Lori's Book Nook

Dystopian Literature

Posted on: September 29, 2006

Today would be a good day to comment on the classic SF genre of dystopian lit. You know the books: 1984, A Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale…books about totalitarian governments that use media manipulation and torture, among other techniques, to control their populations.

Why today? If you’ve been sleeping the last couple of days, then you may have missed the scary news that the Shrub, and the USA, are well on their way to bringing the nightmare of the dystopian world view to reality…the Powers That Be can now torture to their cold hearts’ content. Here’s raincoaster on the topic, and Metro.

On a related note, here is Creatrix on the state of art education in the USA — a report that again makes me glad I don’t live there.

Dystopian literature is supposed to be a labratory for what should not be, not a blueprint for the way a government could function…


8 Responses to "Dystopian Literature"

A few years ago, I started to keep a list for my own interest I called The Coming Police State, as kind of a occasional trend spotting thing about surveillance, subverting people’s natural rights, accommodating torture, and so on. Just scattered items I would come across and record, partially as ideas for potential science fiction stories.

I don’t bother with that list anymore… as you note, reality has overtaken it.

Yes…it’s scary and rather sad. We’re supposed to be chasing the sf elements that are beneficial to society!

Thanks for dropping by.

Good point. It would be nice to think that if we, as a society, decided to emulate speculative fiction, we would choose the “evolutionary ascension” option instead of the “dystopian police state”.

It is sad, but I try to remain optimistic that people will eventually overturn Dubya’s horrible abuses of power. The tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists are sure this is the end of civilization forever, and while it’s certainly nothing to take lightly, mankind has done worse and justice eventually prevails. What we really need is a stronger voice of opposition in our US Senate (I’m from the States) and then Bush’s atrocious (literally) policies will vanish.

Nice blog, btw.

I’m up North from you, in Canada. We’re actually taking a short trip down into the States this weekend, to try to get away from big-picture USA of GWB, imaginary WMD, torture…and just see it as it really is, our neighbours just living their lives.

I am looking for a few good dystopia/Utopia short stories (in addition to ‘Harrison Bergeron’ and ‘The ones who walk away from Omelas’)

Any suggestions?

Off-hand, I don’t really know any distopian/utopian short stories…The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is classic, and shortish. I’m a very selective short story reader.

Looking through the distopian lit link above, I see The Lottery by Shirley Jackson — if it’s the one I’m thinking of, it’s a great, freaky story.

Another short, but good, book, is The Giver by Lois Lowry. Popular with kids for some reason… :p

Great posting. Unfortunately thngs are scarier than ever, but dystopian science fiction is probably my favorite genre of literature. These are amazing books, though it really gives me pause to think that so many authors all saw this type of world as a possibility, and that there are so many different ways to get there.

Shane, I visited your site, and notice that you’ve got Neuromancer listed as one of the best dystopian novels. Gibson’s creative vision has definitely found its way into the common experience, with the Internet and virtual reality. But it’s funny — I usually forget that Cyberpunk is a dystopian world view. In the end though, isn’t all SF dystopian? đŸ™‚

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