sci fi

All posts tagged sci fi

     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.

Whenever I used to hear the word “dystopia”, my first thought was of The Hunger Games. Of course The Hunger Games is not the definition of a dystopia, but the novel combines many of the elements of what I would consider a dystopia. The majority of the people in Panem are living in what we today would consider an absolute nightmare. The living conditions are miserable, they lack basic needs, and lack the will to be independent and free-thinking individuals, and instead are forced to conform to the society, often in fear for their lives. The government that controls them would be the definition of corruption, as they feed off this never-ending fear from the citizens.  This exemplifies much of what a dystopia is: a society filled with unfavorable living conditions, governmental corruption, and an overwhelming sense of fear. Though the country of Panem may seem to be a dystopia to its citizens, others, particularly those in power, could think of it as their utopia, indicating one’s idea of a dystopia may differ from person to person.

 

Combining a dystopia with another genre such as sci-fi does not really change the fundamentals of dystopias in my definition, but rather expands the definition into new territory. For me, a dystopia does not necessarily have to involve science fiction, but often does, and when it does the circumstances of the society simply become more fascinating. People often misidentify one genre as the other, but there is a clear distinction between the two. Sci-fi does not necessarily include the chaos and corruption found in dystopias, but rather includes the scientific advancements that seem impossible and unimaginable in today’s society. Dystopian societies and governments that incorporate these scientific and technological advancements often seem to misuse them in order to maintain their control of the population, as in The Hunger Games.

 

Young adult literature generally has a target audience of 12-18, and I believe this younger audience generally needs something else to get them interested in reading a novel more than just a corrupt futuristic society. For this reason, the majority of the YA dystopian novels I am familiar with have young protagonists themselves, in order to appeal to this audience. For example, when I first read the Hunger Games, I, only a few years younger at the time, could relate to Katniss and her experience as a young adult. I was intrigued to see how someone my own age would navigate through the corruption and disorder of a dystopia while still facing struggles common in all teenagers.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/1oupqvQ9fPONHJMglUyYpkzWW8NQ4LJI_q_1RZAZ_nwSKLze1dpRXAIORwQ6Xh61QvWWEDNolrL61CjvC6-t_fT24rq520k3Tj8_lAWxFSQ3jpBX0rVX05kvLdghUYr0wA

 

The term dystopia is a derivation neologism, meaning that it evolved as a variation of another word used to name a newly synthesized concept or idea (Claeys 23). Dystopias were originally created to contrast the pre-existing concept of utopia, a term coined by Thomas More that alluded to an imaginary paradise-like place that focused on non-existent social organization that is better than reality (Claeys 20). The concept of dystopia rejects that utopias can exist, discarding any possibility of mankind achieving perfect equality, stability, and peace. However, analyses of different dystopias result in various interpretations of what a dystopia can be. Many literary dystopias have very obvious negative connotations, but others may have only underlying implications of dystopian elements. Personally, I define dystopia as any place or state that reflects an unpleasant social, political, or economic tension in the way the society is structured. Dystopias may also critique contemporary societies by hiding underlying messages about current issues and events, possibly implying fault in how modern society is structured. Dystopias do not have to be a society that is completely overtaken by misery, oppression, totalitarianism, and dehumanization; they are often simply a society that highlights a few aspects of the common dystopian definition.

https://www.writeabout.com/ideas/utopia-vs-dystopia/

In addition, combining dystopia with other literary genres often opens up a new level of depth to interpretation and analysis. Dystopian scientific fiction, for example, exploits possible faults in technological advancement and scientific discovery. As a rapidly evolving civilization, innovative research is always encouraged, yet commonly feared. Dystopian sci-fi literature often embodies this fear, illustrating scientific discovery that goes wrong, with technology dehumanizing civilization. Therefore, dystopias don’t only critique current society, but they also predict future conflict between ethical morality and scientific discovery, altering the definition of dystopia itself.

The dystopian genre can also be changed when comparing adult dystopias and young adult dystopias. Young adult literature uses simpler diction and relatable examples, often alluding to parental restrictions, fleeting romances, teenage hardships, and developing a unique identity. Incorporating the concept of dystopia into a genre for teens alters the way the message is told. For example, in Brave New World, an adult dystopian novel, science molds a perfect society through a totalitarian societal structure and a caste system that eliminates class mobility. This is illustrated through the normalization of sex, the use of in vitro fertilization to control genetics, and psychological conditioning (Huxley, 1-18). On the other hand, in The Hunger Games, a young adult dystopian novel by Suzanne Collins, governmental and societal issues are portrayed through heartbreaking romance, clique-like friend groups, and young characters that are relatable to the audience, such as the teenage heroine, the heart-throb love interest, and the nostalgic friend back at home. Both of these novels exemplify dystopias and a critique of modern society, but in two completely different ways, leading to various interpretations and analyses of the intended message.

References

Claeys, Gregory. The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Chatto & Windus, 1932.