Thursday, 5 April 2012

Why I Love Dystopia

On Twitter, I got asked a very good question by @10MinuteWriter: why do you like dystopia? I don’t think it’s a question which can be summed up in 140 characters, so I thought I’d write a blog explaining why I love dystopian fiction so much.
I think all literature makes comments about society. Whether readers recognise these comments or not, I think you can always relate novels back to the society the author lives in, whether that's modern society, decades or centuries ago. It’s inescapable – we are a product of the environment we’re raised it. Thus, we’re bound to have some sort of underlying social commentary lurking in our writing.
But dystopian literature transcends this. Dystopia actively criticises society; it highlights things about us that maybe we’d rather not think about. Dystopia is a reality check in some ways, because as happy as we can be in society, it reminds us that there are always flaws lying beneath the surface.
When I was younger, I used to always imagine scenarios of the worst things that could happen (I’ve never really been an optimist). I spent so much time thinking about these things, not because I was afraid of them, but because if these things happened, I wanted to be prepared. I know it doesn’t make much sense, since most of the things I imagined were totally insane and perhaps even impossible. But it all focused on this central idea of, if this happened to me, what would I do? Like I was putting myself inside a story. I suppose my love of dystopia could be said to stem somewhat from this.
Whilst dystopia does massively exaggerate the flaws in our society, it still presents these corrupt, totalitarian worlds which characters are forced to live and act in. Typically, characters in dystopian fiction are strong-willed, courageous, and whilst they are flawed, still try to do what they believe is right. I admire those qualities, and I’m not the sort of person who sits around and waits for things to happen. So perhaps that could be another reason why I like dystopian fiction.
Dystopia to me is like a terrifying characterture on society. These novels make you think about what’s wrong with the world, about the sorts of people who could exist. In a way, dystopia is a reminder to never give up on your morals and to keep fighting for things you believe in. Nineteen-Eighty Four, Atlas Shrugged, Uglies, Delirium – all these dystopian books have that quality and I love them for that. They’re about characters who rather than stepping back and letting the world trample all over them, get up and say, hey, this isn’t right. I think that’s something more people need to do in modern society. Because once you start letting the little things pass, the big things start to pass too. And soon, there’s nobody left to stand up for you.
People might not engage with dystopia because it isn’t realistic. But there is evil in the world, whether we like it or not. Dictators like Hitler and Stalin, people let them control society because not enough people could stand up and say that this wasn’t right. Things build up, and sometimes, they have terrifying consequences. Obviously, both of those people are incredibly extreme situations. But they’re also real.
I do think dystopia offers a reality check. I do think dystopian characters are admirable. I do think dystopia makes you question yourself, and makes you think about what sort of person you want to be. Dystopia is a very real comment on society, and it reassures me that as long as people keeping reading dystopia, and keep being aware of what’s happening in society, then hopefully we’ll all learn from the mistakes of our past. When we forget our mistakes and stop standing up for what we believe in, that’s when trouble begins.

9 comments:

  1. *claps* I can't say I've personally read much dystopian fiction (I'll admit now that I never heard the term until The Hunger Games started getting big...) but it does a great thing for people who read it. It is an overall thought-provoking genre, novel or not. My personal favourite dystopian creation is 'V for Vendetta' the movie, and apparently there's also a graphic novel which is even better (I want to get my mitts on a copy!)I haven't read/seen The Hunger Games yet, and I plan on doing both. Thanks for sharing this with us, I totally agree with your pro-dystopian reasoning!

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    1. Dystopia is becoming really hot on the market recently, but I promise it's been around a long while! The Hunger Games is such a great novel, I read it when it first came out and it totally blew my mind. V For Vendetta is a great choice! I haven't read the whole graphic novel - regrettably - but yes, I'd definitely recommend it.

      Thanks for reading, and I hope you get a chance to read more dystopian fiction in the future (I promise, it's really worth it!).

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    2. It sure sounds worth it! I'll get on it (as soon as I can find some time... I hardly seem to find enough to read books for school!)

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  2. Great answer! I'm reading Watership Down to my children right now, and while it couldn't be called dystopian, it certainly makes comments on society and speaks of warnings of different types of problems. My kids just think it's a story about rabbits. But all authors have something to say -- something under the surface of the story, regardless of the genre. I'm a fan of literary fiction and enjoy it the most when it points fingers at what is wrong. (It's nice to meet you too!)

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  3. You're completely right. Apparently Dr Suess was very political, and his children's stories have a lot of hidden meanings, which I find really interesting! I think literature is such a good reflection of life, because in life sometimes we don't get a happily ever after and a lot of novels reflect that. Thanks, nice to meet you too!

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  4. Hey Fiona! My senior sem in college had a LOT of dystopian fiction... I bet you would have loved it. I certainly did! A lot of it addressed the question of how far we can get with technology and still retain our humanity. Have you read any Margaret Atwood? It definitely sounds like we would enjoy a lot of the same books!

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  5. Hello! Yes, that does sound like something I'd love. Yeah, I think technology is definitely integral to dystopia; I suppose it's the question of how long is it until our love of technology controls us and our society rather than us controlling the technology (definitely think Nineteen Eighty-Four). A friend told me about this experimental technology which by reading your facial expression can begin to accurately read your mind, which is somewhat terrifying! I tried to read The Handmaiden's Tale a few years ago but for some reason I just couldn't get into it! But like I said that was a few years ago, so maybe I should try re-reading it and see what I think.

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  6. I love dystopia too. I can't ever imagine getting sick of it, no matter what happens with the trends. I love the juxtaposition of innocence in those worlds (usually the MC's POV in the beginning) mixed with the creepy amount of control usually associated with them.

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    1. Agreed, it's been a firm favourite of mine for years, and no matter how popular the market for it is in the future I'll still be reading it! Me too, I think it really highlights to us as readers the flaws in our world, and how sometimes even we fail to notice them. I'm glad to find a fellow lover of dystopia!

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