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In which badguys and I attempted to make a map of Panem.

Hunger Games → Stay Alive

So, while this map is amazing:

We were like, but Panem is supposed to be North America, not just the United States. While parts of Canada and Mexico would certainly have fallen into the sea in the case of a natural disaster or excessive bombing or whatever, it's illogical to completely disregard them.

It also is irksome that it doesn't show the Districts in any kind of numerical or logical order; why would D10 be wedged into D7, D5, and D2, and why would D9 separate D5 and D2?

So we were like, HEY, LET'S MAKE A MAP OF PANEM!
North America
Pretty self-explanatory.

So, there's North America. Now, assuming that part of the destruction of the modern structure and the rise of Panem was caused by a cataclysmic natural disaster, these are some supposed post-apocalyptic geographical predictions for said continent:

The first doesn't work with Collins' Panem because the continental divide would preclude the Capitol from having any logical rule over East America (D12, D13, etc) and the second wouldn't work because it includes D11 and D12 in the sinkshelf.
Sinking North America
This was my first attempt at sinking North America.

I chose to center part of the cataclysm in the Gulf of Mexico as a tectonic shift and moved the Yucatan Peninsula, rather than sinking it. Mostly this is because I ♥ Finnick/Annie and wanted them to have a little island for the D4 Victor's Village. Plus, it doesn't really alter the topography of any other District, so hey! :P
Flood Breaks
While feasible, it wasn't really jelling for me. badguys brought up that there would be a natural floodbreak at the Sierra Nevadas and, likely, the Grand Canyon. (Incidentally this went into a long discussion about the Mississippi River being the dam that broke in the 70th Games, but that's not really pertinent!)

So, I re-sunk the continent.

Placing the Districts
Here's what we know.
  • The Capitol is in Denver.

  • D12 is Appalachia.

  • D11 shares a border with D12, is one of the largest districts, is South of D12, and is primarily used for growing grain and produce.

  • D10 is primarily used for raising livestock. They do NOT process the livestock in D10. However, to feed an entire nation, D10 is likely another very large District.

  • D9 processes food for the Capitol and the tesserae; therefore, it likely shares borders with the food production Districts (D4, D10, D11).

  • D8 produces and treats textiles and is a factory District. It is POSSIBLE to reach D12 from D8 on foot over a course of weeks/months. Therefore, it does not cross a large body of water.

  • D7 specializes in lumber. It's probably large. It has no role in food processing or manufacture.

  • D6 works closely with the Capitol in the research and manufacture of drugs (morphling, medicines). It likely has close ties to D5 in the production of mutts.

  • D5 is entirely dependent on the Capitol, so it's probably somewhat nearby, and specializes in genetic research and manipulation. Because of the necessity of creative thought and intellect, it's most likely a smaller District so that it's easier to monitor and control.

  • D4 is the ocean. It does have a role in food production. It's very large. It is a Career District, so it likely is near the Capitol and has some self-sufficiency, but not enough that it doesn't engender loyalty. (Aside from that, D4 = perfect.)

  • D3 has extremely close ties to the Capitol and works with electronics and technology. It is likely small, the Capitol can closely monitor its scientific minds. It has no role in food manufacture or processing.

  • D2 specializes in weaponry, is the most loyal District (because the Capitol needs to keep its weapon specialists happy, non?), and has no role in food production. D2 also works in some minor Mining elements and trains Peacekeepers. The Panem railroad is easily accessible in D2.

  • D1 produces luxury goods for the Capitol -- INCLUDING having a diamond mine. Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine is a defunct diamond mine in Colorado, USA. It is located in the State Line Kimberlite District, near the Wyoming border.

  • D13 specialized in nuclear power, shares a border with D12, is both visible and reachable from D12 by foot, and is North of West Virginia. Three Mile Island was in New York Pennsylvania, and probably remained a nuclear reactor or was co-opted again as a reactor. D13 is small but mighty and is surrounded by Wilderness. It is self-sufficient.
So, knowing that, the most logical placement for the Districts was not straight slices across the continent, but a phi spiral.

Phi Spirals Are Hard in PS4.

Capitol = good. D1 = good. D2 = good. D3 = WAY TOO BIG. I rotated the phi spiral another 90º.
Adding District Four

Rotating the phi spiral helped. D4 is ginormous and it all looks really trippy.

So, this was the first attempt at D1 - D7 (and the Capitol). D7 works well along the former USA-Canada border because, well, timber, and it makes sense that national lumber production would make for a large District. However, the issue with this D7 is that it does not leave room for D9 to border with D4, it misplaces D8 in the phi spiral, and it cuts off way too much of D11 and D10's potentially needed landmass.

Ehhhh... no. This is terrible. Particularly the D8/9/10/11 area.

Time to redraft!
The Rise of Panem

Taking landlocked area away from D4 was a major help. D9 now properly borders all food manufacture Districts, D11 is the largest in landmass, D10 has room to raise a nation's worth of livestock, and D7 is a more manageable size for Peacekeeping. And, everything finally lies semi-okay-ish-ly along the intended phi spiral.

A functional map of Panem!
Adding the Railroad

I tried to make the railroad follow[ish] the phi spiral, at least insofar as it connects the related Districts (C/1/2/3, 4/9/10/11). For the sake of the Victory Tours, the railroad connects roughly to headquarters/capitol cities only. The railroad to D13 has been knocked out.

And... that's how I spent my Friday night! :P

Full-sized clear map (just click, it's enormous)!

You're welcome to use and link to the map, but please credit myself and/or badguys if you link it anywhere.

  • Why don't you leave big blank spaces of empty land between the Districts? What about the Wilderness?
  • Think about where you live now. Does urbanized civilization extend all the way through your state or province without stopping? No. If the Capitol truly wanted to control Panem, then it would not make much sense to leave large areas of unincorporated land between them where it would be all too easy for Rebels or escapees (like Lavinia) to set up camp and live outside of the Capitol's jurisdiction. It makes more sense for the entirety of the mainland continent to be parceled into Districts and fenced in for Peacekeeper patrols/Capitol monitoring, and then to set up the District headquarters and populated areas in smaller cities/townships. Just like the majority of the world today.

  • READ THE EXPLANATION. The scientific data we looked up showed that the majority of those areas would sink in a geological cataclysm. True: so would much of the Midwestern USA because of the Great Lakes. However, SC's Panem directly mentions being connected from, at the least, the Appalachians to the Rockies, and Katniss never mentions having to go over water on her Victory Tour so we have to assume that it's all dryland. We included as much of of Canada and Mexico in significant ways as we could feasibly add and keep it to our own satisfaction in terms of canon. We made it for ourselves for fun at midnight; we're not professional prospective cartographers.

For further (revised and retooled) information about our analysis of Panem's geography as well as The Hunger Games' literary structure and Panem culture as a comment on our own, see The Panem Companion, coming 4 December 2012 from Smart Pop Books.

Update 15/3/2012: WE ARE AWARE THAT THIS IS GEOLOGICALLY UNSOUND. So was Collins' assertion of the geography of Panem in the Hunger Games text.

Q&A with Suzanne Collins:
Q: How long would it take for North America to deteriorate into the world depicted in the books?

A: You’d have to allow for the collapse of civilization as we know it, the emergence of Panem, a rebellion, and seventy-four years of the Hunger Games. We’re talking triple digits.
Given the grand scheme of cultural collapse, anywhere from 200-999 years is absolutely believable for a nation like Panem to rise. However, it would take at least 300 years, on the best estimates, to see the major disaster or chain of disasters that come together to drastically change the orientation of North America. Therefore, in terms of the creation of the Panem map, we were more focused on the geological cataclysm – and it turns out that even “triple-digit” years is pretty short for the Earth to, literally, fall apart!

Only a few weeks after making the original map, the horrific earthquake and tsunami over Fukushima, Japan illustrated the fragility of human infrastructure. Katniss herself recounts geological catastrophe as a major part of the fall of North America:

“He tells the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land…” THG18

Since the three-book deal for The Hunger Games was signed to Scholastic in 2006, when the world was still reeling from the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, the 2004 tsunami at the Indian Ocean, record-low fatal freezing temperatures in Canada and the northern United States, and massive Pakistani earthquake, it is easy to see where all of our real-world events begin to be woven into Katniss’ story.

However, the missing piece is “the encroaching seas,” which is a common trope in scifi literature that takes place on Future Earths. One possible origin is the urban myth of “sinking California” – and that is, admittedly, what Meg and I used in making our original map of Panem. However, it’s more likely a combination of tectonic shifts in California causing tsunamis as well as global warming affecting the Atlantic that actually made the seas “encroach” on North America.

But really, either way, we decided that we were going to have to collapse the coasts of the United States, Mexico, and Canada enough to reduce landmass enough to result in “the brutal war for what little sustenance remained.”THG18 Combined with the racial tensions that drive much of Panem’s culture, for us, that meant most significantly reducing Mexico to create a futuristic border crisis. The polar ice melt would take care of much of Canada.

So, armed with frosting, ice cream, and overflowing love for Finnick Odair – as well as a mountain of research – we started making our map by looking at present-day North America.

The Sinking California theory is actually pretty much science fiction – which is okay, because so is The Hunger Games – but it does mean that we had a fair amount of leeway in how we wanted to pursue the various avenues of geological cataclysm. We decided to go with rational, but also clearly fictional, global warming scenarios as well.

First, an assumption about the timeframe of Panem: 400-500 years from the present. That allows for the 74 years of the Tessera-Games system, the First Rebellion, and a pre-existing Panem with District separation and Specialties to have been a full culture and begin its sociological and socioeconomic transformation (leading to said First Rebellion), probably another 60-100 years. So that’s already setting Panem in at least the 2200s. If you assume that one contributing factor to the fall of North America is the depletion of oil reserves worldwide (which will be discussed further in Chapter Two), then we’re around 2300.

Here comes some of the encroaching seas theory: between 1900 and 2000, the ocean rose 6-8 inches due to global warming (a global temperature rise of ½° C). Supposing the same rate for those 300 years, that’s another 18-24 inches of oceanic rise.

At that rate of rise, coastal cities all over North America and the world would be at risk of sinking – kind of like Venice is sinking now, by a few inches each decade – with southernmost Florida, the Louisiana coastline at the Gulf, North Carolina's Pamlico-Albemarle Peninsula, along Chesapeake Bay, and Texas-Mexico east of Galveston being most at risk. Other threatened U.S. cities include New York/Newark, New Orleans, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Tampa-St Petersburg, and San Francisco. Part of the problem in those areas is that many millions of years ago, during the Ice Age, “around the periphery of where the glaciers sat, by contrast — places like Chesapeake Bay and the south of England — the land was actually squeezed upward during the Ice Age by the downward pressure nearby. The resulting ‘glacial forebulge’ has been sinking back ever since, also at an average rate of a few millimeters a year, so sea level rise is greater than average in these regions. And in some coastal areas — most notably along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana — the land is falling as well: Thanks to massive oil and gas extraction, the continental shelf is collapsing like a deflated balloon.” If we conjecture that Panem was indeed partially caused by the depletion of oil and gas, that leads to major problems to the Gulf area.

However, given what we know about D12 and D13’s location along the Appalachian mountain ridge and D11’s location in the Deep South, some adjustments had to be made for purely canonical reasons (and since most “rapid continental sinking” scenarios are scifi, that’s okay!)

Given the immense change in geography and political landscape, Panem most likely needed to recreate its entire infrastructure to accommodate its needs. The phi spiral would give each District the unique amount of space it would need to cultivate its Specialty without having so much room that pockets of dissent could form in “off-the-grid” communities (which is also why we did not leave massive amounts of space between the Districts. Like Katniss’ forest in D12, there is clearly fenced off “forbidden area” within the Districts themselves, not between them – aka, not outside of Capitol jurisdiction. Think of modern-day North America, where all of the land is held accountable to both state and government law even if it is not inhabited or even inhabitable.)


V. 26.

You've got to think about all the things you like and decide whether they're worth sticking around for. And if they are, you'll find a way to do this.

And what if I don’t?

Then you go away, and you don't get to like anything anymore.

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