With the current upsurge of the dystopian literature genre, there have also been outpouring questions about it. I’ve also received quite a few of them.
Hence, I’ve decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to the dystopian-themed literary works. These are the questions I received throughout time and commonly posted online.
Dystopian literature is a form of creative writing in which one of its main ingredients or components is speculative fiction. It started as a retort to utopian literary work and came from the word dystopian, which means a bad place or utopia that has gone wrong, as “dys” means bad and “topia” is utopia.
By definition, utopia originated from the Greek word “eu-topos,” which means a good place. Hence, dystopia is sometimes often referred to as anti-utopian. That is also why the dystopian genre involves tragic or terrible apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic settings.
It depicts an imagined society or community that is inhumane and dreadful. However, other times, dystopia is concealed or comes in disguised as utopian. Generally, the dystopian genre offers a view of the future, a world in devastation, and characters fighting against repressive government control in a ravaged environment.
A story can be dystopian when it talks about a futuristic, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, or imagined world where oppression or societal control is relevant. It is also when the society is under restrictive corporate, government, moral, religion, technological, or totalitarian control. More often, it also comes in the illusion of an ideal or utopian community.
There are many characteristics or attributes of dystopian literature, but among its most common traits include the following listed below.
One of the most common features of dystopian literature involves an extreme government control or totalitarianism that may or may not include technological control but usually tackles with survival and loss of identity in a world of ruins or devastating environment.
Dystopian literary works follow some usual themes, which can also be a combination of two or three. A lot of times dystopian literature may consist of subgenres or subcategories. These thematic topics are notable in dystopian books because of the intense emotional reaction from the readers.
So, here are some of the usual themes of dystopia.
The decline or destruction of the environment and ecology is among the most common themes in dystopian literature. By saying so, it’s not surprising that novels with this genre embrace a shock element in response to the devastation.
A few of the most common environmental damage or decline themes include but not limited to depopulation, desert land, intense weather conditions, and loss of civilization, among many others.
Another most typical theme in dystopian literature is oppressive or repressive government control. Usually, the government or administration controlling the community is the frequent cause of the problems in a dystopia.
Due to the suppression imposed by the government in a dystopian society, citizens are often living in horrible or terrifying conditions, leading them to lose their freedom, and worse, their life.
Apart from the oppressive government control, repressive technological control is also another theme frequently combined with the main topic of the story to create a dystopia.
Technological control could be mass surveillance, mind control, confined environment, and choosing people’s way of life, such as actions, careers, partners, and daily activities.
Oppressive government control can come with suppressive religious control. From its name, the community is under the control of a religious sector. Citizens made believed that particular actions or traits are blasphemies or mortal sins.
Big corporations also play an important role in restrictive community control. These are the dystopian-themed novels where the plot runs through how huge corporations are controlling mankind or the population.
Also, militaristic is another dystopian control where the regime is under the strict directives of the military, pursuing aggressive and suppressive military policy or the law.
With that said, fighting for survival is one of the subjects included in a dystopian world. Intense restrictions and extreme suppressions spark off citizens’ need to fight back to survive as well as to rebel against the unjust oppression.
These survival plots make any dystopian story exciting and gripping. Hence, many readers are hooked with dystopian literature.
Among the most usual theme in a dystopian setting is post-nuclear war or disaster. It illustrates a world after a disastrous global nuclear war obliterated or annihilated most of the population.
Most of these themes result in mankind’s losing freedom and individualism or identity.
The latter is also another sub-theme within a central theme in a storyline of dystopian literature.
Some literary historians and critics suggested that before George Orwell’s 1949 novel “Nineteen Eight-Four (1984)” and Aldous Huxley’s 1932 book “Brave New World,” there was “We” by Yevgeni Zamyatin, which he wrote from 1920 to 1921, but first published in the English language in 1924 by Gregory Zilboorg.
However, “Don Quixote” of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605, which may not be totally dystopian in nature, but comes with elements of dystopia.
Like any other category in literary works, the dystopian genre is also a vital element in literature. The reality is each generation has its worries or fears.
For people who lived through the cold-blooded war and frightening plague, dystopian literature is their way to share their stories and the appalling consequences that they have to endure, reminding us that it’s never the solution.
Other authors would like to convey how economic equality, highly increasing influence and power of corporations, consumerism, and automation can lead to devastating effects.
Conclusively, dystopian literature reminds us of the past mistakes of our ancestors, hoping that we and the new generation will not make again or create new. That and the entertainment these dystopian novels bring, which is one of the most relevant factors in the world of literature.
John Stuart Mill, the English philosopher, is the man responsible for the invention or discovery of dystopia. He coined the word, which apparently is the result of his denouncement of the Irish land policy of the government in 1868. Furthermore, Mill reportedly got inspired by More’s utopian literary works.
The other words or terms for dystopia or dystopian are anti-utopia, bad place, cacotopia, kakotopia, and utopia that has gone wrong.
A dystopian society is where something horrendous happens, such as suppression of the people’s rights, ruins or tragic place, environmental or ecological decline and destruction, and excessive control of groups or organizations, such as the government, technology, religion, corporation, and military.
There’s a large library of popular dystopian books that you can name. Some of the most popular ones are those coming from award-winning and notable authors and a few others made an impressive result in the box-office.
Here are quite a few of them in no particular order.
This novel is a good example of suppressive government control or a totalitarian government.
Another classic personal favorite is “Brave New World” from another well-celebrated author of all time in the dystopian genre is Aldous Huxley.
This masterpiece from the brilliant mind of Huxley is an ideal depiction of a technologically controlled society.
Stefan Bolz showed us how cold-blooded corporations control the lives of the people in the society.
This dystopian book is a great example of a community largely controlled by big corporations.
This dystopian novel is among the remarkable masterpieces of the award-winning and highly acclaimed author Stephen King.
“The Long Walk” is a depiction of a society under a strict, repressive military control.
Another classic masterpiece from Stephen King is “The Stand,” which details how a bioweapon turns into a plague and the world into dystopia.
Suzanne Collins’ trilogy is on the top of almost every list of most popular dystopian books.
It’s a perfect depiction of oppressive government control and survival.
“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien may come on top of many websites as the best-selling dystopian books of all time with 150 million copies sold since published in 1954, but “Don Quixote” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” which both have dystopian elements lead on the top two spots in “World Atlas” list.
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