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All posts for the month February, 2017

It’s interesting how a lot of dystopias thrive on fear. It forms the basis of control for a lot of dystopian governments and is a great way of tying people down in mental chains.

The ruling entity uses fear as a strong tool to make sure no one dares step out of line. The two most important ones while also being highly prevalent are –

  1. Making an example of violators

Most dystopias have some kind of punishment for breaking rules, which is different from our modern day society in that the violators are not given anything even close to a fair trial and are punished at the discretion of the rulers. Moreover, unlike our society, these rules are in no way agreed upon as ‘good’ by the people or for the better of the society. How they might be presented depends for each dystopia but they tend to revolve around the rulers’ motives to keep the people in control. Moreover, these punishments are widely publicized, making sure to carry the clear message that opposition will not be tolerated.

  1. Manipulation of and monopoly over information

This is a sly method for the proliferation of fear but way more effective as it is indirect. Keeping information from people, or giving them false information or making it difficult for them to procure it by banning communication, all work towards the goal of spreading ignorance. When the people making the rules are the only ones providing information, they can manipulate it to always show themselves in favorable light. This also increases the people’s dependence on them and as a result, a general fear is born out of the dread of not getting information in case the rulers are opposed or revolted against.

 

However, fear has its pitfalls. ‘When fear ceases to scare you, it cannot stay. When a certain line is crossed, especially in YA dystopias, to the point where the protagonist has lost so much that nothing scares them anymore, they become fearless and go all out against the people who have done this to them. Thus, fear is a weapon to be exercised with caution and control. Too much of it can tip the bowl the other way!

As someone who spent most of her life planning to become an author, finishing a good dystopia (or really, any good novel) always left me with a burning question: What inspired this? The brainstorm stage behind starting a story or essay has always been my favorite part of the writing process. Specifically, after reading Lord of the Flies for the first time, I was curious as to how William Golding (pictured below) could come up with something so morbid. After doing some research, I learned that Golding served in World War II and was heavily inspired by the terrors of war for his book, and also developed a lot of life philosophies after his experience. I think it would be really interesting to develop a timeline of sorts, and “plot” the dystopian novels that were published across the years. I personally believe that “clusters” would form around important world events.

Additionally, I think it would be super interesting to ask authors (or do extensive research) about why they chose a specific sub-genre to represent their ideas. Why would one choose a fantastical dystopia over a post-apocalyptic one? This also makes me wonder if authors generally pick their characters and storyline before their sub-genre, or vice versa. Is there a different method to writing novels for dystopian writers?

Another thing I wish to understand about dystopian novels is why the YA target group is so popular. I understand this is the age group that tends to have more time to read, tweet, go to the movies etc.; but it seems unrealistic that teenagers are always leading the rebellion. I would be interested to do some quick historical research to see examples of this in real life. Maybe authors intended to motivate younger crowds to be active in their societies?

 

Overall, I hope to be able to research the true motivations behind the authors of these works. I personally believe (though, I am biased because all my favorite books are dystopias) that dystopian novels are more important to society than other fictions, and thus, more thought goes into writing them. I am particularly interested in researching historical context of the world before the publication of certain books, and perhaps components of the authors’ lives that could’ve influenced the novel.

 

 

What interests me the most about dystopias is how they start off as celestial places or ideas and sudden tragic events occur and or relationship outcomes turn to heartbreakers and even death. The Hunger Games is a great example of a utopia turn to a heartbreaking dystopia. I think it is interesting how the characters in the story don’t see the disadvantages of other so called “utopian cultures”. Like in the hunger games how the Capitol were trying to recruit people by “selling them lies” like saying they would give them resources and other goods for the recruitment of people. I love how their plotlines suddenly change and end up resulting in a heartbreaking matter or casualty. I also love how the dystopian is “slept on “throughout its plot. In Little Brother we are reminded often of the hazards of an gradually digitalized world, where an inflow of data is kept on record by the government, and is accessible to those who are smart enough to get past whatever security was put in place, but also to show the young adults reading, that this is maybe how our society might end up in the future. We are becoming gradually digitalized and the options of this are limitless, but there is a high potential for abuse of this whether from a bossy government or very sneaky hackers thinking what they are doing is for the right reason. Early in Homeland, Marcus has the opportunity to work for a politician along with being given information about the government that could bring the government a lot of dilemma. The story focuses on the moral dilemma of whether Marcus should release this information. Where Little Brother focuses on a course of action if problems do ascend with an increasingly tech attaching culture.

I think the most interesting thing about dystopias is what people are willing to do in order to do what is right for them or what they need to do in order to stay alive. Seeing people make these sacrifices and risks to save the ones they love or themselves truly opens your eyes to the type of people humans can be when put into certain situations. Let’s take The Summer Prince example. My independent reading is about a place ruled my queens that can serve up to two five years’ terms. Every five years, a king is chosen to take the throne for one year and then dies in a bloody sacrifice. This reminded me of the TV show the 100. In the show, people were sacrificed in order to protect the queen just like what they are doing in my book. In their minds, the queen is sacred to their people and is the leader. She knows what needs to be done because she has the power to remember her other lives. Another thing I realized is that most dystopias I have read or watched before has some type of love in it. Whether it’s between a brother and his sister, a mother and her child, or two people who will do anything for each other, love has a strong will of making people do things they never thought they could do before. An example can be Lincoln and Octavia in the show the 100. Lincoln is a grounder and Octavia is a sky crew.  Their love puts them in danger with their people and yet, they still want to be together. Lincoln gave up his home and the will to live with his people to be with his beloved Octavia, even though some human does not trust him because he is a grounder. Their love is just one of many examples that most dystopias show. I believe by having that type of mood in a dystopia can make its audience seem like the film or book is more relatable and interesting.

 

Based on young adult dystopia readings such as The Hunger Games and Little Brother I’ve found dystopias to be extremely interesting because, while they are clearly written in response to current events, or as a critique of society, it is not obvious what the author intends the work to do. Is the author just complaining about the state of the world? Or maybe the author hopes to inspire the young readers to take a proactive stance on recreating a better society. Sometimes, I wonder if these books even have an effect on young adults. Do the middle schoolers pick up on the critique of capitalism in The Hunger Games, or do they simply fangirl about team Peeta and team Gale? When watching The 100 are they really comparing the different types of government or are they engrossed in the drama of the show?

Sure, one could argue that teen girls aren’t thoughtful enough to appreciate the dystopian novels to their full extent or learn all the potential lessons offered. However, I would counter by saying that as these young adults are exposed to corrupt societies and governments through reading dystopian novels, seeds of doubt are being planted and young adults are actually being taught to question everything. Which is good and bad. Marcus, the protagonist in Little Brother, Tris in Divergent, and Katniss in The Hunger Games are just a few examples of teens in dystopian novels questioning and over throwing authority figures. What I wonder is whether we are raising the next generation to be inquisitive and informed, or if we are instilling within them problems with authority.

My chosen independent reading novel, The Glass Sword, follows Mare Barrow after she causes a disturbance in the social class structure of reds versus silvers in the first novel The Red Queen. She is similar to Katniss in that she does not intend to cause a revolution. However, she becomes a symbol to a movement much larger than herself. While it is difficult to relate the fantasy novel to the world that we live in today, when reading the novel you automatically feel the injustice of dividing the world by the blood running in people’s veins.

Some questions I have for this novel are what point, if any, is the author (Victoria Aveyard) trying to make? Is she trying to talk about the intrinsic racism in society by making a parallel between the treatment of the reds and people of color? Or is she is warning us of genetic engineering by presenting the reader with a genetically superior race (silvers) possessing powers we can’t imagine? Also, I wonder if fantasy dystopias are as effective as other genres just because they are so hard to see the parallels to today’s society.

So far, I have struggled to find previous research on the effectiveness of fantasy dystopia novels, therefore, I decided to shift my central question to be: what are the effects of young adult dystopia novels. I plan on researching specific dystopia novels that have been important throughout history as well as trying to find information and interviews from the authors explaining their work. Through these means, I hope to uncover the intention and effect of young adult dystopia novels.

 

Works Cited:

http://iwastesomuchtime.com/77674

https://www.wattpad.com/259396803-survivors-bellamy-blake-whatever-the-hell-we-want

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22328546-red-queen

In dystopian novels, one issue that generally manifests itself is the issue of communication. This can happen in many ways. For example, in the book, Little Brother, the main character, Marcus wants to hold a press conference but doesn’t want to reveal his identity, so he uses a game on the Xnet as a mode of secure communication for himself. Another example is in The 100, a dystopian television show. When the ship lands on earth, all of the communication systems get broken on impact and there is no way for the teens on earth to communicate with the people still on the Ark except through bracelets that relay their vital signs. The photos show the bracelets on the characters’ wrists and the readout on the Ark. I think this theme recurs in many dystopias because for humans, communication with others is essential for survival, no matter what the time period is. Just the simple fact that our language is so complex and sophisticated, and that it is continually developing into modern modes of communication, is proof that it is absolutely necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

It is therefore unsurprising that this issue came to light in my independent reading book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The basic premise is that vampirism has become a disease and is spreading throughout the population and those that are bitten must be quarantined in what they call “Coldtowns.” The communication between the outside world and those inside the Coldtown is very unreliable and skewed by the media. Those outside the Coldtown have to rely on the news and traditional media sources in order to hear what goes on, yet these are not necessarily accurate. The main broadcast is of an endless party held in a mansion, which glamorizes life in the Coldtown, when the reality is much less than glamorous and is in fact very dangerous and difficult. The more reliable sources of information are the people in the Coldtown that have a social media presence. One specific character, Midnight, entered the Coldtown with the intention of sharing her experiences online with her followers. She makes blog posts and YouTube videos divulging the true things that happen within the walls of the quarantined city. So, social media, because it is not filtered by other people that have their own agendas, and comes directly from the source, becomes more trustworthy and honest. Even in our society today, more people than ever are relying on social media as a mode of communication and a source of reliable information.

For my research paper, I want to investigate the relationship between traditional media and social media, and their role in society and in dystopian fiction. At this point, the topic is pretty general, but I think it will get more specific as I continue to research.

What interests me the most about society in YA dystopias is how Technology effects the interaction between a government and it’s citizens, specifically in the Ender’s Game and in today’s society.

Most YA dystopian novels feature a society with extremely advanced technology, owing, perhaps, the fact that sophisticated technology enhances the control aspects of utopian literature.

Inevitably, as time goes on we are dangerously close to attaining the technology to recreate the overbearing supervision found in books like Little Brother and  Ender’s Game. The problem with this advanced technology is that it is often used as a tool in controlling and monitoring it’s citizens rather than advancing the lives of said citizens.

Take the Ender’s Game sage for example. Gifted  children were scouted by the government in search of a child to “end “ the war with the Formics. These children with such potential were then equipped with a “monitor” that allowed the government to effectively watch everything that the child saw. By stealing Ender’s perspective, Gaff was able to manipulate his interactions with his classmates and family. This  therefore, was what  gave him  the power to  mold Ender into a weapon for the IF.

Very few people would take it upon themselves to disagree that Technology blunts human interaction. It’s depersonalizes it. Gaff was able to manipulate Ender because he had the power, the technology, and the willingness to see Ender as a tool as he had so many children before him. That ties into another question I’m interested in asking. What is to be said about the willingness of an advanced society to use children as perpetrators of the future they will inherit. Ender killed the Buggers unwillingly, unwittingly through  ignorance. He had no knowledge whatsoever of what was actually going on in the command room because they were just images on a screen.

 

Citations:

Card, Orson Scott., and John Harris.Ender in Exile.  Tor, 2008.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tor Books, 2008.

Card, Orson Scott, and Alan Smithee. Enders Game. Boekerij, 2013.

The thing that interests me most about dystopias is how they portray what we fear most for the future of humankind. Along with this come many different themes of our society’s downfall, but the one that I personally think brings to light one of the more relevant apprehensions of humans today is that of technology.

It all seems harmless at first, almost trivial. We love the ability to have access to immediate knowledge at our fingertips, to communicate across thousands of miles effortlessly, and of course, to order things from Amazon and have them delivered the next day. These things are a result of the ever growing presence of technology in our daily lives. However, along with the benefits of these numerous advancements comes many unforeseen complications. Things like lacking security and privacy in a world of increasingly big amounts of information are real issues, and continue to worsen. We see a dramatic take on this in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, where surveillance is taken to the extreme and is depicted as outright oppressive. We enjoy the freedom that the Internet gives us, but we don’t want our information used against us. Another aspect of the technological dystopia is technology gone too far. With new advancements being made regularly, where do we stop? Can we keep developing, or is there a point at which our inventions surpass us and become our downfall? This idea is explored in For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. In this novel, we see a society that’s been torn apart by their own innovations in genetic engineering that went too far. With genetic modification of humans becoming more and more realistic, it’s no surprise that we see it portrayed in this post-apocalyptic scenario. It’s a concept that many are wary of, and thus the worst is often imagined.

Works Cited:

https://media.giphy.com/media/DwlFRgKo87zDW/giphy.gif

 

Dystopias are complex and simple at the same time. There is one main concept: the world is bad, and someone wants to change it. Though they have this transparent side, the hidden intricacy of dystopias is what intrigues me. As I have stated in past blog posts, I want to research the duality that one person’s dystopia can be another person’s utopia based on how you were grown up, or your social standards. For example, in my independent reading, Pandemonium in the Delirium trilogy, most specifically in the first book Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Lena the protagonist thinks that her society is correct, and wants to follow the rules, until Alex comes along. First a background on the series. In this trilogy, love is considered a disease and when you turn 18 you are “cured” and your family, husband, and number of kids is decided for you. You aren’t allowed to show affection towards anyone. So back to Lena, and all of the authorities, their society is considered perfectly correct and is helping people because love is considered a disease. On the other hand, Alex, the “Deliria Free America”, and the people of the wilds believe their society is unfair and should be changed; love can be a good thing.

My question regarding this duality is simple: why is there such a strong duality. I’m not saying that a dystopia evolves from a utopia, but I wonder how people can believe that something is correct based on their social standards or expectations and there are only few who either state their disagreement (usually the protagonist) or try to change the situation to be fair. The oblivion in some characters in the society surprises me. They believe that nothing is wrong, and that life is the way it should be. How can people have such different beliefs? Is it all for a good story? Is this prevalent in our society today and some people aren’t just speaking up? It intrigues me that such an opinion divide is present in so many young adult dystopian novels.

images:

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http://akns-images.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2014010/rs_250x188-140110112925-tumblr_m5qcuk4pcm1r3zat8.gif

sources:

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperCollins. 1 Jan 2011.

Oliver, Lauren. Pandemonium: Delirium Trilogy. HarperTeen. 28 Feb 2012.

POST 3: What interests you the most about dystopias (specifically the dystopia you have read independently)? Use this post as an opportunity to explore possible questions or avenues of inquiry for your own research project. At this stage, your ideas may only be as developed as “I think it is really cool/interesting that dystopias do XYZ” or “What I don’t understand about this book is…” Aim to articulate an open question related to your independent reading that you hope to be able to answer after weeks of research (and one that you don’t feel you can answer now). Consider this an informal research paper proposal.

 

While all dystopias take place in a near or distant future, what I find most interesting about some dystopias is the regression of society into a more primitive community. And I’m not talking about the 100 in the way that they have to survive a desolate environment using whatever resources they can find- that is a post-apocalyptic setting. For example, in my independent reading novel, Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano, everyone on the floating city of Internment has betrothed from the moment they are born. Arranged marriage is alive and well in their society, a practice that has been all but eliminated in countries like the United States, which is where we assume Internment came from when it was wrenched out of the ground and sent to the sky. Similarly, while women are never directly addressed as lesser than men, most of the women we do meet (besides our heroine and her best friend), are weaker, more fragile, and in charge of homemaking. While society gets more and more progressive with the passage of time for the most part (*cough*cough*), in some dystopias, the opposite becomes true. Since a fundamental component of the dystopian novel is a corrupt government, perhaps the author is trying to show that the regression of societal morals can come with a regression in societal structure.

Another aspect of dystopia I find rather interesting is the small measures of common brutality that take place and are considered normal. Instead of the Hunger Games- that is a large, pageant style event that celebrates mass fatalities-  I’m more concerned with things like the choosing ceremony in Divergent. They could just announce their faction and be done with it, but instead the teens have to cut their palms and pour their blood over the symbol of the faction. In Perfect Ruin, teens who are betrothed wear a wedding ring around their neck until their wedding ring. But this isn’t just any ordinary ring- it’s filled with the blood of their fiancée. Authors probably choose to do this to fully drive home the brutality of every aspect of the dystopian society. Every part of dystopian life is painful, and these small acts of violence are the way the government keeps its citizens in line.

 

And here’s a lovely dystopian meme for your troubles: