Blog Post 4

“By examining the way dystopian novels, in the past and present, reflect a society’s view of their problems and their fears of what these problems could grow to in the future, we can determine what each society values and hopes to preserve; by determining what our society holds valuable, we can trace what the root causes of the threats to these values are and compare them to the root causes of the problems each dystopian novel faces. Going through the major problems faced by the protagonists in Gathering Blue, The Hunger Games, and Little Brother, we will find that each dystopia mirrors problems in our own society, predicts a possible future as the outcome of these problems, and depicts the ideals valued in the society.” My research paper, “Looking into the Dystopian Mirror: Discovering Our Dystopian Selves”, will be covering the problems of dystopian societies and how these problems can be connected to the ones readers face in their own societies. I will also be looking at how the ideals of a society can be derived from these problems.

The three novels I will be using as my examples each contain a specific set of problems which can be traced to problems in our own world. In Gathering Blue, the government has decided to take control of several talented children, and they are attempting to use these children to control the future. The same problem of our government trying to control the future is evident in the real world. The Hunger Games presents the problems of a dictatorship, violence, oppression, slavery, and a large division of wealth. All of which can be found all over the world today. Little Brother touches on the very sensitive issue of government censorship and surveillance. Each issue also holds the flipside of a value lost by the society. By covering each of these topics, I hope to convince my readers that the YA dystopian fiction genre is a reflection of many aspects of our own society.

 

http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/

http://www.thehungergames.co.uk/downloads/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003JFJHRK/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I will be presenting my research for the conference presentation on Friday, titled “Corporations, the Media, and Propaganda: A Modern Day Dystopia?” I will be discussing the influence and power of corporations, the media, and propaganda in today’s world and how they reflect a modern day dystopia. I will use my independent reading novel Champion by Marie Lu (as well as the other books in her series) and The Hunger Games to provide examples and support to my claims.

This presentation is one that you won’t want to miss, because I will be discussing real problems that are going on in our world. These are the sorts of problems that you read about in dystopias, but that most people do not realize are actually happening in real life! For example, did you know that in the past, big fossil fuel companies paid the US Chamber of Commerce to block energy reforms?! Big corporations and the government have become so heavily intertwined that we often don’t realize it!

In my presentation, I will continue to discuss how big corporations have gained so much power in our world, and how they control many aspects of our society. These points will be exemplified by the fictional corporations in Champion and The Hunger Games and how they had a lot of power. I will show the reflection of power in the real world by presenting what I have found about big corporations today.

For my other point I will be discussing the media and propaganda, how they go hand-in-hand, and how they hold great influence over our society as well. Once again this will be exemplified by the media and propaganda in Champion and The Hunger Games. Then I will discuss how the media has taken over our own lives with propaganda that we don’t always recognize.

We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our world, and how we have tip-toed into becoming a dystopia. My presentation touches on this issue, and therefore it is one you will not want to miss!

 

For the dystopian heroine, as for the young adult reader who shares her despairs and triumphs, the quest for agency is the principle focus of the ascent to adulthood. In the realm of utopian literature, one can scarcely conceive of a society absent agency as anything other than a disaster.

In my conference presentation, A Sympathetic Tantalus: The Scorpion Rules and the Broken Promise of Agency, I will be discussing the role agency plays in young adult dystopian narratives, and more importantly the role young adult dystopian literature plays in developing a sense of agency in our youth. The talk will focus on Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules, following Princess Greta’s development from hostage schoolgirl to tortured captive, and finally to awe-inspiring trans-human intellect. Will we cover the intricacies of goat husbandry, or the intrigue of princess/goddess/farm boy love triangles?

“Goats — the shapers of history.”

Probably not. We do have our time constraints. Nevertheless, you will not want to miss the classic dystopian staples: ecological disaster, global war, genocide, filicide, panopticism, un-nerving robot intelligences that make us question the very nature of humanity, and more. We will also be forced to consider Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, painfully immediate though it is. Remembering the rumbling of dissatisfaction with the fate of Marcus’ revolution, the continuing existence of the DHS, and the absence of any true punishment for the dreaded Severe Haircut Lady, we will consider the efficacy of the ambiguous ending in literature as a spur to real-world action.

I argue that this pattern is greater than fear alone and more affective than mere hope. It is a thing that unsettles and forces a response. Having experienced the arduous road to revolution and the crushing defeat that follows, how do we choose to fill the void in our hearts and the vacant space the author leaves for our own story?

Works Cited:
Bow, Erin. The Scorpion Rules. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2016, New York.
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC., 2008, New York.
Elgaard. Goat in Argan Nut tree, Morocco. Wikimedia Commons, 22 Feb. 2015, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ArganTreeGoat.jpg.

     In my presentation titled “Dystopian Obsession with Technological Traditionalism”, I will be discussing the conservative approach dystopias take towards technological progression. The presentation won’t be focusing on the analysis of dystopias; rather, it will look inside of dystopian texts and examine the pattern of hyper traditionalism with regards to technological innovation. To find these patterns, I look at several YA dystopian texts and one YA dystopian TV show. To maximize the power of my arguments, I chose only sci-fi dystopias, ones set in the future. This would have revealed a rather large gap in my argument: the existence of sci-fi dystopias prove that dystopias are not against the improvement of technology. I address this (and more) by asserting that the innovation occurred before the dystopia, not after. Furthermore, technological innovation that does occur is either done by the protagonist as a rebellion against an authoritarian government, or by the antagonist: small iterative improvements with the sole purpose of plot-progression.

     I also look into possible explanations for this seemingly arbitrary pattern. Regardless of the format, dystopias continue to opt for the status quo. Common quotes such as “this is the way it has always been” (coincidentally first quoted in ComputerWorld) are widespread.

The answer relies on a duality that exists within our societies today, and the author’s attempt to connect the two opposites, relieving the cognitive dissonance in our views towards future technologies. Not only do we look forward to (and fund) breakthroughs in science and tech, we have a deep-rooted fear of change. Whether we use isolation, social change, or skynet to manifest our fears of technology, the argument can be boiled down to one anxiety: change.

     The characters’ strange following of the mysterious pattern of traditionalism augments the author’s argument, regardless of intent. By explaining its purpose, we can further look into the purpose of literature and shows, revealing the fears fictional characters have towards technology that exists far far away.

Imagine a world without technology. What do you think might happen? A global search engine vanishing. Communication systems shut down. Transportation stagnating as communities become isolated. Access to food, water, friends, and information: all restricted and unobtainable. It is quite hard to conceptualize, as our generation relies heavily on technology for much in our everyday lives. But in dystopian societies, people live this challenge constantly. The fearful majority usually have no access to what we would refer to as modern innovations. Contrasting this is the powerful few who hold advanced technology easily in the palm of their hand. This difference in technological prowess is a defining aspect of what makes a society a dystopia. In my conference presentation, The Tyranny of Technology, I will explain how this disparity is evident through acclaimed YA dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Red Queen.

Dystopian societies are notoriously protective about the media. The ways in which the elite communicate among each other and with the public is a careful process. The message they send out always has an undercurrent of strength and brutality while emphasizing peace and prosperity on the surface. But it is also broadcast in public avenues in a complex technological way. The Hunger Games gathers many people in rundown streets to watch a game of horror on a big, high definition screen or on advanced projectors. Meanwhile, there is only one citizen in the entire district who even has access to a phone. Similarly, the inhabitants in Red Queen have barely working generators that fail to keep the lights on half of the time while the elite rulers have all manners of communication to spread their tyranny over the land. This allows them to broadcast propaganda and gather information at a much faster rate than any sort of rebellion. In turn, this vicious cycle allows the government to amass a large amount of power and influence.

The big turn that allows the resistance to start winning battles begins when the playing field of technology is leveled. Other sectors that this may occur in can include militarization, transportation, and engineering. Popular YA dystopian novels introduce a new factor in one of these areas to compensate for the offset in influence. When District 13 comes into play, Katniss now has the weapons and resources at her disposal to launch propaganda campaigns and begin her attack on the Capitol. When Mare obtains her lightning ability, she, a commoner turned royal, is then able to promote a strong symbol of freedom and power back at the government. It is important to recognize the power technology can bring to the table, whether in our world or in books. For if a gap starts to form between us and the government, who knows what kind of imaginary technological dystopia might eventually become a reality.

Works Cited

  1. Henderson, Greg. “Futurespect: Utopia vs Dystopia – 10 Depictions Of The Future.” Rootnotion, 22 Aug. 2014, http://rootnotion.co.uk/utopia-vs-dystopia-10-depictions-future/.

In one week, I will be presenting my conference paper for the class, which will encompass the many ideas I have for my research paper. In “Uglies Confronts Issues about Insecurities in Our Society,” I will explain how Scott Westerfeld uses his dystopian novel to criticize an aspect of society. In Uglies, he uses the “pretties” to represent the many people in our society who think they have to be perfect all of the time and the girls who are constantly dissatisfied with their bodies. Technology and social media have provided young girls with skewed images of what being pretty looks like. Westerfeld realizes this is a problem, and one way in which he can spread the message about problems in the world is by using his novels.

The increasing problem that Westerfeld addresses in his novel Uglies is something we have to address immediately. Patients seeking cosmetic surgery have shifted in age from a somewhat older population to a young one. Many girls think they need to be normal, but they already are. Technology and mass media has created a false image of what reality looks like, and it is costing us young girls’ innocence. In Judith Burns’ article about pressuring girls into looking pretty has very astonishing and repulsive statistics. Among seven- to ten-year olds, “38% felt they were not pretty enough (Burns). This is absolutely insane. These girls either have not reached double digits in the ages or just have. I can’t even remember thinking about how I looked. This number increased to 66% in 11- to 21-year olds, which is crazy (Burns). All of the girls think they are not pretty enough, not good enough, but what they don’t see is that each one of them is beautiful in her own way.

Westerfeld realized that using plastic surgery to make someone look “normal” is wrong, and the shift towards this as a norm should not be happening. Critics even look to judge a woman based on how she looks instead of what she is actually saying. Women are being judged based on looks, and it is affecting how girls and women look at themselves. Young girls are still maturing, so most of them don’t realize what they’re about to go through. Body image disorders are increasing in number, more young girls are seeking plastic surgery because they think they look abnormal, and women are pressured to look pretty all of the time. All of these extreme measures are costing us innocence, money, personal relationships, physical risks, and psychological effects. Westerfeld is warning us what will happen if we continue this trend, so we need to address plastic surgery and body image issues immediately.

 

Burns, Judith. “Pressure to Look Perfect Hits Girls’ Confidence, Say Guides.” BBC News, 4 Oct.            2016, www.bbc.com/news/education-37543769. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Dystopian novels as a whole usually have a purpose: to serve as examples for why certain systems are not good ways to run society. Inside these systems, there are often common themes. One of the major themes I’ve been following throughout the semester is the way that information flows through society. For oppressive people in power, having a tight control over the flow of information has a huge role in maintaining that power. The goal of my presentation is to demonstrate that the way information is transmitted in today’s society is dystopian.

Firstly, it’s good to look at the way that dystopian novels show how information is controlled. In Animal Farm, everything the pigs say must be taken as truth. The collapse of the windmill was not an accident, it must have been cause by Snowball, the enemy of the pigs. The truth is warped and the narrative is constructed to fit the agenda of the animals in control. The next book to draw from is Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. The protagonist, Kira, is warned her whole life about dangerous beasts that live just outside the village and killed her father. The council constructed this fake threat to explain away things that could damage their reputation and to keep the people in line.

My argument is that these things are happening in today’s society as well. The media, which used to represent many different organizations and remained largely independent has been reduced to just six major media corporations. While many dystopian novels depict a government being the oppressive power, large corporations are just as able to take control of society if left unchecked. This is what the media has become. A mere 300 executives control the news that millions of people digest every single day. These people aren’t elected, yet they have a massive impact on way these people think about and understand current events.

Dystopian literature is a pivotal tool in critiquing current society and providing us examples, although some more extreme than others, of what could happen if we don’t change or improve our current society’s flaws. With this idea in mind, dystopian novels often try to create realistic worlds in which we can clearly see parallels between the society depicted and our own.  Therefore, the political and social climate the novel was written plays a key role in how these divisions of race, class, and gender are represented in dystopias. For my conference and research paper, I will be using my novel The Selection and other dystopian novels written throughout recent history to analyze the difference between female and male depiction in dystopian literature and how situations in society at the time they were written impacted this representation.

Women have been struggling to gain equality in our society for much of the past two hundred years. Through historical periods such as the suffrage movement or women’s liberation movement, men and women have been given more equal roles in society, yet today divisions still exist. As dystopian novels often critique the flaws of our society, when our society refuses to recognize the genders as equal, these novels provide examples of the downfalls of this lack of recognition, or the benefits when one challenges the recognition.

More recently, though men and women are more equal than ever, there still exists gaps in equality between the genders. Currently, difference in wage, political representation, and statistics in employment reinforce the gaps that exist in gender. Stereotypes and social norms still influence society’s thought and perception of the two genders and therefore the fight more recently has been toward changing the social climate of our society and the views of the genders.

http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/PayGap2.png

My independent reading book, published recently in 2012, The Selection, the strong, feminist lead America challenges stereotypes given by her society, where men are the providers and women are valued moreover for beauty than intelligence. The Selection emulates The Bachelor, where one man chooses from a pool of many women. The Selection seems to be a criticism of such shows like The Bachelor that objectify women.

Dystopian literature allows us to reflect on the current state our society and provides a warning of how portions of our society could worsen. In order to truly understanding the gender systems in dystopias, we must analyze the society at the time By doing so, we can deduce the root of the depiction of gender in the novel and how the dystopia seeks to address or overcome the flaw in gender divisions plaguing society.

Works Cited

Cass, Kiera. The Selection. New York, HarperTeen, 2012.

Censorship is the prevention of certain ideas, phrases, or images from reaching the general public. Throughout history, censorship has occurred in the form of banning and challenging books. Although countless authors have warned against the idea of censorship, it is still prevalent today. Moreover, censorship and book challenging is especially common among YA dystopian novels. In my research, I will be discussing the effects of censorship in YA dystopian literature. Why are these books banned, and how does it affect the targeted young adult audience?

 

Every year the American Library Association publishes a list of the most frequently challenged books of the year and the reasoning for banning them. Within these lists are countless YA dystopian novels. Titles such as The Hunger Games and Feed are frequently on such lists. What is interesting about many of the challenged and banned novels is that their reasoning for being banned is often obscure. For example, The Hunger Games was once challenged for the “religious viewpoint”(Biller). It is interesting to me that parents would choose to challenge a book based off of a said religious viewpoint when there is so much violence that would be easier to challenge.

 

Another interesting aspect of censorship I wish to uncover is false censorship. My independent novel, Delirium, had some sources claim it was banned or challenged, yet I have not found any conclusive information. Could this be a marketing tactic used by the author to draw attention from young readers? It has been found that banned books are more popular among young readers because they feel that in a sense they are being rebellious by reading content that is deemed explicit. Additionally, Lauren Oliver, the author, has appeared in a YouTube live video about censorship and its effects in the past. A small detail in Delirium also covers the idea that books that promote love are banned from the fictional society.

 

Finally, I hope to uncover some of the effects censorship has on young adults. The content of ya dystopian literature was written by authors to address topics they felt the youth ought to be able to comprehend. Are parents being overbearing in their quest to put an end to what they deem unsuitable literature? The content is meant to evoke emotions about the current and past political states and promote change in society. By banning and challenging books that contain such important material, what are we teaching the young adults of today’s society?

 

Works Cited:

Biller, Diana and Charlie Jane Anders. “The 12 Weirdest Reasons for Banning Science Fiction and      Fantasy Books.” io9, Gizmodo, Sept 2014, http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-12-weirdest-reasons-for- banning-science-fiction-and-1639136022

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org

 

https://rampages.us/mtzim33/effects-of-censorship-of-literature-on-minor-students/

For my presentation, I will be discussing the effects that Dystopian novels have in influencing the minds of their young adult readers. Ever since we’ve been analyzing dystopia from the beginning of the semester, I’ve managed to catch onto the underlying subliminal messages that Dystopian novels try to convey to young adults in many of the different novels and films we have studied. Since this is a prominent aspect of the novels that I have found interest in, I thought it would be a perfect topic for my research paper and presentation.

The role of dystopia itself is a warning. It portrays a dysfunctional society which has some sort of qualities or aspects that are akin to our own society and shows us that if we don’t fix something soon, we could end up falling into a dystopian type society similar to the one in the book. In Little Brother and Homeland, we see the dangers on a society becoming too technology oriented. In the Hunger Games, we see the rise and revolution of a nation against an unjust and overly oppressive government. In the 100, we see the problems of a government keeping information from their citizens while trying to maintain a sustainable society. All of these have some aspect which subliminally warns the reader (or viewer) about our own society and now the writers and trying to cater this to their younger readers. The writers of these books and TV shows know that the younger generation is going to be the leaders of the future and if anyone is going to be able to make a difference in our society, it will be them.

One source that has been incredibly useful has been the charts off of the article, “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” They go very in depth on what aspects are added to Dystopian novels that make them appeal to young adults and they cover a fair bit of ground, analyzing 16 different dystopian novels and seeing what major themes and elements each one has. This has been a very useful source and I’m looking forward to synthesizing it into my essay and presentation.

Scholes, Justin, and Jon Ostenson. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult      Fiction.” Scholarly Communication Department, Research & Informatics, Virginia Tech Libraries,  Scholarly Communication, Virginia Tech University Libraries, 2013,  scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.