'Could this actually happen?'
Humankind is no stranger to oppression and dictatorship. The quintessential dystopian novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' by George Orwell was inspired by the unnerving possibility that this could be the future. Dystopian fiction today uses that same inkling to get under the reader's skin, draw them in and keep them thinking.
In futuristic America, obsession with faux reality television has escalated to disturbing heights. 'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins takes a seemingly harmless fascination we have with watching disasters unfold for our amusement and turns it into something gripping and raw.
In a place that was once Chicago, segregation is turned on its head. While we strive to have our personalities and interests define us over our physicality and background, it is those very things that separate and unite the characters of Veronica Roth's 'Divergent,' beyond and above family bounds and residential roots.
Mike Lancaster startles with '0.4,' when the world changes in the early 21st century and humanity as we define it is questioned. A perturbing look at our growing obsession with and attachment to technology.
It seems that anything that holds uncertain potential can be taken to a brink that makes us cringe or shiver. When dystopia has its foundation in the land of "What if?" it will always be riddled with questions. Of course, questions are in no way bad. They keep the reader interested and attentive.
'How and why did this happen?'
Sometimes this question is addressed, other times it is only touched on. It is a simple one that branches out depending on the setting of the dystopia. When it comes to an American dystopian, I wonder how the nation was brought to such a premise.
'How far into the future do you need to stretch for a country like the United States of America to become a dictatorship? For it to be sealed off from the rest of the world? That no one would come to its aide?'
I used to wonder how the great power of the USA could descend into dystopia without any outside interference. That was until I learned that all it took for the United Nations to neglect the genocide in Rwanda was one word: veto. The United Nations Security Council has fifteen members, five of them permanent - UK, France, USA, Russia, China - while the rest are elected by the General Assembly for two year terms. One of the five permanent members vetoed the decision to help Rwanda and no other country on the security council could challenge it.
Those that have democracy often take it for granted but the world is not a democracy. Of course, the US is one of those five powers, so it brings even more extreme questions to mind when thinking about dystopian settings.
'What happened to American democracy? Did the United Nations sever and how?'
I don't ask these questions because I am skeptical or distrustful of the genre. On the contrary, I am fascinated by it, intrigued to know more. It makes me think and I like literature that makes me want to think.
How do you feel about dystopian fiction?