Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Dystopia

 Yep, I am going with Dystopia for the D. May not be the most original but it wasn't one of the three I'd done in past years of taking part in A to Z, and it happens to be something I like to read. So, here it is, my post for D.

What is Dystopia?
Definition says, a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease and overcrowding.
Or from Wikipedia - "A dystopia is a community or society, usually fictional, that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many works of fiction, particularly in stories set in a speculative future. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Elements of dystopias may vary from environmental to political and social issues. Dystopian societies have culminated in a broad series of sub-genres of fiction and are often used to raise real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, religion, psychology, spirituality, or technology that may become present in the future. For this reason, dystopias have taken the form of a multitude of speculations, such as pollution, poverty, societal collapse, political repression, or totalitarianism."

I have always been drawn to dystopian stories, ever since reading one of the more notorious books of the genre: The Giver.  They may not have had environmental disasters but there was definitely some total control by upper management in that story, alone with delusional realities provided to he people, so I'm fairly certain it's dystopian. Aside from it, however, I've also been fans of books like Wither and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I even liked Hunger Games, though I haven't read the other books in the series yet.

Why does dystopia work well in fiction?
Well compared to Utopia, there is a key factor that makes it work for fiction writing... Conflict. It's easy to increase the troubles in an already troubled world, much more so than in a perfect ideal one. Sure, one can be delusioned to think they are in a utopian type world only to have someone, the main character usually, discover that it's a lie. However, what draws people in part to the dystopian set story is the depth of conflict it creates. Just look over the explanation from wikipedia. Societal collapse, poverty, political repression, technology struggles, spiritual loss, many factors can be woven in creating a dystopian world. Then throw in a character and watch them struggle to survive and grow despite the chains bearing down on their world.

I am working on a few somewhat dystopian stories now. I have a world with cities struggling to survive and fight off monsters. Another involves environment decaying and struggling to survive along with cloud walking. Then there is the science based society with the musician main character. And there are probably more, if I go through my list of 70+ ideas. Not every story needs to be dystopian by any means and some are far more dystopian than others, but it can make for an interesting story.

Do you like dystopian stories?
What makes a good dystopian tale?


Allyson Lindt said...

I love a good dystopian story - the conflict of a controlling force oppressing a group of people and the desire to rise against it, despite the odds.

Good call ^_^

Kate said...

I'm a huge fan of dystopians. In my opinion, Margaret Atwood's books are the best of the best!!!

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Once upon a time, I read them like crazy. I still like a good dystopian tale, but these days it's as a movie. I like the hope that eventually arrives in the main characters, which to me signals humanity still wins.

You can find me doing the Ato Z at either of these places:
Take 25 to Hollister
Don't be a Hippie

Robin said...

They are very popular. I think that as the economic climate declines, they will either become MORE popular or less so. Not sure which. It might look too realistic (as in what our world actually looks like) and be too scary, so it might go out of fashion, or it might gain in popularity. One never knows...

Fran Clark said...

This genre is new to me and as yet unexplored. What book would you recommend to a novice wanting to discover a dystopian story?

Dawn Embers said...

Allyson Lindt - Ah, yes, the rising up despite the odds. Good point.

Kate - I haven't read Atwood's work yet but I should.

Su-sieeel Mac - The hope that comes out despite the world is another good point. Thanks for commenting.

Robin - True. It's hard to tell which way it will go. We'll have to wait and find out.

Fran Clark - Depends in part on what you read. There are classics, adult, young adult, or middle grade even. Many choices. I liked the ones I mentioned in the blog post, but haven't read the classics like Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World. But The Giver, Hunger Games and such were good.