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July 8, 2013 / ljbradburn-Smith

Why Dystopia?

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I have been obsessed with dystopian literature since my (not so long ago – ahem) university days. The first time I discovered the genre was reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which is still one of my favourite books. After catching the dystopian bug I started thinking about why so many people love this genre and what it is about  representations of a formidable future that keeps us hooked.

I think it comes down to fear of and fascination for the unknown. The fact that no-one can truly know what will happen, in the future, just as we can’t know for sure what happens when we die, only fuels our curiosity further. Whilst authors often start their stories in the midst of an extreme society it is often all too reminiscent of our current culture and not difficult to see how situations we face could reach that point.

We are already celebrity and beauty driven, as Scott Westerfeld points out, we are already destroying our world, exerting our power over the lives of animals and nature and being regulated and controlled by laws that more than half of us don’t know the source of. All too often the dystopian worlds, created by insightful authors are already, in part, familiar and all too easy to imagine. I think the reason we like them so much is because we feel that we are being let in on a bit of the secret and that we would somehow be prepared if the worst does happen. There are several reasons that readers may like this type of literature – perhaps they like to think of themselves as the hero/rebel, the person who would stand up for what they believe is right or as someone who could outsmart the system. It certainly gets me planning how I could escape an oppressive regime.

Reading dystopian literature gets my heart buzzing and my survival instinct kicks in as I become reminded of the dangers of living in a society where people are controlled by fear. Much the same as not being able to look away from something terrible, we are fascinated and appalled by the reality future generations could face.

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4 Comments

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  1. Valerie R. Black / Jul 8 2013 7:00 am

    Dystopia began for me with The Hunger Games. I was blown over by the intensity of the story and since then have devoured dystopian fiction. I think Dystopia is all the rage now because people are so scared of the world blowing up.

    • ljbradburn / Jul 8 2013 6:32 pm

      The Hunger Games is brilliant! I agree, it was really intense! I was on edge for most of the time whilst I was reading it! It’s scary isn’t it? feels like a waiting game x

  2. wakeupyourluck / Jul 8 2013 1:04 pm

    Brilliant post! I love dystopian novels. I completely agree that part of the fascination, with a good novel anyway, is that we can see exactly how things could turn out that way. Scary!

    • ljbradburn / Jul 8 2013 6:28 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I am always on the look out for more dystopian novels so if you have any recommendations that would be great! xxx

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