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[personal profile] farla
Last time on the childmurder evilgames, Katniss was mad the gamemakers were ignoring her, so she shot an arrow through the apple in their roast pig and stalked off.

As I stride toward the elevator, I fling my bow to one side and my quiver to the other. I brush past the gaping Avoxes who guard the elevators and hit the number twelve button with my fist. The doors slide together and I zip upward. I actually make it back to my floor before the tears start running down my cheeks. I can hear the others calling me from the sitting room, but I fly down the hall into my room, bolt the door, and fling myself onto my bed. Then I really begin to sob.

Oh my god you are so whiny Katniss.

Seriously, I boggle.

 What will they do to me now? Arrest me? Execute me? Cut my tongue and turn me into an Avox so I can wait on the future tributes of Panem? 

Uh, all of those seem like better options than what you're currently facing, Katniss. At least execution is usually not done by spiked mace.

What was I thinking, shooting at the Gamemakers? Of course, I wasn’t, I was shooting at that apple because I was so angry at being ignored. I wasn’t trying to kill one of them. If I were, they’d be dead!

Huh.

This is actually an interesting point. Katniss could have killed one of them. In fact, she could probably have killed a couple before the rest got under cover.

Now, I get that Katniss has never killed anyone, so that's probably a lot to ask here. But - she's about to be horribly killed for public entertainment. For their entertainment. And they told her to train to kill human beings, and they put weapons in her hand, and all she could think about was impressing them. There's no black moment when she wonders how many she could take out. No wondering if it'd be worth it, or that maybe it'd be better to just let them kill her now than go through whatever hell waits during the Hunger Games.

It's not just that it doesn't occur to Katniss, it's that it doesn't occur to the book. There's throwing knives and throwing spears, bows, slingshots... Someone should have done this.

The book says that the games are terrible, but it doesn't treat them like that. Katnss is acting like a normal athlete. What matters is doing the best job of learning to win the games and convincing sponsors.

Oh, what does it matter? It’s not like I was going to win the Games anyway. Who cares what they do to me? 

THEN WHY DON'T YOU TRY TO FIGHT BACK.

But this is obviously just a fake line of questioning and that's why. The whole thing is written in melodramatic teen speech, and it's honestly nauseating because it makes everything trivial (teens having whiny angstfests is shorthand for someone with no real problems) and completely avoids the real issue - if she's going to die, why does she keep playing along.

She starts wondering if they'll punish her family. Eh, maybe? The fact is, there's been no sign they give a damn so far, with no references to anything happening with past tributes, so this is kind of out of left field. Having her family's safety be an issue the whole time would have really helped.

Haymitch and Effie are knocking on my door. I shout for them to go away and eventually they do. It takes at least an hour for me to cry myself out. 

And my spite is kicking in.

Stop treating Katniss like she's a dumb teenager, book. She's supposedly a "survivor". She's been through all sorts of things. She wouldn't be spending an hour crying into her pillow.

Anyway, eventually Katniss realizes the obvious, if they were going to do something she wouldn't be left to cry in her room. They can't kill her now, it'd interfere with their plans to kill her later. She can't let go of the melodrama so she decided they'll kill her horribly as soon as she enters the arena, but whatever.

Before that though, they’ll give me a score so low, no one in their right mind would sponsor me. That’s what will happen tonight. Since the training isn’t open to viewers, the Gamemakers announce a score for each player. It gives the audience a starting place for the betting that will continue throughout the Games. The number, which is between one and twelve, one being irredeemably bad and twelve being unattainably high, signifies the promise of the tribute. The mark is not a guarantee of which person will win. It’s only an indication of the potential a tribute showed in training. Often, because of the variables in the actual arena, high-scoring tributes go down almost immediately. And a few years ago, the boy who won the Games only received a three. Still, the scores can help or hurt an individual tribute in terms of sponsorship. I had been hoping my shooting skills might get me a six or a seven, even if I’m not particularly powerful. Now I’m sure I’ll have the lowest score of the twenty-four. If no one sponsors me, my odds of staying alive decrease to almost zero.

Nothing about this makes sense.

Why not let viewers watch? The whole point of this is spectacle and you'd get plenty of eyes to try to get an idea of who to bet on. And if high-scoring tributes often get killed immediately (which makes sense, since it's basically getting a bullseye painted on you) why would anyone want to get one? And why does Katniss keep insisting her only chance is to get sponsors? What about the plan of getting a zero so people don't try to kill you, that's also a good plan.

Everyone’s waiting at the table, even Cinna and Portia. I wish the stylists hadn’t shown up because for some reason, I don’t like the idea of disappointing them. It’s as if I’ve thrown away all the good work they did on the opening ceremonies without a thought. 

...childmurder games.

Katniss you are a kidnapped kid being forced to take part in murder games with other kidnapped kids.

Also your stylists are in it for the fame, stop obsessing over how nice they are.

This is seriously written exactly as if she's a voluntary athlete who wants to try her best and become famous.

Haymitch asks what happened. Peeta says he chucked weights around - and I get it's supposed to show he's strong but that's still a totally useless skill for the childmurder games. It doesn't matter if you're strong if you don't know how to actually use that.

I shot an arrow at them. Not exactly at them. In their direction. It’s like Peeta said, I was shooting and they were ignoring me and I just . . . I just lost my head, so I shot an apple out of their stupid roast pig’s mouth!” I say defiantly.

How the hell did you survive this long in the evil totalitarian government with spies and informants everywhere.

The defiant hot-headed main character is enough of a cliché as it is. It doesn't need to show up in stories like this.

Anyway, Effie is the only one who's shocked by this, so it's clearly no big deal. Haymitch points out the obvious, that they don't want to bother getting a new kid.

“What about my family?” I say. “Will they punish them?”
“Don’t think so. Wouldn’t make much sense. See they’d have to reveal what happened in the Training Center for it to have any worthwhile effect on the population.


Um. They're a bunch of totalitarian assholes. You're already speculating they'll go out of their way to make her miserable during the games, and they don't have to answer to anyone. Having a dictatorship means never having to explain your actions. Besides, they can just say "the tribute behaved badly" without saying how and then next year's kids will be terrified into not doing anything to upset anyone.

The she describes how dumb they looked when they fell over in surprise about her shooting the apple, and it's just -

“One man tripped backward into a bowl of punch.”

You know, just for shorthand, let's mentally insert Hitler in here.

Hitler fell into a bowl of punch.

Yeah, it's just...these aren't a bunch of pompous dumbasses. They're people presiding over the yearly murder of kids. The book seems to have decided that's boring and to switch over to generic slapstick.

“Well, it serves them right. It’s their job to pay attention to you. And just because you come from District Twelve is no excuse to ignore you.” Then her eyes dart around as if she’s said something totally outrageous. “I’m sorry, but that’s what I think,” she says to no one in particular.

This is, I think, the first time we've got a real hint that Effie really is on a tightrope here and in as much danger if she causes trouble as anyone else, which is nice. (I mean, I've been reading her that way the whole time, but given the level of psychological depth characters have, not sure how much is intended.)

They go on to point out the obvious again, that the scores don't really matter because someone could just be pretending to suck. You'd think this would have come up earlier and they'd have suggested sucking horribly for this very reason.

The Career Tributes naturally get in the eight-to-ten range. Most of the other players average a five. Surprisingly, little Rue comes up with a seven. 

Between this and the slingshot thing, it'd be amusing if Rue was a little murder machine.

District 12 comes up last, as usual. Peeta pulls an eight so at least a couple of the Gamemakers must have been watching him. 

...he threw weights around. I mean, yeah, it's good he's strong, but strength isn't much if you don't know how to do anything. He scored as in the career tribute range, with kids who can accurately impale others on spears.

And, of course, Katniss gets an eleven!!!! Yay! Everyone celebrates because this is awesome wait didn't we just learn high scoring kids tend to die first?

This is the worst thing ever. Even assuming Katniss is a contender, her ideal plan is run, make a bow, shoot people. She isn't going to survive if anyone targets her first.

I drift off, reprieved, relieved, and with the number eleven still flash­ing behind my eyelids.

It's just such obvious author interference. Over and over, Katniss must be special, to the point where she just has to get the awesome score even though it's actually a terrible idea.

She thinks back to when she met Gale.

The only meat I’d shot was a squirrel that had practically run over my toes in its quest for acorns, but the animals would still be afoot when the snow buried my other food sources.

Fall animals are fat, winter animals are skinny, and acorns suck as a food source. The animals also have useful skins you can sell for money and then your "other food sources" can include the market.

He was only fourteen, but he cleared six feet and was as good as an adult to me. 

I just...how hard is it to figure out that starving people are usually shorter than well fed ones?

He’d lost his father in the same blast that killed mine. In January, I’d stood by while he received his medal of valor in the Justice Building, another oldest child with no father. I remembered his two little brothers clutching his mother, a woman whose swollen belly announced she was just days away from giving birth.

And we know that later he's still the sole provider, so mothers being completely useless continues.

I'd also like to complain about the whole pregnant mom thing. Yes, I get it's shorthand for vulnerable. You know what also works perfectly well? A infant with no mom. His mom could have died in that blast because they live in a sucky world where you don't get maternity leave. The only way you can spin the pregnant woman as the more dramatic option is if you class women and children together, so they're both pathetic and helpless without his protection.

She thinks about how different she feels about toward Gale than she does with Peeta, then points out the obvious that they're in a completely different situation, so I'm not sure why she brought it up.

Peeta and I know the other’s survival means our own death.

The book really doesn't want to accept that the odds of their having any impact on the other's survival is low, and not the least because odds are neither survives.

Really, a perfectly valid reason not to get close is that there's no point making friends with someone about to die. It doesn't have to keep getting framed as that you'll kill them.

In fact, this whole drama has pretty much completely distracted from the actual murder issue. Katniss is about to get thrown in with another twenty-three kids in a death fight. She needs to stop thinking about her notfriendship with Peeta and about if she's able to put an arrow through another kid's head. She didn't even think to aim at the gamemasters, and she had reason there.

The stew’s made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums today. Perfect on the bed of wild rice.

Huh, so they do have rice. Maybe the stuff before was couscous. How come she knows what wild rice is, though? That's a specialty rice.

Today are the interviews. She's concerned about doing her best.

Haymitch shrugs. “Peeta has asked to be coached separately.”

And that's the dramatic end to the chapter.

Pretty meh.

Katniss is just taking everything in stride. She's calm about the fact she's served by mutilated slaves, about the fact she's about to murder people and surrounded by people who ordered it. All she seems to care about is the fact she's uncomfortable acting friendly to Peeta and that it's annoying when people ignore her. Even her panic about having angered them wasn't particularly different than if they'd just snub her scorewise.

Chapter Nine opens, predictably, with Katniss being upset and betrayed that the thing she was hoping for has happened. Personally I'd guess Peeta was creeped out by her constantly waffling and insistence he was her enemy.

But she manages to rationalize it.

Whatever triggered Peeta’s decision — and I suspect it had to do with my outperforming him in training — I should be nothing but grateful for it. Maybe he’s finally accepted the fact that the sooner we openly acknowledge that we are enemies, the better.

You're not enemies, Katniss. You're both equally fucked.

So Effie tries to teach Katniss to look good so people will like her.

“They’re betting on how long I’ll live!” I burst out. “They’re not my friends!”

Thank you Katniss, I was wondering when you're remember.

“Well, try and pretend!” snaps Effie. Then she composes herself and beams at me. “See, like this. I’m smiling at you even though you’re aggravating me.”

Haha, oh Effie. <3

So pretend I’m the audience,” says Haymitch. “Delight me.”
“Fine!” I snarl. Haymitch takes the role of the interviewer and I try to answer his questions in a winning fashion. But I can’t. I’m too angry with Haymitch for what he said and that I even have to answer the questions. All I can think is how unjust the whole thing is, the Hunger Games. Why am I hopping around like some trained dog trying to please people I hate? The longer the interview goes on, the more my fury seems to rise to the surface, until I’m literally spitting out answers at him.


Yes, exactly.

I fully support this, but I don't like that it's a sudden one-eighty from how the last several chapters have been. This should have been there the whole time, but Katniss is just suddenly flipping out over it.

Anyway, it's time for seeing how Katniss is clumsy not properly charming. So now we're told she's not these things, and before we were told she was, and at no point is any of this really shown.

The next hours are agonizing. At once, it’s clear I cannot gush. We try me playing cocky, but I just don’t have the arrogance. Apparently, I’m too “vulnerable” for ferocity. I’m not witty. Funny. Sexy. Or mysterious.

You are, however, being pretty damn sueish with your fake flaws here, Katniss. (Also, she can totally gush. She's been doing it for a while now.)

I mean, I realize that this could actually matter, but it's just completely disconnected from both how she's been talking up to this point and her inner monologue. Tellingly, we have absolutely no actual samples of Haymitch and her going through sample questions, we're just told she fails at it.

I have dinner that night in my room, ordering an outrageous number of delicacies, eating myself sick, and then taking out my anger at Haymitch, at the Hunger Games, at every living being in the Capitol by smashing dishes around my room.

Yeah, those fucking servants!

When the girl with the red hair comes in to turn down my bed, her eyes widen at the mess. “Just leave it!” I yell at her. “Just leave it alone!”
I hate her, too, with her knowing reproachful eyes that call me a coward, a monster, a puppet of the Capitol, both now and then. For her, justice must finally be happening. At least my death will help pay for the life of the boy in the woods.


This is just so, so abrupt. She's fine playing along this whole time, but suddenly the idea of an interview makes her realize how fucked up it all is.

But instead of fleeing the room, the girl closes the door behind her and goes to the bathroom. She comes back with a damp cloth and wipes my face gently then cleans the blood from a broken plate off my hands. 

Ugh.

See, this might have worked if Katniss had spent more time beating herself up about what she'd done and less time whining the girl didn't like her. And if, in general, the book didn't seem to be saying over and over that only Katniss' suffering matters.

Katniss does, finally, say she's sorry. The girl gestures that Katniss would probably have just died or been captured too. This is very rational of her, but also quite disappointing. It's okay to have a good person not like the main character.

They clean up the room together and the girl tucks her into bed.

Then she goes. I want her to stay until I fall asleep. To be there when I wake up. I want the protection of this girl, even though she never had mine.

So I can see this. She's really scared and has no one to rely on, so this one person who isn't involved in her impending death means a lot. The thing is, like the rest of it, it just hasn't been set up very well. She hasn't been talking about how alone she is, she's been bitching about Peeta being her friend and how the adults are paying attention and giving constant advice.

And now it's time to get dressed for her interview.

The creature standing before me in the full-length mirror has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash and apparently they make their clothes from jewels. Because my dress, oh, my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression I am engulfed in tongues of fire.
I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. I am as radiant as the sun.
For a while, we all just stare at me. “Oh, Cinna,” I finally whisper. “Thank you.”


…and she's right back to being the happy trained dog. God damn.

“I’m awful. Haymitch called me a dead slug. No matter what we tried, I couldn’t do it. I just can’t be one of those people he wants me to be,” I say.
Cinna thinks about this a moment. “Why don’t you just be yourself?”
“Myself? That’s no good, either. Haymitch says I’m sullen and hostile,” I say.
“Well, you are . . . around Haymitch,” says Cinna with a grin. “I don’t find you so. The prep team adores you. You even won over the Gamemakers. And as for the citizens of the Capitol, well, they can’t stop talking about you. No one can help but admire your spirit.”


Stop making her a sue, Cinna. You may be one of the only sane people but don't doubt my ability to hate you for this.

Also, Katniss, I want you to just take a moment to consider what he just said. You are sullen and hostile to the one person who is not involved in the childmurder games by choice. You are friendly and loveable to the monsters that are the citizens here.

Finally, Book? No really, what the fuck. I get the impression you have no idea what you said either. The gamemakers like her? Look at their damn name! Hurray, she won over the HITLER COUNCIL OF HILTERS and they think she's spirited! Yay, instead of hoping she's murdered horribly they're hoping she murders other innocent kids horribly! Because it'll be good ratings!

“Suppose, when you answer the questions, you think you’re addressing a friend back home. Who would your best friend be?” asks Cinna.
“Gale,” I say instantly. “Only it doesn’t make sense, Cinna. I would never be telling Gale those things about me. He already knows them.”
“What about me? Could you think of me as a friend?” asks Cinna.
Of all the people I’ve met since I left home, Cinna is by far my favorite. I liked him right off and he hasn’t disappointed me yet. “I think so, but —”
“I’ll be sitting on the main platform with the other stylists. You’ll be able to look right at me. When you’re asked a question, find me, and answer it as honestly as possible,” says Cinna.


And spite again.

Cinna's being a decent person and this really is good advice. The issue is Katniss' inexplicable feeling that he's her friend. Now, I'm happy to think of Haymitch as an asshole because by implication he hasn't helped any other tributes recently, but the fact is he's been nothing but helpful to her, far more so than Cinna .who's just there to make her look cute to the Capital. Effie hasn't done anything wrong either.

“Remember, they already love you,” he says gently. “Just be yourself.”

Cinna I just said stop making her a sue!

So then it's time for the interviews.

They do surgery in the Capitol, to make people appear younger and thinner. In District 12, looking old is something of an achievement since so many people die early. You see an elderly person you want to congratulate them on their longevity, ask the secret of survival. A plump person is envied because they aren’t scraping by like the majority of us. But here it is different. Wrinkles aren’t desirable. A round belly isn’t a sign of success.

And the interview guy has been doing this for forty years and looking identical the whole time except for changing fashion. That's pretty creepy.

(Also. Hard work and starvation is aging. They should be more apt to look what we'd consider eighty at age forty. Unless most deaths are to accidents and not illness, there will be plenty of wrinkled people.)

The girl tribute from District 1, looking provocative in a see-through gold gown

Katniss focused on District 1 last time too - they were dressed in gemstones and she complained they're often the favorites. So I'm just going to say I kind of find this squicky because she likely had no choice in her outfit.

You can tell her mentor didn’t have any trouble coming up with an angle for her. With that flowing blonde hair, emerald green eyes, her body tall and lush . . . she’s sexy all the way.

Yeah I really don't see how that convinces people to bet on you. It's just really, really squicky. Especially because she's eighteen at the most. Sitting next to a guy who's been doing this for forty years, displayed for everyone to see.

I’ll say this for Caesar, he really does his best to make the tributes shine. He’s friendly, tries to set the nervous ones at ease, laughs at lame jokes, and can turn a weak response into a memorable one by the way he reacts.

Hey look, it's another great guy.

I'm not sure why he's great, mind. His job seems to be sanitizing this whole farce. The kids are nervous because they're about to die. Katniss strikes me complimenting the butcher on what a good job he's doing stringing them up.

I mean, if the kids just started crying about how they didn't want to do this, it might bother people. Can't have that.

Rue, who is dressed in a gossamer gown complete with wings, flutters her way to Caesar. A hush falls over the crowd at the sight of this magical wisp of a tribute. Caesar’s very sweet with her, complimenting her seven in training, an excellent score for one so small. When he asks her what her greatest strength in the arena will be, she doesn’t hesitate. “I’m very hard to catch,” she says in a tremulous voice. “And if they can’t catch me, they can’t kill me. So don’t count me out.”
“I wouldn’t in a million years,” says Caesar encouragingly


This is disgusting.

The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there. He’s one of the giants, probably six and a half feet tall and built like an ox

Why is everyone so big? Starvation doesn't make you big!

Finally, it's her turn. He asks what she likes best about the Capital.

“The one with the dried plums?” asks Caesar. I nod. “Oh, I eat it by the bucketful.” He turns sideways to the audience in horror, hand on his stomach. “It doesn’t show, does it?” They shout reassurances to him and applaud.

It's funny because at the capital, people have so much food it's easy to get fat, so then they hire doctors to make them thin again!

(Also, this actually seems to imply food is a lot less varied in the capital than you'd expect, for there to be set recipes that everyone's intimately familiar with.)

Katniss reacts completely reasonably for someone raised in horrible poverty:

This is what I mean about Caesar. He tries to help you out.

Did I say reasonable? I mean insane. How would this even be funny to you?

Katniss. The guy leading you into the slaughterhouse is not your friend. He is not helping you out when he nudges you to stay in line and keep walking.

Then he asks about her costume, so she gushes.

 “I thought Cinna was brilliant and it was the most gorgeous costume I’d ever seen and I couldn’t believe I was wearing it. I can’t believe I’m wearing this, either.” I lift up my skirt to spread it out. “I mean, look at it!”

Remember that pin, Katniss? The several months worth of food one? There was some class rage over it?

This could probably feed your whole district.

So she spins in a circle to show off how pretty it is. She's so happy to be here, folks! She just loves the dresses. You guys are so awesome for bringing her here, she's having the time of her life.

When I stop, I clutch Caesar’s arm.
“Don’t stop!” he says.
“I have to, I’m dizzy!” I’m also giggling, which I think I’ve done maybe never in my lifetime. But the nerves and the spinning have gotten to me.
Caesar wraps a protective arm around me. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Can’t have you following in your mentor’s footsteps.”


This is so, so fucked up.

“It’s all right,” Caesar reassures the crowd. “She’s safe with me.

Until tomorrow, what with the whole murdering thing.

Next he asks why she volunteered.

“Her name’s Prim. She’s just twelve. And I love her more than anything.”
You could hear a pin drop in the City Circle now.


Come on Katniss, you're so close.

“What did she say to you? After the reaping?” Caesar asks.
Be honest. Be honest. I swallow hard. “She asked me to try really hard to win.”


FUCK.

No, Katniss. Murder is wrong. This is wrong. It's not okay if only you can somehow win. Stop telling them what they want to hear.

Say you didn't want her to die. Say you didn't want your twelve year old sister to die so you took her place to die instead. Tell them the truth.

“And what did you say?” prompts Caesar gently.
But instead of warmth, I feel an icy rigidity take over my body. My muscles tense as they do before a kill. When I speak, my voice seems to have dropped an octave. “I swore I would.”
“I bet you did,” says Caesar, giving me a squeeze. The buzzer goes off. “Sorry we’re out of time. Best of luck, Katniss Everdeen, tribute from District Twelve.”


God fucking dammit Katniss. I hope the dog biscuits are worth it.

Peeta then comes on to be charming too.

Then has a funny anecdote about the perils of the Capitol showers. “Tell me, do I still smell like roses?” he asks Caesar, and then there’s a whole run where they take turns sniffing each other that brings down the house

Yeah, so it's the same joke as the soup thing. "Look, we're really fucking rich! Oh god, it's so hard being wealthy!"

So he asks about a girlfriend next. Yeah there was no way this wasn't coming, was there?

Peeta sighs. “Well, there is this one girl. I’ve had a crush on her ever since I can remember. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t know I was alive until the reaping.”

Subtlety, book, please? This could actually be pretty cool. We all know Katniss' grasp of human emotion is slightly behind her ability to fly, so it's easy for him to confess to the reader without her having any idea.

“She have another fellow?” asks Caesar.
“I don’t know, but a lot of boys like her,” says Peeta.


I really don't know why the book wants to insist everyone loves Katniss. If they loved her they'd be helping her out. It's not like she didn't need help. At least tell-wise, she's spent the whole time on the brink of starvation. The only examples we have of this is Peeta giving her bread once (and if he did this just because he was in love with her and not because she was a starving little kid about to die in the rain, he's a dick) and his dad being generous in trades and god I hope his dad is not meant to be included in that statement.

Winning . . . won’t help in my case,” says Peeta.
“Why ever not?” says Caesar, mystified.
Peeta blushes beet red and stammers out. “Because . . . because . . . she came here with me.”


Dammit, book. Okay, I know, YA, subtlety. But Peeta's been so good at playing to the crowd it's hard to think he really got forced into this, which in turn makes it look crazy manipulative toward poor Katniss. (And even if it actually is manipulative, I think we're still supposed to interpret the "everybody loves Katniss" thing as true.)

Still, it's a good twist, because wow does this suck for Peeta, especially since Katniss has been doing her best to avoid him these last few days before they both die horribly.
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April 2011

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