Dystopian Distress

31 10 2014

Why are dystopian stories just so appealing to us? Why does the end of the world and society as we know it make for such appealing material?

From a tender age my reading thirst has been quenched by such classics as ‘1984’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Brave New World’. Marvelling in the post-apocalyptic depression and administered happiness that is painted by these stories, my world was shaped into one of suspicion and paranoia. For example what is the real motivation behind a government’s action? Take for example the recent Hungarian governments move to tax the Internet. A blatant attempt to supress the freedom of speech via a worldwide medium. It did not end well and hopefully will result in changes to the neo tyrannical leadership there.

Perhaps all of this is an effect of growing up in cold war Britian? Having leaflets pushed through the post box talking about ‘Protect and Survive‘ will affect an eight year old somewhat. Incidentally Protect and Survive was a UK civil defence leaflet that gave information on how to survive after a nuclear strike. Even now in the (recently) not so rosy post cold war glow. There is something very disturbing about an eight year old understanding how a house should be prepared and defended against an impending nuclear strike. Those memories tend to stick with you.

So back to my opening paragraph. Why is dystopia so appealing? Perhaps it’s reassurance that we have a good situation. I guess that depends upon your current location though. Perhaps dystopia reminds us about the fragility of society? Remember that we are ‘nine meals away from anarchy‘. That’s three days. Imagine you or your family not eating for three days? What would you do to secure food – beg, steal even kill?

Dystopia may be depressing but do we love it. Hell, watch ‘The Road’ but keeping any sharp objects away from your person. However I think that a dystopian awareness is extremely necessary in our society. When an author has envisioned (for example) monitoring of a populace gone too far by a right wing government…we need the memories of ‘1984’ to remind us of our freedom and rights.

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
George Orwell, 1984








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