Is Dystopia Too Bleak?

As an author of a dystopian novel, I've been thinking a lot about the genre, and the topics and content in post-apocalyptic novels.

Sometimes I see people talking about how bleak these types of novels are. Depressing, sometimes. Is this true?

Yes and no.

I find people fascinating. There are so many differences, from what books we like to what we find attractive, to what we believe. Difference is what makes each of us unique; it's what gives the world spice.

Because, really, one person’s idea of a perfect, ideal existence is often another person’s nightmare.

Dystopian novels examine these differences. They peer into what makes us different, and they peel back the layers of what we believe. Each person will get something different from each dystopian tale, because they have the opportunity to apply it to their own lives, in their own unique situation.

And to me, that's a very good thing.

Do you think dystopian novels are too bleak? What do you see in them?

12 comments:

Leigh Ann said...

I think that the draw for dystopian novels for me is that, even though the worlds created are most often bleak, the characters rise to the challenge. They become bright spots of humanity to reclaim a little bit of it for their world where it was lost. And that's beautiful and inspirational, and speaks to an unshakable human quality no matter the world around us.

LitzaLou said...

I enjoy dystopian novels for much the same reason as Leigh Ann. Though dystopian worlds are quite awful and even dark, there's still so much hope and light. It's the hope that keeps me reading the genre... it shows that hope, strength, love & determination can conquer any darkness we may come across.

Miranda Hardy said...

Too bleak? Nah. The imagination is a powerful thing. I read Dystopian because I enjoy the story.

Christine Danek said...

I enjoy dystopian. I just have to be careful not to read too many at once. I totally agree how different peoples views are. I had a first page session with 4 agents and 2 editors. My first page went from bleak to I really like this. It's amazing how subjective it can be.

Ava Jae said...

I personally love dystopian novels.

I think what attracts me to them is that although the setting is often dark and the outlook is bleak, the characters (almost always ordinary people) prevail and push through their difficult situations to become someone stronger than before.

I really admire characters in dystopian novels. The problems they face are usually not brought upon themselves and yet they get through them and change their world for the better.

So too bleak? Not at all. To me at least, dystopian novels are about hope and strength. The bleakness only accentuates that.

Matthew MacNish said...

Not at all. Hardship and conflict are what make stories interesting, and placing characters in a difficult world to survive is a great way to start that off.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I look at dystopian novels as cautionary tales. If we as a culture keep doing X, this will be the result. The hope behind the story is that maybe mankind is smart enough to not let the world come to the ruin between those pages.

The depressing part would come later - if we find ourselves in those situations that could've been prevented - if people had paid attention.

Tiffany Garner said...

I honestly haven't read a ton of dystopian novels, but I think it's really important for the author to show some hope in the eyes of their characters. If there's no hope, I have no idea why I'm reading the story in the first place. Thanks for the post!

Krispy said...

I kind of like the bleakness of dystopians. It shows the worst of humanity, but it also serves to highlight the good too.

Bookish in a Box said...

One reason I love them is for their darkness. When I'm finished reading, I look around my own world and notice how comparably bright it is.

Of course, I also love that dystopians make me *think* but they're also surprisingly cheering.

Creative A said...

Oh, interesting question! In the past I would have said yes--too bleak. Almost every dystopian I stumbled across had a great premise, awesome characters, but I couldn't get through it; I knew from the start everything was doomed. Nothing would ever work out OK.

The sense of bleakness was pervasive to the point of being unbearable (for me.) Why bother reading a book I knew would end badly? To be honest, I avoided the genre.

Now though--I don't know if anyone else has noticed this--but I feel like there's been a shifting in the genre, at least where it applies to YA. There's an aspect of redemption, hope for a better future in a lot of the books I see coming out. It helps balance the bleakness and makes me feel like I can invest in those novels.

-Mandy

John Trevillian said...

When I was writing The A-Men trilogy I found that the three-book-setup gave me the perfect stage for plotting the main character through from fall of society (book 1) to dystopian nightmare (book 2) to salvation/redemption/nirvana (book 3). Dystopia is all about struggle and what better way to experience that in a main character than in a harsh --- and to the reader, alien --- environment? Whether YA or big boys' book, there are few better settings is your story is a fight from Hell to Heaven...

www.trevillian.com