Dystopia in literature 6 Comments

Dystopia in literature

I love dystopian fiction. It’s the best, honest! No matter how pessimistic I generally am on any pre-caffeinated morning, these guys seriously take the cake. The difference being that while I tend to get sulky about the dwindling amount of tobacco in my pouch or the heat outside, sharp-penned fiction writers have the ability to cut up their current norms and trends then glue together a snapshot of the possible future. And their concern is likely more warranted.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s an inevitable and gratifying mix of philosophy and history needed to paint convincing a dystopia. It’s about building a world which can project uncomfortable concepts, unlikable characters and a distorted societal structure (sci-fi is also wonderful for this, Phillip K Dick especially). However, probably more importantly than that, they motivate you to attempt a rebuttal. Like satire during revolution, dystopian fiction is something that should itch you into questioning the state of things. It’s admittedly far from the escapism offered a lighter holiday read, but valuable nonetheless. It also enabled Huxley to quote or reference other great minds almost incessantly without sounding like too much of a prat (unfortunately this is the only time outside a uni essay anyone is likely to get away with it).

So, after this little spiel hopefully I’m not the only one who submitted an excessive amount of practise essays when studying Nineteen Eighty-Four. 
My dear wordnerds, what is the most convincing and well written piece of dystopian fiction you’ve come across?
What aspect most disturbed or intrigued you?

  • Raf

    Hey dear, I must firstly admit to having a huge crush of Philip K. Dick, have you read his short stories?
    But anyway, I think for me the appeal of sci-fi is that the future it portrays, however dystopian, is believable, and indeed seems highly probable. This tends to happen only with really good sci-fi, but the ones that get it get it damn well. This means that I am less likely to try to rebut it and instead simply wonder how we can avoid what seems almost inevitable.

    Why do you think it is that in almost any sci-fi although they are creating machines that often resemble humans highly accurately and seem to be quite prized, the humans often feel threatened by the robots?

  • Kat

    I’ve studied Minority Report, but that’s sadly the extent of it. Really want to get my hands on a Scanner Darkly because, I don’t care what anyone says, the movie was freaking cool.
    The really good authors out there can tend to beat you at every turn. But personally the appeal if often in trying to find the assumptions (which may be the philosophy student in me sneaking out). No-one wants to believe they would make the same choices as Winston from Nineteen Eighty-Four, or be apart of a society that quietly turns to conditioning to save itself from ultra-violence, as in A Clockwork Orange.

    In terms of the humanoid robots, that’s probably an ego thing. Being able to do it better than Mother Nature blah blah blah. But having accomplished that, there’s always the chance it’ll bite you on the behind, Matrix-styles. In Red Dawf, androids are purposefully made to look like rather ugly robots and have very strict programming to allay this fear.

    (Shesh! Talk about pop-culture references to the max)

  • Maddie

    I love dystopian fiction! So much! I just read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which is about a world where people are mindless TV consumers and books are banned. The main character is a fireman and his job is to find and burn books. And I also read Camp Concentration by Thomas M. Disch, which I found interesting but hard going. It’s about a camp in the US where men are given a form of syphilis which makes them geniuses, but is also fatal. Both of these were recommended to me on this website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/22/1000-novels-fiction-fantasy-dystopias

    And I also read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which was really interesting because it was dystopian fiction written by a woman and with a female protagonist. So much sci-fi/dystopia tends to be male-oriented? Or is that just my experience?

    So now I’m excited to go and read more! I agree with you guys, the best is the most believable and scary and thought-provoking.

  • Kat

    Ooh, I was hoping someone would magic up a list like that. Cheers Maddie!

    The Handmaid’s Tale is the only work I’ve come across with a critical focus on women. Of course they’re always there, but often just as a plot device. One of the things I loved about Atwood’s approach was the ways society blatantly regressed; it was as if feminism never happened. As well as the implications of technology, reckon it’s really important not to take prior progress for granted. As such, if any governmental body tries to tell me sex is purely for reproductive purposes they’re getting punched in the face.

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  • Caitlin

    I’ve always loved the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld – dystopian YA fiction at its best. Basically, it follows a young girl who lives in a world set sometime in the not-too-distant-future, where at the age of sixteen every individual undergoes a procedure to make time ‘pretty’. Really fantastic read, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a good dystopian novel. Or just a good novel, in general. :)

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