Dystopian Wanderings

Dystopia has been defined and redefined as every generation discovers and rediscovers the power it can have as a fiction, as an informative device, as a life changing event. There are many simple way to understand dystopia, but none of them help to understand the scope of dystopia.

I pick up and put down dystopian research throughout my life. When I was 16 I read 1984 and Thomas More's Utopia and these two books changed my life. They sparked in me interest and excitement. I have been chasing that desire ever since.

I have also left and returned to blogging over the years. I have been stricken by the pressure to produce, but also by life getting in the way of things.

The way that life gets in the way is essential to many dystopian narrative, especially the real life ones we see more and more often on the news. We used to fear Big Brother, and now we know he is there, yet somehow fall under the illusion that we are safe because we are too busy to deal with it. Dystopian narratives have taught us the fallacy of safety. When one believes they have nothing to hide they have forgotten how the system works. They have forgotten the century of warnings.

I am attempting to return to my research and do a better job of keeping myself accountable. I have many online and paper notebooks filled with scrawled out half ideas. I want to give those ideas a home, without the pressure of perfection. I am going to allow my half formed ideas to surface into the light from now on. (I hope.) (I have made such declarations before.)

One thing I am hoping to accomplish is returning to young adult dystopian novels I have enjoyed in the past and reflecting on what I liked and why I might recommend them. Since my interest in this subject area started the market has only grown. It is easy to become disconnected with the quality titles that existed before The Hunger Games. Or the gems that released within the noise of the subsequent sub-genre boom. The issue of definition has always been a problem, but thanks to The Hunger Games, everyone has an idea of what a dystopia is. It may just be as simple as calling it a bad place.

With the growth in the popularity of this type of fiction the distinction between dystopian literature and novel with dystopian themes is essential. In the past, when there were limited texts and resources we often identified books with dystopian themes as examples of dystopian literature, but as the market has been flooded with more and more examples of books with dystopian themes it becomes mandatory to make the distinction.

Like all science fiction, dystopia is about the fear of the current political climate.  We think of dystopia as a warning of the future that may come, but it is really about the future that is already here. Memory is often a theme in dystopian literature, in part because we fear what will happen if we forget what has happened in the past. There are so many lessons to be learned by past mistakes. Without the ability to access them we will easily repeat them. 

Reality is always changing and so are things that we think of as immutable. Facts are what we call the theories of our age and while we can be quick to point out the mistakes of the past, we aren't willing to accept that we may be making some on our own.


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