Why Dystopian? It’s a question I’m inevitably asked when my books and essays are discussed. My short answer is: Do I get a choice? Followed by my long answer: It’s what makes us human.
The dystopian genre is a messy reflection of the good, bad and in-betweens of humanity in difficult situations. The dystopian society is an avoidable but often dubiously stable society (albeit not one we fancy ourselves in) in which a fundamental freedom or sacrifice has occurred. It isn’t post-apocalyptic. Post-apocalyptic usually comes after the dystopian society, when the masses or the military have had enough and destroyed everything; or the planet simply fizzles out as H.G. Wells’ Time Machine portrays. Dystopian, on the other hand, is the human under the magnifying glass when there’s still a choice left to be made—will we kill, will we save, will we love, will we hate? Is there room for the family unit or is it every man, woman and child for themselves? It’s the pertinent questions we’re left with.
The dystopian society is an avoidable but often dubiously stable society (albeit not one we fancy ourselves in) in which a fundamental freedom or sacrifice has occurred.
These key questions ignite the curiosity within myself and many others. The question of survival, and how we as a people go about obtaining and sustaining that very survival while keeping our humanity intact, holds relevance in a world full of war, deceit and destruction. Is it any wonder we cling onto every episode of The Walking Dead (a post-apocalyptic show now rooted heavily in the dystopian sub-genre; or every Divergent and The Hunger Games movie (a stable dystopian society moving into the apocalyptic arena)? We’re seeking to make sense of it all.
Once the dystopian society strips bare the threads of humanity, only then can we truly understand what it means to be alive.
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