Divas On Genre: Dystopian
The dystopian genre has come into its own in recent years. Often a mixture of post-apocalyptic, science fiction and sometimes paranormal, the dystopian genre is the portrayal of any given society outside of the norm in the future after a catastrophic event that either destroys life as we know it or alters it so much that it’s a shell of its former self. Political, religious, and technological control is often attributed to the oppression of the protagonists. Characters are occupied with elevating their station in life, fighting against the machine that controls their environment, trying to escape oppression and condemnation, or wanting to make their own mythical utopia.
The success The Hunger Games franchise with its books and movies has opened up the dystopian market to many age groups. But dystopian has been around for a lot of years. For example, 1984 by George Orwell was first published in the 40s, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in 1985, and The Stand by Stephen King in 1978. These could be argued as being more post-apocalyptic than dystopian. In many opinions, dystopian is just an evolution of the post-apocalyptic genre. Both genres have such similar characteristics: overcoming environmental and political hardships, fighting for control of those hardships between the ranks of whatever rebellion is fighting the system or threat, and in the end, finding peace after the dust has settled and reconstructing the human race. Take for instance World War Z. Obviously, this is about zombies but in the bigger scope, the book is about survival in a post-apocalyptic world against the undead until ultimately the threat is controlled and ends in a dystopian society ready to rebuild humanity.
Young adult dystopian books have become very popular. With titles such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Maze Runner by James Dashner and Delirium by Lauren Oliver getting movies and television deals, the genre is more mainstream than ever. It doesn’t hurt that these books and the productions are largely action based, expanding the market to both female and male readers and watchers. Take Divergent for example, it’s a YA dystopian romance. The lead female protagonist, Tris, is oppressed in her futuristic society because she breaks the mold by becoming divergent. Divergent is when one has traits from all four of the factions. Factions are specific groups of societies within the world of the book. Each faction has a trait that all inhabitants possess: intelligence, bravery, selflessness, and peacefulness. Tris has all four traits and is quickly labeled a threat and in the bigger picture a threat to the whole society. Four, her mentor and later love interest, is able to help Tris lead a rebellion to take down the societal walls. If the romance factor wasn’t included and Tris wasn’t a young strong female protagonist, this book may have appealed to a different market. The romance aspect opened it up to a broader demographic and ultimately greater success.
Some dystopian have paranormal plot lines as well. In these futuristic worlds, people evolve in order to survive or their abilities become stronger. Also mythical creatures are able to emerge without the control or suppression of their true selves—think vampires, shapeshifters, and zombies.
Dystopian can be a hard genre to write. The world building can and should be complex. Authors have many questions to answer to seem legitimate. Research is key. If your reader is asking more questions about how the society your writing came to be then the story itself, you have some work to do. It’s a delicate balance of too much information and not enough. Logical explanations are usually the simplest.
The dystopian genre is one of those genres that you can really submerge yourself in and use as a real form of escapism. Readers can imagine other worlds outside of their own when a book is done correctly. If you’re curious of what dystopian novel would interest you, please comment below and we can help you search for a book. This genre is one of my favorites and I know if you’re new to the genre, it will become one of yours as well.