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Dystopia Myopia

World-building. A prerequisite for any spec-fic writer. Yes, I’m talking to you – are you up to the challenge of constructing your own brave new world? Or will it collapse like a house of invalid ID cards?

Dystopias are popular and viewed as an anthropological, social and cultural sci-fi. When compared to constructing alien races and cultures, planets and languages, dystopias appear easy to create. After all, just imagine a future similar to the present but more shite.

Dystopias are tricky to write in the sense that there is insufficient distance from the present. 1984 has passed 1984 and Brave New World’s prescience reverberates with hindsight. But there is no need to be a prophet- your task is more like a cartographer. Know your territory well and be prepared that the terrain may radically transform during the course of writing.

Also, think of your favourite cinematic dystopias (Blade Runner, Gatacca, THX 1138, Logan’s Run). It doesn’t matter how shite your future is , it has to be cool, stylish, or OTT (The Road Warrior) enough to engage your reader. Yet unlike film, oodles of style cannot compensate for your utopia’s lack of substance. Equilibrium (2002) looked ultra-fantastic; Christian Bale dressed in severe dog-collared suits and doing a nifty fictional martial arts called gun-kata. But all the visuals could not hide the flawed and implausible plot about a totalitarian government’s attempt to police emotions.

Something has to be unfair. Extremely unfair. The authorities have imposed upon society severe restrictions and laws. They deem forbidden something that we take for granted. Books (Farenheit 451) love, art, beauty, women’s rights (The Handmaid’s Tale). But bear in mind that what is unfair is subjective. If you can’t stand kids then Aldous Huxley’s vision of bottle-reared babies may sound amusing. If you aren’t interested in books (if so, what the hell are you doing reading this blog?!) Farenheit 451 may not ruffle your feathers. Perhaps a surveillance state is preferable to an anarchic one?

But consider that we all fear the misuse and abuse of power, and also consider that there are people who will gladly give up some freedoms to gain other types of freedoms.  The real question that dystopic fiction asks is, “What are you willing to tolerate?”

4 thoughts on “Dystopia Myopia”

  1. Yes, yes yes – a dystopia is a what-if story. What if there were robots who were as passionate and rebellious as adolescents (Blade Runner)? What if everyone is young (Logan’s Run)? What if single people over age 50 had to submit to be medical experiments (The Unit)?
    Constructing any SF world, dystopia or not, must come from the people in it. What do they use? How do they live their lives? I’ve been constructing a world for my WIP and it’s all come from the characters.

  2. Arthur C Clarke said that sometimes science fiction should be something which could happen but if it did you wouldn’t like it.

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