Monday, October 13, 2014

Dystopian Fiction: A love story

I hear a lot of buzz on agent/agency websites about how Dystopian MS’s are unsellable, dead-for-at-least-a-few-more-years, put-that-baby-in-the-corner-NOW sorta work.

Just like Paranormal, before it. And I hate to hear that. For one, I absolutely love Dystopian and Paranormal. If I had to pick a favorite it would Dystopian. And it just gets under my skin that the genre is dismissed. I’m confident that Dystopian will always (yes I said always) be relevant and here’s why:

We could be living in a dystopia reality right now.

This. Very. Second.

Yes, now could be dystopian.

And I know you are probably thinking, "What the what? Has there been for of apocalypse that I missed?"

No. Have no fear. You didn't miss the end of the world as we know it. Well, unless you live with me when I recently gave up CokeZero....whoa, that was tough.

But seriously, there are a boat load of definitions of Dystopia. My favorite definition is: a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening.

It can exist after some apocalyptic event. Or, more likely, it evolves slowly over time.

I like to think about the past, always have. History was one of my favorite subjects. Mostly because I loved to day dream bout what life was like for those ancient peeps. And when I picture it I can't help but imagine how they would feel about life today. It was only a hop, skip, and a jump until I realized every day of our present existence could be a dystopian future for a past civilization. Let’s pick through a few cultural groups and see how dystopian our current day is:

Could the native peoples of, heck, I don’t know, ANY continent yearned for the lifestyle they have today? Would they see our current reality, our 'now,' as undesirable or frightening? I’m guessing yes. (Oh, and btw, if you are fascinated by the Native American culture like I am, you should check out The West. It’s a very interesting documentary by Steven Ives and produced by Ken Burns. Currently available on Netflix.)

Okay, granted, native peoples received a raw deal. What other populations from the past might find our 'now' disturbing?

What about pirates, explores, adventures, etc. from Regency/Victorian/other-period-of-time? I doubt they longed for a future where nearly every inch of sea and earth had already been mapped, plotted, and/or dominated?

Yes, lots of people from the past would find modern life to be utterly kickass. (Remember the scene in the mall from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure? Yeah, like that. After all, our current existence is pretty awesome. It’s comfortable and we eat well, we live long lives, and, for the most part, we thrive. But if you were to pluck a person from our past, 100 years ago, 200 years ago, and drop them into 2014 do you think they would find our current, busy, nosey, gluttonous lifestyle a little frightening and undesirable?

They definitely wouldn't find our 'now' utopic.

Shoot, we don’t even find our current life utopic. We take the good with the bad. And there is bad. The bad in our 'now' is what makes the Dystopian story ring true. It's why stories shinning a light on what-if's of the future are enthralling and exciting.

The bad stuff in our 'now' is why we look longingly to the past. Right?

I bet years from now, the people of the future might look back on the early-to-mid 1980’s (let’s say) and think “Oh gosh, what a paradise it would be to live without email and cell phones (or some new evolution of tech that we can’t even dream of yet) constantly demanding your attention.”


Well, for one like to think it's because as we move forward we shed bits and pieces of what was old. Sometimes what we shed is good and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, we leave behind a bit of personal freedom, or a glittering, impossible fiction explaining the unknown.

We struggle with that loss. It reminds me of the tender moment in Pirates of the Caribbean movies, when Cptn Jack Sparrow is confronted with the dead carcass of his old nemesis, the Kraken. Cptn Barbossa says the world is getting smaller but Jack corrects him, saying “The world is the same, there is just less in it.”

Dystopian stories tap into that collective sentimentality for a simpler time by showing us the extremes people, and societies, can reach. Dystopia stories have, share at their core, I dare say, a collective guilt over innocence lost in the evolution of progress. Because these stories are so often able to scare us and intrigue us I believe they should, and will, always be relevant.

My love for dystopian is strong.

And a little piece of me is sad that these book babies are being put in a corner and forced to wait. Luckily, there are a lot of good dystopian out and about today. Enough to keep me reading and exploring until publishers make room on their lists for new Dystopian stories. Just like they made room for Contemp when it came back into fashion. It's only a matter of time, and I am good at biding my time. Heck, I'm a writer, aren't I? Waiting is what we do.

Want more on trend chasing?

From Jack Croxall : Why I love post-apocalyptic fiction

From MSFV: on trend chasing

From SLATE: Why Teens Love Dystopian

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