Have You Ever...?

Okay, I'm just going to propose this, and then I'll probably run and hide. No, just kidding, I'll stick around to read what you have to say.

So I read a lot of dystopian novels. Not as many as some of you, obviously. I've written a dystopian novel. And as I was reading a few months ago (I won't say what book), I wondered something: Is this really that bad? Is this government really wrong? Maybe some of what they enforce is actually good...

So today, I'm playing Devil's Advocate. Think of the last dystopian novel you read. Tell us what it was (Mockingjay, anyone?) and try to see life from the point of view of the other side. Can you see why they rose to power in the first place? Do you see any good they're doing/did? Are there aspects that actually protect the people, provide for their basic needs?

I know that the governments in dystopian lit are usually portrayed as evil. But I'm wondering if you've ever stopped to think that maybe the evil sprouted from something good. Or that the entire government isn't all bad.

So have you ever thought of the other side?

16 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Well I am reading The Hunger Games right now, and though I'm only five chapters in, I'm loving it. Of course I really have no idea yet about the background or the reasons behind the peacekeepers and the people of the capitol, but there is some kind of hint already that Panem was set up to protect the people from war, or famine, or environmental hazard. One would hope that any society would have good reasons, even if they're doing the wrong thing. Hell that pretty much applies to capitalism.

Today's guest blogger is Emilia Plater!

Clover said...

I've been reading a few dystopic books lately and I did find myself thinking 'that's not that bad, is it?' on certain things (like during Matched by Ally Condie). Others, I really just couldn't wrap my head around the justification for it (like during Candor by Pam Bachorz).

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You are NOT going to make me defend Panem, are you?? Alright. About the only truly good defense I can come up with is that they didn't ACTUALLY let humanity perish.

But you are right, this is a good exercise. And I like complicated not-quite-evil-totally governments, just because it makes it more realistic.

Bittersweet Fountain said...

I tend to do this a lot while I'm reading dystopic or futuristic novels. It's like in V for Vendetta (the movie, haven't read the graphic novel) when V describes why the people allowed the existing government to come into power. It's not like the people wanted to be oppressed. They started with good intentions, or at least, intentions to protect themselves and then things just went too far.

debbie said...

One of the last ones I have read is jennifer goverment. It was quite good. Unfortunately, I am usually really good at playing the devil's advocate. But I just can't this time. When goverment acts like this it is because of greed, and the love of power. They know how to manipulate the populace with fear and empty promises that they will do better. The people may have been thinking they will get something better, so I do suppose that is good, but it was never meant to be better.

Kelly Bryson said...

I found Katniss and Pres. Snow's last conversation to be very interesting. I haven't figured out his motives. Did he believe that he was a good guy? I know most people believe they are doing the right thing, but a lot of people also recognize that they are doing the right thing...just for themselves. Not the right thing for the rest of humanity or the people counting on them. Like Hans Solo. When you meet him, he's in it for himself. He doesn't think he's a bad guy, he's just looking out for numero uno. If he hadn't come back to help the rebels, though, the moviegoer wouldn't have thought he was a good guy. We would have thought he was a selfish jerk who didn't deserve to have a woman like Leia love him.

So, Snow did this interesting thing that I won't describe, no spoilers here. Is he, and the panem govt, by extension, redeemed by that? Even a tiny bit?

Tere Kirkland said...

I think in a case where society as we know it is turned on it's head, it had to get that way because somewhere along the line, someone in charge thought about changing things for the better. I could simplify this by comparing it to Health Care reform, or the Social Security system: Nothing the powers that be decide is going to be a hit with everyone. And our government was built around the idea that sometimes the people don't know what's best for them (the electoral college, anyone?)

So while I can see how easy it is for things to go wrong, for a utopia to become a dystopia, once the power of the people has been permanently repressed, I no longer have any sympathy.

Thought provoking!

Hallie Tibbetts said...

I just finished John Marsden's Tomorrow series. For the most part, there's nothing good about the other side--I think the only thing I could say is that the other side is taking care of its own people! It takes the characters some time to recognize that the enemy consists of actual people, too.

It might be most interesting, though, when you can see both sides are wrong!

Riv Re said...

I'm almost done Mockingjay(!!!!) and I find this excersise very hard. But, to think of it, I suppose that years after the government rose to power, the people of the capitol couldn't imagine any other way. I don't mean the government, I mean the citizens. They live a happy life, and they can't imagine anything else.

The novel I'm writing has a very interesting backstory. I haven't breathed a word of it to anyone, not even my family, but the corrupt government BECAME corrupt, it wasn't that way to begin with.
I'll be quiet now. I don't want to spoil it!

Olivia Carter said...

Humm... this is an interesting question. I think the most interesting dystopic novels are the ones where you can see why the "powers that be" have made the decisions they've made. They aren't evil but trying to correct a wrong in society or pass laws with the best of intentions. I appreciate those shades of gray.

Larissa said...

I'm not sure a government that hadn't at least *started* with good intentions would be believable, yanno? It's more about along the way, someone allowed something to go terribly wrong, and now it's a horrible thing.

And then, at least in the dystopians I've read, a big part of the story is about addressing that injustice/wrongness in some way.

Krispy said...

In terms of the Hunger Games, it's hard for me to think of what the Capitol was thinking, but I could totally see where another form of District governance that's introduced in Mockingjay is beneficial and maybe even necessary under the circumstances but could easily turn into something as bad as the Capitol.

The dystopia of The Realm in Incarceron seems like it came from a desire for security and an idealized time after war devastated the world.

Chazley Dotson said...

I read Uglies for the first time this week. It's easy to see how it all got started in that world. The government was trying to create a peaceable, happy society, just like in many other dystopian novels. Real life isn't much different. We make choices for our own happiness or the imagined happiness of future generations, but we have no idea how the people and governments of the next century will warp what we created with good intentions.

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

I just read "Birthmarked" by Caragh O'Brien. I had a lot of critiques of the story in our review, but the basic premise was great - the government of the privileged city, which was there before those in the outlying district arrived, supplies electricity and food to the outlying district in exchange for the first 2 or 3 babies born each month. It started when the privileged city rescued some children who were being abused, which was a good thing...and then turned into an opportunity for kids to have a better life...


All of which sounds altruistic, and is certainly played out today. Our government doesn't force women to give up their children per se, but how many times are young, single women with little income pressured to give up their babies - yet no one is clamoring to take in teenagers from low-income families? The idea of giving children an opportunity for a 'better' life sounds wonderful - until you start wondering what the definition of 'better' really is.

(and btw, I am an adoptive parent many times over, so I am not knocking adoption!)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Interesting question. I think the basis for a lot of dystopian novels starts with someone (a government, a leader, etc.) who might've had the best of intentions, but they failed to look far enough down the road to see where their acts would take them. That's where the authors come in - they look at some path mankind could take and try to see which negative outcome it could lead us to. (Because, let's face it, without a negative outcome, where's the conflict?)

Annette Lyon said...

Oh, absolutely. Even in the real world, dictators and other nasties (Hitler, anyone?) have risen to power by providing food and protection and other good, attractive things.

There's a reason they GET power. It's the absolute power that then corrupts, as they say. Even if some of the leadership tries to do good w/in the system.

District 13 is a great example all by itself (aside from the obvious Capital).