in the film than the book), and seeing how the movie makers have ornately stylized his beard is marvelously alike to a Vance character from “Assault on a City”, although Waldo Walberg’s hairstyle is transplanted to Seneca Crane’s beard: “In accordance with the current mode, Waldo’s hair had been shorn to a stubble, then enameled glossy black, and carefully carved into a set of rakish curves, cusps, and angles.” [V.6, p.295]

(“Assault on a City” also stars a young heroine, but the privileged & confident Alice Tynnott shares little in common with deprived & insecure Katniss Everdeen; Vance’s story title was drolly set to be: The Insufferable Red-headed Daughter of Commander Tynnott, O.T.E., his preferred title, but Katniss, like Wayness, should never fairly be characterized as “insufferable”, even as a poor joke. Another strong Vance heroine, Jean Parlier, is again unlike Katniss, but interestingly Parlier’s match does appear in book 2 of “The Hunger Games” series as Tribute-Victor Johanna Mason, likewise bold, daring, & brazen, even also to stand nude.)

Anyway, in that opening scene Seneca Crane in being interviewed by Games TV Host Caesar Flickerman, he of the coiffured blue hair, and shortly we encounter as a signal trait among these Capitol citizens a very outlandish fashion consciousness: hair that is pink (Effie) and aqua (Venia) or of orange corkscrew locks (Flavius), who “applies a fresh coat of purple lipstick to his mouth” [HG.1, p. 62], as compared with Vance’s Waldo: “His teeth were enameled black; he wore silver lip-enamel” [V.6, p.295].

Beyond this, we also watch brought to life in The Hunger Games the fad of dyed skin tones, that idiosyncratic and iconic fashion hallmark of Vance’s famed Oikumene from his Demon Princes series. In the Capitol we have Octavia, “a plump woman whose entire body has been dyed a pale shade of pea green” [HG.1, p.62], and we see in the movie many examples of tinted skins, though tamped down into pastel tones, and a glittering profundity of bizarre accessories, trinkets and fashion accouterments. The movie succeeds in Captiolians not looking like clowns but as ultra-urban aesthetes, in thrall to the whims of fashion as with Octavia by HG.2: “her skin isn’t exactly pea green now. It’s more of a light evergreen. The shift in shade is no doubt an attempt to stay abreast of the capricious fashion trends of the Capitol” [HG.2, p.35]. Representative of Vance’s futuristic vision of style might be this (written in 1960) from the first Demon Princes book, The Star King:

Frivolity . . . the two girls evidently had very little else on their minds. One had dyed her hair forest green and toned her skin a delicate lettuce green. The other wore a wig of lavender metal shavings with dead-white skin toning; an elaborate cloche of silver leaves and tendrils clung to her forehead, clasped her cheeks. [V.22, p. 82]

Frivolity heralds the next Vancian facet brought to life on the screen: the Capitol city and the character of its denizens. Initially, Vance’s city Hant from aforementioned “Assault on a City” could be construed analogous, particularly given how the citizens of both cities are glaringly fashion-infatuated (Hant) or fanatically fashion-obsessed (Capitol), yet Hant hosts far more diversity than the way Capitol is portrayed in either the film or the books. Clarges, from the eponymous novel in VIE (first published as To Live Forever) and another Vance-envisioned Great City, may also come to mind: Clarges shares with the Capitol the aspects of singularity, specialness and a palpable insularity, along with a conceit of being the center of all that matters. But the inhabitants of Clarges are woefully weighed down by their striving for slope to win immortality, which, as Vance explores, in its extreme may induce a psychosis, but all quite the very opposite to frivolity. Rather, I find two Vance cities that strike an amusing concordance with Suzanne Collins’ Capitol.

Better is capitol city Avente, on Alphanor, “a planet considered the administrative node and cultural center of the Rigel Concourse” [V.22, p.52], just as the Capitol is the urban epicenter for The Hunger Games. Both cities are equally cosmopolitan; both seem to host their share of jaded sophisticates. And, just as “an hour’s walk along the Grand Esplanade at Avente will show the observer every conceivable style of human being” [ibid. p.53], Katniss discovers a similar surfeit of fashion fecundity among the Capitol people, vividly & dazzlingly depicted by the movie. Indeed, Avente is where we readers come across the two frivolous Vance lasses in lettuce green and dead-white skin tones.

Best evocative of the citizens of the Capitol are, I think, the Arrabins, Vance urbanites that exhibit cardinal parallel traits, albeit in one mode paradoxically opposite. These are the urban dwellers from Vance’s city Uncibal in the nation Arrabus from his book Wyst. Of course Arrabins are contrary to the Capitol citizens in their staunch Egalism; but Capitol people are not so much ‘elitists’ – though they certainly hold themselves superior to all their outlying District populations, just as Arrabins naively regard themselves toward other societies of the Alastor Cluster – as these Captiolians are compulsively individualistic (stressed several times in the film mainly by Caesar Flickerman). Yet we know Arrabins seek individualism too, often pathetically, such as wearing “their hair teased out into extravagant puffs and fringes, evidently to the prompting of individual whim” [V.31, p.7]. Wyst’s Jantiff confirms this as he writes home his outsider’s assessment: “Every Arrabin desperately asserts his individuality with personal tricks and fads” [p.90], eventually concluding: “I believe that as folk become urbanized, just so intensely are they individuated, not the contrary” [p.105]. If we give full credence to Jantiff’s observation and allow its expression to occur in radical appearance and attire (and as intensely individual as the Oros from “Crusade to Maxus”), we have exactly the Capitol residents of The Hunger Games.

So aside from this one paradox, propinquity between both concepts of city-dweller are these mutual traits of the populations at large (obviously with individual exceptions, such as rebel Cinna): a marked self-centeredness and self-preoccupation; a disposition to be nationally inward-looking and over-idealistic, and individually extravagant, flamboyant, mutable, superficial, feckless, frivolous, vapid, oft childlike, and prone to be disconnected from reality. As with both Clarges and the Capitol, metropolis Uncibal coequally emanates singularity, specialness, insularity and centrality.

In the film, the several brief scenes introducing us to the Capitol residents are reminiscent of not just images from the Oikumene but likewise the Alastrid Arrabins from Wyst. For instance, as the train arrives at the Capitol and Peeta waves a greeting to the gushing, wildly cheering Capitolians, we see brought to the screen this image of Arrabins: “[Jantiff saw:] men, women and a few children, in identical garments, of colors somewhat too garish for Jantiff’s taste, as if the folk were dressed for a carnival. Their faces likewise were gay; they laughed and chattered and walked jauntily” [V.31, p.38]. We need only substitute Egalistic “identical garments” for run-away individualism – but preserve “dressed for a carnival” and keep all the garish colors – and ratchet up the emotional fervor and we conjure exactly the images from The Hunger Games. We can parse this quote additionally to other brief scenes of the movie, among them instances of “they laughed and chattered” (at least two clear film vignettes) and “walked jauntily” (as flashed on Katniss’ apartment ‘window’), as if Wyst alongside the Oikumene had been consulted for filmic inspiration!

An effect of watching these Capitol denizens might reasonably bring a reaction, especially for non-readers of the books, that aligns with a theme plumbed in “Assault on a City” articulated by college student Alice: “Urbanites as explorers of inner space: i.e. — subjectivity. […] Abstraction: the work of urbanity. Vicarious experience: the life-flow of urbanity. Subjectivity: the urban mind-flow.” [V.6, p.306] Vance’s notion can be apprehended that the urban environment becomes a domain for “inversions, eccentricities, subtle sophistications” [V.20, p.234], where people are subject to “turn inward to become sybarites, voluptuaries, connoisseurs, collectors, aesthetes”, [ibid. p. 235], to purloin two quotes of Vance’s splendid language from Emphyrio, but which apply so well to what we see become realized on the ‘big screen’ in The Hunger Games. Vance’s main critique is of vicarious experience, or of living life detached from direct reality. That is one inspiration-seed of The Hunger Games. Alice’s drastic conclusion about “inversions” and “subjectivity” – even for those at the apogee of affluence – is: “Urban life is the ultimate human tragedy. […] Wealth can’t buy objectivity.” [V.6, p.337] Outwardly that is not a theme of this film – for we are free to ogle & gawk at all eccentricities paraded before us without judgment – though this harsher theme does resurface by the final book 3 of “The Hunger Games” saga (as the Capitol succumbs and we witness the tragic impuissance of its citizens). By implication, however, Alice’s severe conclusion [urban life is the ultimate human tragedy] bears some warrant even in this film, for what these Capitol inhabitants engross over each year with paroxysms of enjoyment (volubly depicted by the film) is the so-called “Game” of humans killing humans as entertainment! To this, they are not just inured, but vehemently embracing. By contrast, the preponderance of Districts (less a few) regard such Games as a cruelly enforced adversity, for they must live it directly, not vicariously.

Acerbating this vile situation, District “tributes” can be as young as age 12[!], (“That year, your name is entered once. At thirteen, twice. And so on until you reach the age of eighteen, the final year of eligibility” [HG.1, p.13]). Sanctioned and ritualized atrocity as that by this society, so feverishly celebrated by these Capitol residents (and endorsed by the few closer Districts), occasions even Anacho’s censorious view of Cath society, a human culture on planet Tschai: “This is an insane society, constrained by punctilio as a rotten egg is held by its shell” [V.21, p.292]. So while this film’s theme need not be pegged as a critique of hyper-urbanity (as in any sense explored by Vance) – though going solely by the film, which is how great multitudes encounter it (including my wife), it would seem valid to develop that reaction – the movie’s theme assuredly addresses a significant degeneracy in social morality. This, in turn, is tied ineluctably to the pitfalls of vicarious experience, and the canker on culture of this reaching normativity.

(Of course, the larger theme and moral terrain of “The Hunger Games” saga, not yet manifest by this film, involves the biparous tragedy of unimpeded power and pitiless oppression, but that theme shall be gaged against Vance in other examples below.)

This matter of people being killed for entertainment as a sanctioned institution is not foreign territory to Vance either, and it tallies as another Vancian echo. We see a particular iteration of it with the “abominable prutanshyr” [V.29, p.249], the public killing mechanism from Trullion:

[Akadie:] “Then there is the prutanshyr. Amazing to watch the rapt faces, as some wretched criminal demonstrates how dreadful the process of dying can be.”

“The prutanshyr may serve a useful purpose,” said Shermatz. “The effects of such affairs are difficult to judge.”

“Not from the standpoint of the miscreant,” said Akadie. “Is this not a bitter way to die, to look out upon the fascinated throng, to know that your spasms are providing a repast of entertainment?”

“It is not a private or sedate occasion,” said Shermatz with a sad smile. “Still, the folk of Trullion seem to consider the prutanshyr a necessary institution, and so it persists.”

“It is a disgrace, to Trullion and to Alastor Cluster,” said Akadie coldly. “The Connatic should ban all such barbarity.”

Shermatz rubbed his chin. “There is something in what you say. Still, the Connatic hesitates to interfere with local customs.” [V.29, p.208]

Before leaving the topic of Capitol life, the movie shows these silent domicile servants, and to a Vance aficionado as me here is yet another Vance echo, for they seem to recall the Seishanee of Old Romarth from Night Lamp, the synthesized, docile servants, “a slender, graceful race of half-men with clay-colored skins” [V.42, p.319], not unlike images in the film! Only in book 1, since not addressed by the movie, do we innocently encounter these to be the Avox, but it’s not until books 2 & 3 that we garner the Avox calamity: transgressors to the Capitol who therefore have had their tongues removed, put into punishing service, eventually (if lucky) to end up in everlastingly speechless submission as constrained servants. But this particular darkness does not yet seep into The Hunger Games film. In that darker context the Avox are like the Skaling house-slaves from Lyonesse: “So long as you move quietly and never turn your head to watch, you will be invisible to them” [Suldrun’s Garden, V.36, p.380], likewise menaced with mutilation (gelding) or death. Still, a proximal parallel adheres between these Seishanee of Vance and Avox of Collins: “half-human” servants respective to, as it were, “de-human” servants of the Capitol.

The darkness we do encounter in The Hunger Games (both film and book series) is the oppression faced by Katniss’ District 12, and – more implicit in the movie but explicit in the books – across all twelve Districts. This future world of Collins is a sheer dystopia for District residents (but with some Districts better off than others). Vance does work with dystopian motifs involving oppression; among his main works: loosely Durdane, but certainly Emphyrio. Durdane’s mode of oppression is confined mainly to the subjugation of the torc (the neck-band encasing explosives enforced upon all adults), which by the very title of the second book, The Brave Free Men, makes clear was instrumental to be free of. The rebellion of these Brave Free Men is consonant with how “The Hunger Games” series will eventually unfold, but this is as yet unknown regarding the movie at-hand. A particular congruence between Durdane and The Hunger Games is how the many cultural variances across the cantons of Shant impede the alliance required to unite against a threat (the Roguskhoi invasion), just as it is well understood among District residents that “It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided among ourselves” [HG.1, p.14]; in the book series we shall see Katniss become instrumental in unifying these divergent factions.

Emphyrio is much closer as a dystopia. For instance it shares with The Hunger Games the apartheid between the oppressed and oppressors – as between “recipients” and the Lords – that is absent in Durdane’s comparatively more egalitarian civic organization. Due to the impressive number of concentricities between that book and The Hunger Games, I will give Emphyrio its own section below, (less the tiny example I offered earlier).

The dystopian aspect of “The Hunger Games” enterprise is resolved via the overthrow of oppression, which touches upon other Vance novels. Gold and Iron (also published as Slaves of the Klau) would seem affiliated, but tangentially, for it deals more with escaping domination, though with akin disruptive sabotage (cf. HG.3), than defeating it. While The Pnume eventually results in the reprieve of a race from alien imposition, the population is not agitated but quietly oblivious to any life independent of their tranquil servitorship, and moreover their liberation is prospective and would occur beyond the book’s ending. The Chasch is closer in illustrating subjugation and its overthrow – first to depose a local human thugery, then to assert new-found independence from alien suzerainty – and also like “The Hunger Games” saga it delineates the awakening of a dominated populace (the people of Pera), yet this awakening lacks any use of symbolism (discussed below), which is integral to “The Hunger Games” enterprise.

Next, it is interesting to examine the ‘Hunger Games’ themselves, expatiated in book 1:

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins. [HG.1, p.18]

To a Vance fan this should sound very familiar: it is an elaboration on Vance’s “hadaul”, the game of survivorship of the fierce & brutal Darsh from his book The Face. Note the coincidental echo of Collins’ first sentence in her explanatory paragraph to Vance’s first sentence in his explanatory paragraph:

The rules are simple. [… Among other allowable hadaul endings, play can be] until a single robler remains to claim the entire prize. [V.25, p.179-180]

A Hunger Game is in essence hadaul played with twice the participants (rather that the Darsh’s maximum of twelve), but where (evilly) a majority of players are involuntary, and (more evilly) mixed of both genders, and (far more evilly) a portion might likely be kids. While deaths are not unknown to occur in more vicious iterations of hadaul ( “Not infrequently a friendly hadaul ends with a corpse being carried off on a litter” [V.25, p.180] ), killing is an express goal and the deaths of 23 are always mandated by The Hunger Games.

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