Reflection: Dystopia

Dystopia is the opposite of utopia.  In fiction, dystopia generally refers to a story set in a bad future – the type of future world you would not want to live in.  It may be ravaged by some disaster, or there may instead be serious social or political problems.  Read the TV Tropes article on Dystopia here.

Dystopia is not a rare genre.  There are many classic works of dystopian fiction, such as George Orwell’s 1984.  There are also a lot of more recent examples, like The Hunger Games.  In fact, I would say stories about dystopian futures are much more common than utopian futures (the only one of the latter I can think of is Star Trek).  I’ve written a few dystopian stories of my own, such as Granny’s Cafe (readable here), and of course, The Cromm Conspiracy.

Now, the question becomes what makes a good Dystopia.  There are many approaches – no set formula.

One way to make a good dystopia is to take a modern social or political issue, and take it to the extreme.  With Granny’s Cafe, I did this with the issue of sugar taxes, and took it to the extreme by making a world where most food is banned for being unhealthy.  This makes for a creative way to comment on the issue, and speak out against it.

While doing this, one thing I take note of is that the dystopia is in many ways impossible or illogical.  If you think enough about the world in Granny’s Cafe, you’ll find many logical flaws with the system.  Just think about the economic effects of a food ban.  The society described simply could not exist.

However, I should not worry about the impossibility of that society.  The purpose of the story is to make a point, not describe a realistic future.  If I think too much about all the effects of a food ban, I’ll have to explain a lot more details, much to the detriment of the story.  It’s better not to mind the “fridge logic”.

The other way I’ve approached Dystopia is with a major disaster that plagues the Earth.  This is what I did in Cromm, with the domings.  Everybody has to live with the continuous fear that they could be trapped under the next dome, and it could come down at any time.  Additionally, the fact that so many people are trapped under the domes, not confirmed alive or dead, leaves their families without closure.

The disaster also could be metaphorical for something else.

But in Cromm, I take it a step further, by going into details about the government’s response to the domes.  They try to restore order, but in doing so, simply interfere with the peoples’ freedom.  So in a way, Cromm features the first type of Dystopia too, but in a more down-to-Earth, realistic way; I don’t exaggerate the issues too much, I just draw attention to them a lot.

Despite being bleak, dystopian futures are fun to dream up, imagine, and write.  They are a unique way to make a point.  Since I’m telling a story, rather than preaching, it’s more fun to write, and I’m not going to scare away less politically-minded readers.  Anyway, I’ve got a couple other dystopia stories I’ll be writing in the future, but for now, White Rakogis is signing off.

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