Posts Tagged ‘dystopia’

In Defense of Science Fiction: Utopias as Dystopias

This is more something that’s fallen out of favor as opposed to something that people argue scientifically against.

A utopia, by definition, is a perfect society – everyone is happy, cared for, and no one wants for anything.

Dystopias are big right now. (A dystopia is a flawed society, often totalitarian in nature.) Straight dystopias, where it’s obvious that things are wrong. But there’s something about a utopia, because, it turns out, it doesn’t exist.

Utopias thrive on order – there’s no real room for creativity or innovation. Society stagnates. People aren’t given the opportunity to grow. The cogs can only turn in one way to maintain that illusion of perfection.

Utopias (and dystopias) explore society as opposed to technology. They explore questions like – if the people are happy and don’t know any better, is it wrong to leave them in an oppressive environment? What can – and should – be sacrificed for peace?

In this day and age, you’d think that utopian dystopias would be more popular than ever. But instead, we seem to be going for the obvious. Often, in dystopias, the main characters are obviously part of some marginalized part of society. In the Hunger Games, District 12 barely has enough to eat. In Incarceron, the very environment is out to get those who live in it. In City of Ember, the city is falling apart around their heads.

They’re the results of nuclear war, contagion, biological fallout.

Nothing against straight dystopias, but there’s an added level of complexity in utopian dystopias. They look at how we could try to fix things, and how things could seem to be great for a while, but how there’s seemingly no way to actually create a perfect society without destroying something that’s inherently human.

The only I can think of that I’ve read lately is Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, which is a sequel/companion novel to the more applicable Oryx and Crake. I can think of several straight dystopias. Anyone read any other utopian dystopias lately?


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?