A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as “not-good place”, an antonym of utopia.
Images of a dystopian future are custom in futuristic scifi blockbusters like The Hunger Games, Blade Runner, the Terminator series, RoboCop, The Matrix, The Island, WALL-E, Snowpiercer, Divergent and The Maze Runner. And so many many more.
The one book on my reading list, Infinite Jest, is a dystopian novel. Dystopian books are a big theme within young adult fiction.
I have grown up with dystopian stories. Science fiction, as a genre focused on a future in whatever shape, has many dystopian stories. The main story of our present earth right now in 2017 evolves around climate change, war, globalization and post-capitalism. There are many forces going against each other. One time one party seems to be gaining ground, the next time another party wins a fight.
Looking at our planet as it is right now, it is hard to see what path we will take. Nature, the woods, the rain forest, the mammals, fishes, insects, birds: they are taking a beating. But they still survive. And life on this planet is on a ever changing path as it is. For millions of years.
It is impossible to predict the future.
Dystopian stories are our dreams of a possible future.
Dystopian fictions invariably reflect the concerns and fears of its contemporaneous culture. We can fight. Fight the armies of the rich and powerful. As we do in the stories. We can dream. Dream our live away from our present world. Dream our wishes away in a thought out world in which we are able to stand up. As one amongst many. To get back to living our ordinary lives in our ordinary world the next ordinary moment. It is like we go on a holiday for a couple of weeks to a sunny bright beachy hotel right next to the sea. To get back home and start working again. The ordinary life.
Dystopian stories are a relief from our ordinary lives, a relief from our ordinary work. A way out of our world, dreary as it seems. Dystopian stories are related to our world. It does reflect concerns and fears of our world, as it is today. Yes. A scary story with a true hero fighting for a good cause against the evil enemy.
The increasing interpenetration of government, university, and private firms has led everyone to adopt the language, sensibilities, and organizational forms that originated in the corporate world. Although this might have helped in creating marketable products, since that is what corporate bureaucracies are designed to do, in terms of fostering original research, the results have been catastrophic.
I love several dystopian stories. A few weeks ago i posted about The Handmaid’s Tale, a television series i really like and admire. In the scifi books i have there are many dystopian elements. It is a good area for people who think and dream about our current society to tell a meaningful story. To make up a new world, to set out its details and idiosyncracies and interconnectedness.
But right now, i am more interested in our present world. In what constitutes power. Where are the details here, in this world we live in.
It is so easy to look away. It is so easy to hide within your own cocoon of work and friends and facebook and home. It is so easy to not think about this world where we are right now and which way we are headed.
Our world, this planet we live on, is a wonderful, glorious, beautiful place. We are messing up things, yes. But it still is beautiful.
We should do our most urgent best to make it better again. And many people are doing exactly that. Working in other countries to save chimps or ants or dolphins or whales or the rain forest or the Antarctica or poor hungry people or whatever needs saving.
I’m not believing in all the dystopian stories there are about. No. But i do believe there is something really wrong in our current world. I can not point it out directly. I am thinking of the rich people. Thinking of the powerful people. Thinking of the people telling us what to think, what to feel. But i don’t know for sure.
I’m thinking of the news this evening telling us the economy is doing well this year. Showing images of people walking in shopping streets and spending money. It will rise with 2,4%. Yay!
Which is ridiculous. Stupid. What are people buying? What are they spending their money on?
My mind is not clear about these things. But i am thinking. And talking with friends. And moving my life away from the way of life we are told we should live.
A new story. Not dystopian. Not utopian. Not a dream world, but a world we work hard in. A world in which we are going to miss many of the things making our lives look pleasurable. That is the way i think we should move in.
I should talk about this with other people. Of course. Talk, fight, argue. Make myself clear. Listen to what other people have to say. There are so many things i don’t know anything about.
Because this is an enormous fight. No mistake. Huge!
- The cyberpunk dystopia we were warned about is already here
- Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit
- Project Hieroglyph: Fighting society’s dystopian future
- Death of a Dystopian
- Why Do We Like Dystopian Novels?
- The Rising Popularity of Dystopian Literature
- Forget the ‘Hunger Games’: Dystopia Is Alive and Well in America
- From utopia to dystopia: technology, society and what we can do about it
Great article. Loved reading it!
My blog is very much in the dystopian vein.
It’s an interesting article, and I wondered, having recently read the first instalment of Scott Harvey’s new dystopian series, HEROPLOT. If his take on dystopia, at least in the first book (The Spear of Destiny) is not a more compelling approach to the genre?
In HEROPLOT: The Spear of Destiny, we see the modern-day civilisation descend into a form of totalitarian utopia that, without giving any spoilers may or may not succeed and may or may not have consequences thereafter. For me, I honestly found Harvey’s writing more refreshing than most dystopian fiction, especially young adult dystopian fiction which nearly always has, as you say, “A scary story with a true hero fighting for a good cause against the evil enemy.” Harvey seems to see things differently, in fact, there is no out and out hero or heroic figure at all in The Spear of Destiny. The novel sets the stage for what hopefully is to come, and that’s what makes it all the more refreshing…. The actual journey, or descent, into dystopia rather than simply following a true hero within one.