Dystopian, dystopia, dystopianism… what are people talking about?
Per the usual human conversation, people often ask what I do. When I respond with, “I write dystopian sci-fi,” I often watch their face morph into confusion before receiving the question, “What does dystopian mean?” Usually, my answer comes in the simple form of, “The opposite of utopia.” And that seems to satiate the average conversationalist. Though that does help a great deal, I thought it would be nice to delve deeper into the inquiry.
Simply put in layman’s terms, dystopian literature explores imperfect societies. And let’s face it, there’s plenty of inspiration both in history and well, let’s not go there. But we can say that there hasn’t been a perfect society. And some may say that it is not even possible.
Dystopian literature can explore a plethora of elements such as technology, natural disasters, political systems, and war. Sometimes the literature is written to share what the author sees as a future possibility, and an unfavorable one at that (the whole opposite of utopia thing coming into play). Often it can convey the author’s viewpoints of societies or religious values. And, in my case, dystopian literature is a vessel I use to delve into various ideas. I’m fascinated with the idea that there are positives and negatives to every type of society. No matter the political structure, or even if the economy is doing well, there will always be an inherent victim. Someone wins and someone loses – or at least I seem to have the perspective that there are too many people in the world focused on being the winner for any other outcome to ever be realized.
Still want to explore more into the possibilities of the dystopian universe? Of course, I believe that reading about a topic is the best way to become an expert within the field. Below is a list of books I can suggest in no particular order (though #5 & #10 are my personal favorites.)
Wool, by Hugh Howey
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
1984, by George Orwell
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown