Veronica Roth is the author of the best-selling Divergent novels, which were adapted into a series of popular films. his new novel the poster girl tells the story of Sonya Kantor, a young woman raised in an authoritarian society in near-future Seattle.
“I wanted her to not be the typical figure of a hero, but someone who was complicit in the authoritarian regime that fell, and who would struggle to understand how she understands it and how she has been manipulated by this system,” says Roth in episode 528 of the series. . Geek Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
the poster girl imagine the ultimate surveillance state, where every action is recorded and judged by ubiquitous eye implants. Roth says it was all too easy for her to imagine how Sonya could enjoy being constantly monitored and rewarded for her good behavior. “She was definitely one of those students who loved to be rewarded at school, and I was always good on tests and always well behaved,” she says. “It’s attractive to know that you’re doing the right thing and that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, with a certain kind of personality.”
The book was also influenced by Roth’s frequent trips to visit her husband’s family in Romania, a country that was ruled by communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu until 1989. “Even now, if you go to the Christmas Market in Romania, they sell little magnets with Ceaușescu’s face on it, and this man was brutal and horrible to a lot of people,” says Roth. “But there are some people who have communist nostalgia, because for them maybe it wasn’t so bad at the time, maybe it was even better. But for everyone who benefits, there is someone who doesn’t.”
Roth says the United States is closer to becoming a surveillance state than we’d like to think, and that investigating all the ways our devices track us has made her increasingly paranoid. “Basically, you have to choose your poison; neither system is particularly surprising,” she says. “Somehow we’ve put this on the user to find ways to prevent their data from being leaked, but I think it really shouldn’t be our responsibility, it should be protected on a larger scale.”
Listen to the full interview with Veronica Roth on Episode 528 of Geek Guide to the Galaxy (up). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Veronica Roth on privacy:
With the recent Supreme Court stuff on abortion, this has become more relatable to people. A lot of women have an app on their phone that helps them track their period, and there was a lot of talk about, “Oh, you should delete that app now,” because if the government can access your app data, then they could possibly track when you last menstruated and determine if you have had an abortion. And that’s deeply disturbing, but it’s just one example of how things can change overnight. … I went to the Women’s March in Atlanta after Trump was elected—my phone and social media recorded my presence there—so whether there was significant regime change and suddenly going to those protests was criminalized—or not even criminalized, but it just puts you on some sort of list somewhere where you’re being watched, that’s closer than people would like to believe.
Veronica Roth on her next novel arch-conspirator:
It’s a science fiction story Antigone. … It’s post-post-post-apocalyptic. There is one last settlement on Earth, and they all die all the time. Basically I think the main difference [from the play] I just had to wonder how she was going to handle incest, because Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus, who famously killed her father and married her mother, unknowingly, and then had children, and Antigone is one of those children. The incest of the play is important because she feels that she is cursed from birth because of it, and other people in her society treat her that way. So I had to find out if she was going to do that directly, and I decided against it because she wanted to create more wonder and mysticism about why she feels she’s cursed. So there’s some pretty rigorous gene editing going on in this future, because of how everyone is deteriorating in this Dying Earth environment, and she’s not edited. So that is the taboo that she carries with her like a curse.
Veronica Roth on endings:
I sent [Courtney Summers] An early version of the scheme [Poster Girl] with two endings. One was happier and the other less happy. I chose the less happy one because she told me, “I don’t think the way you set it up, this is really an ending that feels true to the book or feels earned.” … [The happy ending] It seemed cheap to me. I felt wrong about that. I was trying to make it work and I was like, “Well, what about this other thing I could do that is much riskier for me emotionally?” And she said, “You have to do that. That’s a great ending.” And I was like, “But I don’t know if I can take it.” I remember telling him that. Emotionally, as a writer, she didn’t know if she could live in that reality for that long. And she said, “You can. You should.”
Veronica Roth on introverts:
My mom was a model when she was younger, so when I was a kid she was always trying to give us advice, like pictures for high school, she was trying to give us advice, “You have to do this or that.” And I just remember getting the prints and saying, “Wow, nothing that she was trying to do showed up on my face.” I have no idea what my face is doing at any given moment. So I think the discrepancy between how you feel and how you feel is something that a lot of people can relate to. Especially introverts, I feel like. You feel this rich, complex inner world inside of you, and then externally people are like, “Hmm, sort of a quiet person.” And it’s like, “Wow, what a bummer, being described that way.”
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