What’s the Deal with Dystopia?

dystopia-1I’ve just finished reading ‘The 100’ trilogy by Kass Morgan. As an avid fan of the TV series, I was keen to see how the books tied in with the programme. And for once, I actually found myself to be more of a supporter of the TV series than the books. Being a book lover normally means that it is more often than not the other way around; the books are always superior. However, I felt Morgan’s writing lacked finesse and proper thought at times. Some scenes seemed a little rushed and I felt that the writers of the TV series had fleshed out the characters and the general plot of ‘The 100’ much better. Yet again, I still enjoyed the books. I’m not one to bash an author, especially when I’m aspiring to be one myself. Everyone can write a novel, but not everyone can write one well.

This leads me to the ideas of dystopia and apocalypse. What’s the deal? Why the obsession? I ask all this even though I myself am a pretty hardcore fan of all things dystopic and apocalyptic. My family often say I need to branch out, but who ever told Stephen King he needed to quit the whole horror thing? Once a genre captures your attention then that’s it; you are undeniably hooked.

The ideas of dystopia and apocalypse can be found as far back as the Old Testament, and the word ‘dystopia’ comes from the Ancient Greek language. They’re nothing new and certainly not so in literature. What about George Orwell’s ‘1984’, published in 1949? Or one of my favourite author’s, Margaret Atwood, and her stunning dystopic novels (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ being my number one) published back in 1985. Yet the hype for this genre seemed to become apparent not long after the vampire/supernatural phase. There was, to be frank, so much shit written during that genre’s reign, everyone jumping on the bandwagon, that it was nice to have a change.

Cue the arrival of ‘The Hunger Games’. The novels were everywhere and soon after came the films. Yet they provided a refreshing escape in the Young Adult genre. The novels weren’t centred around a gag-worthy romance. They focussed on the downfalls of a society, ones that can be seen reflected in our own world. Whilst ‘The Hunger Games’ novels are no masterpieces, they were highly entertaining and raw. They depicted a society of mistreatment and violence. And wouldn’t it be so horrible to live in that society, that dystopia? Well, some people do. Just look at North Korea. If you want an example of a dystopic society in our time, there’s your perfect reality of one.

Dystopia and apocalypse are now genres that dominate Young Adult literature, and can be seen just as frequently in the adult sections of book shops. I like to read a selection of both, whether the protagonists are younger or older. It’s often just the depiction of a new society that I’m interested in. What would it be like to live there? What it would be like to live in a world ravaged by war, or disease? Terrifying, that’s what. It makes me see how good I have it in my little boring middle-class bubble. But there are people out there who are dealing with situations so similar to those that I get lost in when I read or watch TV. These novels often paint us a picture of what we’re doing wrong somewhere in our world, or what roads we could head down. These stories force us to look at our own reality without explicitly saying so. Some of the best societal critiques can be found amidst an imagined society. What about the misogynistic treatment of women in Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?

So I will keep on reading these books, I’ll keep on writing these apocalyptic stories, and I’ll keep on watching ‘The 100’. Even when I’m ogling the men on my TV screen, it’ll be hard to forget how much this all rings true with some parts of our world.

Caitlin (1)

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