Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Real Problem with Dystopias

I recently read this post about the problem with dystopias. I'm not trying to pick on her or start an Internet battle, I'm just providing a counterpoint. I see this a lot on Goodreads, Amazon, book review sites, articles, blogs, etc...where people dislike a dystopian novel because they find aspects of it "unbelievable."

Well, of course they do. It's fantasy. It's not intended to be real, so I think the real problem here is that the people who nitpick the validity of a dystopian society just don't get the genre.

Obviously, no one really thinks that society will put children into a fight to the death, or that one day we'll be eating ground up people, or that a virus will turn humanity into flesh-eating monsters. Dystopias aren't meant to be realistic, they are meant to magnify a problem of today by putting it far into the future and making it into the worst case scenario. It's a practice of exploration. A satire of sorts.

Americans today watch a ridiculous amount of reality television. Amazing Race, Survivor, Fear Factor...those are all shows that place people into exciting and dangerous situations, and while the contestants struggle to find food, or transportation, or chow down on a scorpion, we're sitting on our couches, munching popcorn, with our eyes glued to the television. How could this possibly get worse? Oh I know, make it a show about children trying to kill one another. What happens then? You can find out in the Hunger Games.

Or 1984. One of my favorite dystopias, which was the focus of the article above and is often said to be true to today. Obviously not all of it is, and Mr. Orwell did not intend it to be. It was inspired by the Tehran Conference. But take a look at some of his ideas in the novel: people subjected to constant advertising, a shrinking middle class, being constantly watched by the government...um, hello, Patriot Act.

Granted, this post is completely biased. I love dystopias. I love to read them, write them, and watch them. That's kind of why I'm writing this. It hurts me when I see bad reviews for books I loved simply because the reader found it, "unbelievable." It's fine if you didn't love the plot, or the characters, or the writing, but don't hate it because you can't stretch your imagination.

To you I say, "Give dystopias another chance," and quit trying to look at them as fortune telling. They're not. They're science-fiction. If you can allow for fairies and vampires and aliens, then try to make room for dictators who watch your every move.

*getting off soapbox now*

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