District Six is the place I’ve written most about, but I haven’t sat down and written up all my worldbuilding headcanons in one place, because it’s gotten build up fairly organically, as I wrote bits and pieces of Rokia’s story. So I figure I may as well get it collected in one place.
So, the first question is what, exactly, D6 does. “Transportation” is a bit vague, and movie-verse and book-verse differ (e.g. in the first book, Katniss says D3 makes cars, but the movies suggest that happens in 6). I borrowed from deathmallow the idea that D6 mines iron and refines steel—and I would add that they probably mine and refine other metals as well. Then it only makes sense for them to do things like casting (I-beams, pipes, rebar, etc), as well as making automotive, train, and hovercraft parts. Also, things like earth-moving equipment, farm machinery—basically most things large and metal are made in factories in Six. Major repairs are done here too, in shops like the one Rokia’s Uncle Salif runs. Those shops have contracts with the Capitol, which can be revoked at any time, and are only given to proven loyalists. The contracts can be passed along or inherited, pending Capitol approval.
Six is also the railroad hub. There’s an extensive network of intra-district trains which are all for cargo, as well as inter-district cargo and passenger trains. In order to work inter-district trains, you have to have completed school up through your final Reaping, after which you go through several months of intensive training, loyalty testing, and propaganda. Most people start on the “shit trains”— lines between 9, 10, and 11 which do carry actual shit. Or manure if you want to be fancy. You can work your way up into better routes and eventually passenger trains from there. Contact between cargo crews and citizens of other districts is very limited—crews are not allowed to leave specified loading zones, or to fraternize with cargo loaders in the districts. Trains are spot-checked periodically and weighed to prevent smuggling. Despite this, there’s quite a few crews by 75 who are secretly collecting information and planning sabotage operations for the rebellion (fic in progress).
Like in 12, there’s hierarchies within the district: The top of the ladder are people who work directly for the Capitol—the Mayor, logistics managers, people working for the Peacekeepers (Sara’s parents). Then come passenger train crews, along with people like Salif who have shops or businesses. Then cargo crews, factory workers, casters and smelters, and at the bottom, miners. Other workers can also get sent to the mines for minor crimes.
Geographically, I’ve put D6 in an area from what’s now Chicago, to Toledo and up through Michigan. It’s split into several different cities, on the basis that the Capitol wants to avoid having too many people in one place—it’s easier to control people if they’re split up, because you’re less likely to get a critical mass of rebels in one place.
The district’s placement is partly historical—obviously, Chicago has been a big railroad town since the railroad existed, and if anywhere represents “Transportation” it’s Detroit and environs. It’s also partly resource-based. There are iron mines (and a couple copper mines) in a band from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through to northern Minnesota, what I refer to in fic as “North Country.” In Panem, there is also a fair bit of “mining” from old landfills and the crumbling half-submerged ruins of Detroit.
Coal for smelting and casting comes in on trains from 12, and smelting happens around Toledo. There’s other towns that specialize in casting, automotive parts, and so forth. And the main manufacturing and railroad hub, which I call Three Rivers, where Rokia lives when she’s Reaped, and where the Victors’ Village is located, is near current-day Chicago. Transportation between cities is strictly regulated. The cargo trains often have a passenger car, but in order to travel you have to have a pass signed by the Peacekeepers. You can only get a pass if you’re traveling for work. So, for example, Rokia and her mom can go from the North Country down to the city because Salif has offered her mom a job.
The different areas in the district do have some cultural particularities. The district as a whole tends to be ethnically mixed—as the area is now, but with a few hundred more years of inter-marrying. Race tends to be viewed as along a spectrum rather than a categorical—which is not to say there’s no racism. Lighter skin is “more attractive” and darker skinned people tend to be poorer. People who live in the North Country tend to be darker-skinned, and there’s a lot of Muslim and West African influences. Partly because Michigan (granted, near Detroit) has a high Muslim population now, but mainly because I live in Mali and wanted to borrow some cultural influences. So Rokia’s family’s names are Arabic-origin Malian names, her grandmother still follows some permutation of daily prayers and tells Rokia stories about the djinn. And when Rokia and Sara get married Rokia’s grandma paints their hands with henna. North Country names like Rokia’s are considered “provincial” or old-fashioned, especially in Three Rivers. So Salif’s wife Magda, who’s from the city, names their kid “Jack,” but Salif only agrees because that’s short for “Diakaridia” even though nobody is allowed to call him that.
The city is also where most of D6’s drug problems are—although they leach out all over, as Rokia’s mom will attest. The “morphling district” thing is actually more fanon than canon—canon only says that the Victors from 6 in the Quarter Quell are morphling addicts. I see the problem as somewhere on the level of 90s-era Baltimore, or Detroit—it’s a major problem, it drives crime, but obviously you can’t have everyone in the district addicted to an opioid and have the place still function. As far as how it gets there—well, safety is a low priority, and it’s easier to give industrial workers painkillers than to prevent accidents or give them proper physical therapy. Other drugs can get smuggled off of trains transporting them or home-brewed from industrial chemicals which are all over. And since morphling addicts are passive, and keeping the place dangerous is to the Capitol’s advantage, the Peacekeepers mostly turn a blind eye. Or take a cut. Patriotic citizens, like Rokia’s uncle, will use the drug problem as an example of why the Capitol is necessary: see what happens when people are left to their own devices? See why we need the Peacekeepers to take a hard line? We need their protection.