Subgenre Study: Dystopia/Apocalyptic Fiction

This week on Subgenre Study, we will be looking at the seemingly-increasingly popular subgenre of Dystopia, or Apocalyptic Fiction.  This is a subgenre of science fiction that takes place anywhere from the near to far future which portrays a bleak view of the future, usually one in which humanity has or is going through some form of apocalypse or catastrophe.  Often, “civilization” has ended.

(These are actually two separate, but related genres.  We will explore each separately.)

A dystopia generally involves a carefully controlled society and is usually initially portrayed as utopian, but there is usually some sort of dark twist.  Think 1984, Brave New World, or V is for Vendetta.  Think Oryx and Crake.  Or Fahrenheit 451. (A lot of “classic” science fiction, the kind the make you read in school, are dystopias.) Freedom is usually completely gone or merely an illusion.

Apocalyptic fiction tends to deal directly with some external form of catastrophe or a human (or non-human) caused apocalypse.  It can be a nuclear apocalypse, a zombie apocalypse, or one caused by biological agents.  Despite the poor reviews, I thought the Happening’s tree-apocalypse was pretty awesome.  (I have a character who believes trees are evil.  The Happening really validated things for her.)

Technically, apocalyptic fiction deals directly with the apocalypse; post-apocalyptic fiction deals with what happens after the apocalypse.  (Somewhat confusing, I know, as “post” generally gets tacked on to artistic movements as a post-script.  Postmodernism.  Postcyberpunk.  But in this case, it’s part of the genre definition.)

The Wikipedia article on Apocalyptic Fiction is fairly awesome, so I’m just going to link you:

What’s your feeling on Dystopia/Apocalyptic Fiction, Squiders? Like to see possible glances of the future, or do you find it depressing?  Recommendations?

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christopher on 2011/09/23 at 7:02 PM

    After being introduced to “the Hunger Games” trilogy, I’m freshly interested in this sort of thing. I haven’t read much else like this, unless we count Stephen King’s “the Stand,” so I can’t say much.

    A lot of post-apocalyptic stuff wears me down; it’s too depressing. The last post-apocalyptic thing I read before “the Hunger Games” was David Brin’s “the Postman,” when it was new, if that tells you how rarely I read this sub-genre.

    Oh– correction. I’ve also read S. M. Stirling’s “Emberverse” books, which are a peculiar mixture of post-apocalyptic, a bit of dystopia, and an ever-increasing lean towards high fantasy. It’s a great series, I recommend it.


  2. I actually love both because I am just dark that way. :p

    I recently read Wither by (oh God, I’ve already forgotten her name! Eek) and it’s about this virus that wipes out most of the world, and men live to be 25 and women live to be 20, and they are kidnapped and sold off as sister-wives (polygamy FTW). Very dark and a bit depressing, but fascinating at the same time. I’ll be watching for the next two books in the trilogy.



  3. […] FICTION SUBGENRES Subgenres within the Science Fiction genre Cyberpunk  Dystopia/Apocalyptic Fiction Hard Science Fiction Military Science Fiction Space Opera Space Western Time […]


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