Readers' Favorite

May 18, 2014

Two Cents Discussion: Why is the Dystopian Genre So Popular?

At the Fierce Reads book signing, Lindsay Smith, author of Sekret,  said something that I thought was very applicable to this discussion. She wanted to write a book set in an oppressive state, but she didn't want to write a dystopian novel.

I have wondered for a while why the genre is so popular, particularly in young adult literature. The thought of a dystopian society is depressive and definitely not something most people would want to live in. What about these "awful" societies is so attractive that they are selling millions of copies and landing on the big screen?

Perhaps it isn't the actual society, but what they represent. Smith's statement solidified this thought for me. We have seen dystopian type societies in history. Nazi Germany and the Jewish Ghettos, Communist Russia and the Siberian work camps, and more. I also think most people would think society as a whole is getting worse and not better. The encroachment of government in the personal lives of citizens is rapidly increasing. Yet, little is being done to combat any of this.

Which leads me to the second reason I believe dystopian novels are appealing, particularly to the next generation. I wonder if my generation is even capable of revolution. If we were living at the time of the American Revolution would we have just sat on our hands and still be bowing to a monarch? Could my generation have fueled the protest of the Civil Rights Movement? We do have the Occupy Movement, but is it really effective?

There is always a Revolutionary, whether the character wants to be or not, in a dystopian novel. I believe that is the real draw of these novels. I think at the core of our very being we want to set things right, see justice for the oppressed, stand up for freedom... Yet, for some reason we feel powerless to affect change in our own time. It is so much easier to settle for the status quo, but there in lies the problem. The status quo won't even be maintained without some effort. Those seeking power and control are master manipulators and they will chip away at our society until one day we wake up, but then it may be too late.

And there lies the reason I think the dystopian genre has become so popular. It gives us some measure of hope that someone will push back, there will be someone to rally the troops once more, to be our generation's George Washington or Martin Luther King, Jr.

What do you think? Add your two cents either in the comments or get the discussion started on your blog and link up your post below.

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  1. Great post, Donna! Lots of food for thought! Hugs!

  2. I think it's also because there is so much scope with a dystopian world, you can corrupt it anyway you wish and put it back together again, if you wanted to, in just as many different ways. There are also many different POV's you can cover and every character has a story to tell. Where were you when? What was your life like before?
    There are so many places you can got within dystopian I don't think the surface has been scratched yet.

    1. Each dystopian world also have a limited scope. Some particular group exploits some weakness of society for their own benefit. The Hero arrives to expose the problem and change things. The real world has dozens of interwoven problems where changing one puts others out of balance. Through unintended consequences we have arrived at a state of affairs where we are a tad nervous about making it worse.