Slouching Toward Dystopia
Last week, we talked about some of the more catastrophic ways we could create a dystopia. Rogue asteroids. Pandemics. Biotech disasters. Good times.
Of course, those are not the only way to frame a dystopia. In fact, I’m more a fan of slouching toward the bad place. As a writer, I’m more fascinated by how we reach the tipping point that sends us irretrievably (or not) in the wrong direction.
So, here are a FEW other ways we might build a dystopian world:
This is a mainstay of classic dystopian fiction. Corporations, religious sects, dictators, and/or other countries could take over the land. For instance, in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a right-wing sect overthrows the US government.
The world economy could melt down (imagine that!). A world power could become a third world country, and vice versa. Or rampant consumerism could destroy the economy and the planet. The latter is what happened in MT Anderson’s FEED.
Over population, large-scale pollution, climate change (I know, it was on the other list, too.), man-made disasters (big oil spills), etc. could all contribute the collapse of civilization as we know it. In Saci Lloyd’s near future books, Carbon Diaries 2015 and 2017, the UK adopts carbon rationing in the face of global warming (and rising sea-levels). Society begins to crumble just as the heroine is starting university.
Either through evolution or genetic experiments, mankind could change drastically or subtly, leading to some sort of dystopia. For instance, in PD James’ Children of Men, humans have become infertile.
In Through a Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. Dick, the US lost the war on drugs. And in the movie, Idiocracy, the stupid inherited the Earth--and kill the crops off with sports drinks.
Cumulative effects of any of the above
Other than a coup by right-wing fanatics (or alien overlords or killer squirrels), this one seems the most likely. If you look at MT Anderson’s Feed, for instance, you’ll see his dystopia resulted from a combination of technology (the Feed), rampant consumerism, and environmental factors. Most dystopian worlds are built on the foundation of several related things going wrong.
Why the fascination with how we get there? It’s all part of the world building exercise when writing science fiction—for any audience. I know I left a lot of elements out—such as technological advances getting ahead our ability to cope or a non-nuclear war. Can you guys think of any others? Discuss.
The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut YA authors who write science fiction and dystopian works. The ten of us have works that run the gamut of near-future mind control to far-future space travel, but they do have one thing in common: a future where the Earth we know now is twisted, gone.