Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Dystopia?


First of all, what is dystopia exactly?  Take your pick from different dictionary definitions:

-  a society characterized by human misery, squalor, oppression, disease and overcrowding

-  an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives

-  An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror.

-   an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be

-  a vision of a future that is a corrupted (usually beyond recognition) utopian society
-  A miserable, dysfunctional state or society that has a very poor standard of living

-  a fictional world where people live under a highly controlled, totalitarian system.

 -  Often a dystopia in a book is a society of the future, serving as a warning about what might happen if we let technology, industry, and government creep further and further into our lives.

You might think that this would be a depressing topic to write about but I find it fascinating.   Of the definitions above, garnered from different on-line dictionaries, I prefer the last definition.   A dystopia isn't necessarily squalid and disease-ridden.   Somebody is always living a life of luxury in all societies.   Sometimes the frightening thing about fictional dystopias is how normal some aspects are or how accustomed most people have become to the status quo.   It might be  one unexpected event--natural or man-made--that ends up having more impact than anyone might have predicted, than anyone had had considered possible.   That, of course, is part of the problem:   No one every considered the possibility of the event occurring and certainly, no one prepared for it.

Perhaps I write my dystopian novels as cautionary tales--attempting to accomplish on a minuscule scale what scientific and economic warnings have not.   If the faucet runs dry and our water system is depleted or the power grid fails permanently and the lights go out.  What then? .


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