This week’s prompt was a ‘freebie’ meaning we could write about whatever we wanted and it took some time for me to come up with one I was both excited about and could think of 10+ possible answers for. I finally settled of Dystopian Futures Most Likely To Become Reality. This is a subject I find really interesting and having read a fair amount of dystopian novels in my early teens – ushered in by the movie adaption of The Hunger Games – it’s a topic I often wonder about.
What will the future bring? Is it possible that the crazy things we read about thinking they could never happen here, to us, actually could?
The scary answer I always come to is that you know what, maybe they could. Maybe.
Maybe it’s our responsibility as the new generation to steer the development of civilisation, a job that looks like it’s is becoming increasingly difficult and scary what with the recent ‘air strikes’ (which frankly, is just a pretentious western way of saying ‘bombings’ to make it sound more pleasant on the news and in civilised conversation) but for now I think I’m just going to write about fictional dystopias as featured in some of the series that shaped my reading habits.
The main thing to remember about dystopias is that they are meant to be horrible – abhorrent in comparison to our own world –, completely imagined by the author and not set in our world at all. However, the majority of dystopian books tend to refer or hint back to a time before ‘the event’ that caused the descent into the society created. Generally, that ‘time before’ can be inferred as the world we live in now and so with a lot (not all) of these novels – whilst I undeniably enjoy them – I find myself drawing lessons and subliminal warnings from them. This is what the author intends, of course, the reason why, perhaps, so much dystopian fiction was aimed at the young adult audience in the early 2000s – 2010s and still today as an easy way to convey specific morals and political stances on a young (and supposedly impressionable) mind.
I’m on a bit of a tangent as this is an important topic of discussion for me but my general point is I do not believe the world is doomed to fail – I’m not that much of a pessimist. I was specific to phrase the theme as ‘Dystopian Futures Most Likely To Become Reality’. We still have a chance, it’s cool.
On with my list.
10. Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver
Delirium, if you haven’t read it takes place in a world where love has been cured and is feared and punishable by law. When citizens are teenagers they are administered this scientific cure for dulling down pretty much all emotion but mainly love and become mindless drones that follow the rules of the government that dictates everything from how much money they earn, what they do for a living and who they marry (purely for the purpose of procreation – none of that romantic stuff).
Love is a pretty destructive force when looked at objectively – speaking as someone who recently tried to help a friend through the termination of a long-term relationship, it really is – but it’s not curable, it can’t be snuffed out it’s intangible and integral to human nature. So, though I never say never, this seemed the least likely of my list. The dictatorship less unlikely.
9. Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
Though Divergent can generally be considered as ‘post-apocalyptic’ fiction the general principle of the story is that they only reached the point of being ‘Inside the fence’ and ‘Outside the fence’ after scientists got overly ambitious with genetic experimentation in order to improve society only to cause terrible and irreparable results.
Do I think whole cities will be subject to mind-washing experimentation and made to endure overly nuanced and convoluted social processes while being monitored from afar by the rest of the world? I mean, it sounds a bit like Big Brother but on a bigger scale but my answer is no, the rest of the world just likes to meddle too much, if that happened here there would have been at least two or three campaign/protest groups camped outside the fence chanting ‘Free Chicago!’. Although Lady Science and those that lay with her really never know when enough is enough, so there’s that.
8. Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie
Matched has a very similar template to Delirium only without the love-cure. In ‘The Society’ (Sounds ominous, no?) officials (I’m inclined to say unelected?) decide everything for everyone based on data. Who you love – or don’t if you’re a designated ‘Single’ (how depressing is that? Being told you are literally destined to be alone?), your occupation, your number of children, how long you live, etc. It’s all pretty idyllic because your life is statistically destined to be good but there is not questioning The Society, there are no books that aren’t approved by them, no freedom of information, even the people who make the data-based decisions see only 0s and 1s. All very cloak and dagger and if you’re not in you’re like really out. Your life means nothing.
This sort of totalitarian rule isn’t an all that strange concept, perhaps not on this scale but it’s not unheard of. Given the undying need for a secure and easy life I think the only downside of the whole thing is the total lack of control and free will, and I feel secure in the unlikeness of a society such as this purely for the fact that the majority of people just don’t want what’s good for them just because it is.
7. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
This classic series – the OG YA dystopian series really – is pretty much the base idea behind both Delirium and Matched in where a utopia is slowly uncovered to be a dystopia with darkness everywhere and is very much wrapped up in a conspiracy. The Giver is slightly more magicky-magicky than the others and therefore a contender in this list in concept only because, as much as I wish and still hope magic and superpowers exist I gave up hope they’d touch my life when I turned 11 and received no letter to Hogwarts and to this day no billionaire has tried to make a super suit and kick Donald Trump in the crotch.
A dictatorial world seemingly cured and perfect for all to see but controlled by darker more malevolent forces under the surface that remove people that oppose their rule? The Rise of Hitler and the SS, spring to mind.
6. Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu
This is a quote from the Legend Wikia page: ‘Legend is set in dystopian Los Angeles, in a time where North America has devolved into two warring countries: The Republic and The Colonies.’
There is also a rebel group that isn’t really a rebel group involved and it’s not until the third book that the characters realise they’ve been living in a bordered, communist/dictatorial nation and that they are actually the oppressed not the Colonies. I remember reading this at 14 and feeling the power of this revelation because I’d been reading from their perspective, I’d thought their ways were the right, the normal ones for that world. Honestly, if you haven’t read the series Lu does a fantastic job and reading it now I know I wouldn’t have been as surprised but the very idea of communism was lost on me back then.
Now the majority of the world’s nations have had a civil war in one way or another – schisms have caused the divisions of cities and even countries in the past that still remain today – but given the controversies that seem to be popping up all over the world at the moment I really don’t have to stretch my imagination far to see this kind of society coming to fruition.
5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Ah, it had to be mentioned, didn’t it? I have a strange love-hate relationship with the word feminism that is steeped in what it actually means and the many ways people (men and women alike) interpret it to mean. The Handmaid’s Tale is undoubtedly a feminist take on dystopian fiction in which all the rights women have had to fight tooth and nail for over the centuries are undone and they are systematically and religiously stripped of their rights and forced into gender-specified roles – like child-bearing which is in high demand due to mass infertility.
Given recent referendums on abortion law and rights and the continuing discrimination not just of women but of minorities in general, the idea they could be legally stripped of their rights by something as simple as a change of leadership is not only historically proven but actively happening. Will we succumb to a world where women are banned from voting, free will, reading and writing? – dear God I hope not becaue I have no idea how I’d cope but hey, stranger things have happened.
4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The very idea of burning books upsets me on a deeply personal level and I’m sure you would all agree with me on that if nothing else in this post. Totalitarian control of reading material aside, what I found most haunting about this dystopia is the reasoning for the book burning. How, due to objections that certain books offended this group of people or that part of society in order to avoid causing offence all books were the same and offered no value. Then when that was not enough they simply destroyed them and stopped writing to avoid any conflicting opinions.
Now, anyone that knows me know I’m so Politically Correct it’s painful, not because I like to be picky or annoying but because my Brain to Mouth function has had a lag since birth and I so frequently offend people entirely by accident by using the wrong tone or phrasing I go out of my way to learn the “PC” terms to reduce my anxiety over upsetting people without meaning to. I don’t actually imagine this happening to us because – finally – literature is becoming more diverse and inclusive and the variety out there is so vast it’s not hard to find a little corner of your own filled with books that don’t offend you and leave the ones that do to other, different people.
What I do see around me is the possibility for a world where society takes no joy in literature, the outdoors, privacy and philosophical conversation which is the other side of Bradbury’s novel. And really we’re halfway there – nowadays reading for leisure is widely considered odd (especially where I come from, does anyone else get the head tilt and confusion when people ask what you do in your spare time and you say you enjoy to read?), people would rather veg out in front of a screen (I am guilty of a Netflix binge, I hold my hands up), and feel the need to follow frivolous and dangerous pursuits and then broadcast the intimate details of their lives all over social media.
3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
This classic is all about a future devoid of privacy. I give you Cookies and Facebook/Cambridge Analytica. Now, I’m no conspiracy theorist. I don’t think the Government spies on me – because frankly they would be bored out of their minds, I’m not that interesting – but privacy really is an old-fashioned concept nowadays, for better or for worse and this – Big Brother Is Watching You – could totally 100% happen. You could argue it is now, the real question is: how much do you care?
I had this conversation with a colleague last year following my revelation that some friends of mine had bought an Alexa – you know the Amazon Echo lady?
Them: Ohh, no, no I’d never have one of them.
Me: Well me neither, I can turn lamps and the heating on myself just fine.
Them: No, not because of that. I read somewhere they record everything you say.
Me: I find that unlikely but … so what if they do?
Them: *astounded* What do you mean so what?
Me: Well … if you’ve got nothing to hide who cares? They aren’t publishing it on the internet or using the information to condemn your free will – if anything Amazon is probably using it to sell you things if they’re using it at all. If you’re not a terrorist or criminal who’s that interested in you, really?
On further reflection, I recognise this is a narrow viewpoint, but I stand by it. Information is only dangerous in the wrong hands, ultimately the head honchos in power decide the fate of the people and let’s be honest if the Government want to bug your home they can, whether or not you bought an over-priced speaker that tells you a joke if you ask for one. I think home automation equipment that supposedly records your conversations is only a problem when we’re being governed by organisations that persecute people based on their thoughts and beliefs which at this moment in time, we thankfully (in the UK, that is, can’t speak for elsewhere) do not – even if those views are damaging or incite violence, without action it’s not illegal.
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I read this for an English Lit class and remember how much it resonated as relevant today. Are we flying round in helicopters and making all our children in factories? No, of course not.
Are we living in a society obsessed with staying attractive and young where the traditional family layout has fallen out of favour and overly promiscuous behaviour is not only encouraged but praised above monogamy? No comment.
Are we living in a time when social mobility is at an all-time low and young people are set on their ‘career’ path from an age too young to really know what they want and society escapes their (minor/first world) issues in recreational drug and alcohol use and condemns those who live in ways different than their own as less civilised or strange simply because of ignorance? Double no comment.
When reading this book I felt that a lot of the events described had not only happened but still were, but was also comforted by the fact that people recognised it and we seemed to be moving from the extreme end of the spectrum to a better time.
1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Okay, hear me out. Brave New World almost clinched it but I recognised that to the extent that dystopia could be fulfilled, it had been and we had to some extent moved passed it.
Observe Ready Player One. A world, our world in less than 50 years in the book’s chronology, where the human race has exhausted its resources to the point of such scarcity the over-populated planet can no longer sustain itself. A society rife with problems such as unemployment, lack of housing, severe poverty and starvation so bad that the human race as a whole feels compelled to escape into the Virtual Reality known as the OASIS – where you can be and do anything you want. A generation of children and adults alike obsessed with a time before their own and a search, a treasure hunt, a whim that is their ticket to being rich and famous for minimal effort and maximum gain.
Granted, the hunt does not turn out to be so very easy but it wasn’t supposed to be filled with such hardships. I hadn’t realised just how much this felt imminent until one day I was reading it whilst my boyfriend played Batman on PlayStation VR singing 80s music (which he loves). The technology is nearly there, our resources are already going down the pan … hopefully, we cope better than Wade did.
Well then. I really hadn’t meant that post to get as heavy as it did, I had planned it in my head as comical and maybe slightly satirical and what I got was political and pessimistic. I’m sorry, if it wasn’t already Monday, I’d write another.
Whilst it probably wasn’t a fun post I at least hope you found it interesting – let me know your thoughts on the many, many controversial topics I discussed here! What’s your favourite dystopian fiction novel or series? Or do you not like the genre because it’s scary? Do you think I gave humanity too much credit and we’ll actually go all Hunger Games up in this place? Post in the comments! If you’ve got a lot to say about it – re-blog and write a response, I’d love to see what you think!
Until next time!
*** Side Note.
If your opinions do differ from mine which I’m sure they will in one way or another, by all means, feel free to tell me and why you feel that way but I must request you respect my right to think differently. I know I probably don’t need to say this to this community as you’re all fairly in tune with the ‘everyone has a right to their own opinions’ mantra but recent events on other media platforms have been somewhat upsetting so I’m just adding it as a gentle reminder.