28 August 2012

Dystopian fiction

I was talking to someone about distopian fiction at conference last weekend. We were pondering it's rising popularity, especially in YA (young adult) fiction, and I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the topic.
If you're not sure what dystopian fiction is...

Dystopias are commonly found in science fiction novels and stories. A dystopia is the idea of a society, generally of a speculative future, characterized by negative, anti-utopian elements, varying from environmental to political and social issues. Dystopian societies are often used to raise the subject of issues or concerns regarding society, environment, politics, religion, psychology or spirituality that may become present in the future. Famous depictions of Dystopian societies include Nineteen Eighty-Four, a totalitarian invasive super state; Brave New World, where the human population is placed under a caste of psychological allocation and Fahrenheit 451 where the state burns books out of fear of what they may incite. Where you find distopias you have distopian fiction.

I remember reading a fair amount of distopian fiction as a teenager, and looking back I think one of the reasons it's so fun to read at that age is the freedom it gives. As a teenager you're stretching your wings, trying to move out from your parents authority, but in real life you're still very constrained by the adults around you.

In distopian fiction the (frequently) teenage heroes can easily be given a type of independence they don't have in real life, even if there are other challenges they have to overcome. Parents/ teachers etc... can be killed in plagues, nuclear explosions. For example, in the recently populat Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the main protagonists are made independent by being entered into the games. Here they have to rely on themselves (not adults). In a series I remember reading as a teen (that I can no longer recall the name of) the hero & heroine survive a nuclear blast by hiding out in the basement of a movie theater.

Not only to the books give a kind of independence but the show the heroes to be capable and have them overcome the odds to survive. Those are all things teenagers are trying to do. In the above examples, survive the games, or travel and survive through a nuclear blasted world.

I think books of this type also pull people (not just teens) in when times are tough, again because of the overcoming the odds, surviving in the face of adversity tropes. not only that but also as a feeling that, no matter how bad things are, thank goodness they're not as bad as this.

Anyway that's my 2cents worth. To finish, here's a link to my librarything account and my books classified as dystopian, and an infographic from goodreads showing the recent upsurge of books being classified as dystopian.

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