With the release of my first dystopian novel, Natural Selection, I’ve paused to understand exactly what dystopian means. Some might say it’s a dysfunctional society in a dysfunctional world. A world filled with extreme hard times, mostly for the average human being as there always seems to be a higher class that still lives in the lap of luxury.
Or it might be the last remains of a dying civilization with hope balanced on the shoulders of a sole individual or a few individuals.
Or it might be the collapse of society as we know it in the developed countries. This means those living in isolated locations, such tribes and people with little or no contact with modern man, are not affected.
When I think of dystopian novels, I think of The Road (which I hated), The Hunger Games (which I haven’t read or watched) and Mad Max (which I loved).
Sometimes, I think we’re already living in a dystopian world, and we just don’t know it. Close your eyes, clear your mind of what you’ve slowly adapted to over the decades, then look at the world from the perspective of 30 years ago.
Fact: A battered wife isn’t battered from day one. If she was, she’d be gone the first day. Instead, she’s slowly groomed to accept abuse and make excuses for her abusive husband’s behaviour. This is part of the reason women stay longer expected in destructive relationships.
Apply this philosophy to society, and we see people relinquishing their rights and freedoms one inch at a time. They don’t realise what they’ve given up over the decades for false security and ‘progress’.
If Robo Cop, 1984 and I am Legend are dystopian, compare them with what’s going on today. No, not everything applies in every story, but there are similarities.
But what does the online dictionary say?
Dystopian: adjective: relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice.
Particularly in the last 10 years, I’ve seen a great deal of suffering (health and financial) and injustice in society. And every month that passes, it gets worse. In the past 19 months, it’s like we went from 2nd gear to 4th towards a dislikable society.
Also: an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly.
Again, this imaginary place is becoming more real each day.
Dystopian is also defined as a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. Many people would describe today’s society like that.
According to the Internet, the word dystopian was used very little before 1950. There was a huge increase in use starting in the 1990s, and it has only climbed in usage since.
After reading all these meanings, I’m fearing I haven’t written a dystopian at all. While I’ll admit, some will find the world I’ve created horrible and terrifying, others would gladly change what we have today for the world I’ve created.