Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Because third quarter is the dystopia unit in English (and maybe because my upcoming book is a dystopia) I thought I'd discuss the genre a bit.

Dystopians are up there with paranormal as the "it" genre right now. Actually, they've been pretty "it" for a while, from Fahrenheit 451 in the 50's to Hunger Games today. So what is it about a dystopia that makes people curl up with a blanket and a book and think, HOLY CRAP?
Let's see if you can guess my theory. Dystopian societies elicit the HOLY CRAP reaction because:
a) Generally, a lot of people start dying near the end. (Hello, Mockingjay...)
b) The technology is really neat.
c) The messed-up part of society could ACTUALLY HAPPEN.
d) Future boys? Totally hot.
Okay, so it could be any of these depending on who you are-- but for me, the answer is C. Dystopian societies take one (or more) aspect(s) of today's society and exaggerate them into, well, a dystopia. One example in The Hunger Games is fascination with media/reality TV. It gets out of control, add in a corrupt
snowball of government, and what do you get? Annual Hunger Games. If today's obsession with electronics and instant gratification gets out of hand, we wind up with the burning of books and suppression of critical thought in Fahrenheit 451. What's another well-known dystopia? Oh, The Giver. (Read that for English in 8th grade.) Exacerbating today's obsession with being just like everyone else and fear of bad feelings, and we have a society of bland equality. Notice I said "bland." Or, moviewise, in Gattaca (see it! see it!) our "need" to map out our futures and be in perfect physical condition (aesthetically and health-wise) spirals into a world where anyone with any "imperfections" is a lower race with less opportunities.

So that's what gives me a HOLY CRAP reaction: in a good dystopian, I can see the dys part of the topia in the world around me. And it freaks me out--so, of course, I keep reading!

Any other good examples, or reasons for the HOLY CRAP reaction?