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The Attraction of Dystopian Fiction

by Ross Hamilton (article in A Writer Goes On A Journey)

The function of science fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it. – Frank Herbert

Dystopian fiction and why do we like it? An interesting question – but perhaps we should start by first asking what it actually is.

]The word utopia comes from classical Greek but it was Sir Thomas Moore’s use of it in the sixteenth century to describe his fictional island that had a perfect social system in its social interactions, law and politics, which gave us the utopian concept as we understand it today. There have been attempts to create various societies which were to be their own Utopia but with, shall we say, mixed success. But reading stories about something that is ‘perfect’ in every sense would be pretty darned boring. Who wants to read about someone arising from bed to another simply perfect morning, eating the perfect breakfast, having the perfect journey to their perfect employment in the continued journey of their perfect existence that is accompanying everyone else’s perfect existence etc etc. Ho hum, yawwwwn.

So what would be the flip-side of utopia? Rather than being a visionary social order where everyone is happy and everything is ideal for all, the dystopian society is loosely one that is arguably the opposite of utopia. It will have at least some aspect of its existence that is anti-utopian. As such, it can provide great opportunities for authors to explore all matter of ‘what if’ in story-telling, providing a wealth of material for readers. Read more…

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