GR: In Red Rising society is divided into a hierarchy of color-coded castes, with Reds at the bottom and Golds at the top. How did this system come about?--Marshal Zeringue
PB: The origin here is in Plato's Republic, where he says that in a perfect society men should form a natural hierarchy. There are men with souls of gold, men with souls of copper, iron. The ones of iron should till the soil, while the ones of gold should rule the city. But he didn't believe it should pass down through birth; he believed it was a meritocracy. The problem is that he didn't see that people would want to accumulate wealth or power and pass it down to those they love. So I thought that would be interesting: We have a meritocracy, but how could it be poisoned?
GR: When you were writing, were you aware of any contemporary social commentary you could be making?
PB: I'm not trying to tell anyone anything. I was 23 when I wrote this, which is pretty limited life experience, so I have to come at this with a massive degree of humility. It's not necessarily saying what I think but what is real in this imaginary world. To lay claim to some big notions of governmental critique is not something I've ever wanted to do. What's really interesting to me is how people and economies function and how groups make decisions. It's fun to see how things move in familiar patterns. We're pretty predictable in terms of the overall arc of history. And that's what I really wanted to look at with Red Rising: What do we recognize in their world that's parallel to our own, even though their world is vastly different, even though they look at democracy as an abominable thing. The second book will concentrate more on media and on the idea of propaganda, which...[read on]