science fiction and dystopia

All posts tagged science fiction and dystopia

Dystopias seem to be defined in a plethora of ways. On a general basis, there are certain characteristics that seem to be common to most dystopian tales. A lot of the time, it starts off with a utopian goal, but something doesn’t go as planning and leaves the community in shambles. These dystopias usual occur in the future where some sort of disaster or uprising occurs that causes the community/society to be pervaded with characteristics like poverty, an evil government or power, hunger, and just basically unfavorable circumstances. They usually are hopeless throughout the literature they are in and the stories usual focus on someone or some people who challenge the way the society works or who refuses to put up with their current conditions.

When integrating dystopia with another genre, the basic characteristics remain, but some other characteristics specific to this addition genre come to light. For example, when combining dystopia with sci-fi, usually we see how humans have used technology to advance in society but such advances have caused unanticipated circumstances. These types of literature form as a cautionary tale to those who mess with things like artificial intelligence, interstellar travel, etc. When combining dystopia with a genre of something apocalyptic though, some traits you may find are hunger, lack of resources and safety, and a broken-down society. While the core elements of dystopias remain constant, the addition of other genres alter the features of the literature.

YA literature targets a younger audience. Due to this, by integrating dystopic literature with YA literature the author tries to appeal to what they believe intrigues those from 12-18. To appeal to them, usually these dystopic novels have main characters in the same age range to add a sense of relatability and connection. It also uses language and concepts that appeal to young adults and that they understand well. For example, in The Hunger Games the novel has young main characters who while dealing with the dystopic problems, also deal with things like young love, difficult parents and siblings, and a yearn for adventure and fun. It also contains a lot of action to appeal to the youth’s need for something exciting to keep their attention. Together, these are the defining feature of a YA dystopia.

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

According to Merriam-Webster, a dystopian society includes elements of misery, disease, depression and overcrowding. In looking at Thomas More’s definition of utopia and anti-utopia in his own Utopia, it’s definition also includes that it is an unreachable or even non-existent place. Although dystopias are usually futuristic, they are imaginable. Often the government is totalitarian and oppressive. This social control, though it is evident to the reader is often faded by the illusion of a flawless society. The science fiction genre is similar in multiple respects. It is also defined as an imaginable and futuristic world, according to Merriam-Webster. But, the focus of these novels and pieces stays on major technological, social, or environmental changes on a society. While these two genres are often mismatched, it is important to recognize that dystopian fiction is often recognized as a sub-category of science fiction. Therefore, dystopian novels can be labeled as science fiction while not all science fiction novels are necessarily dystopias. But, there are others who do not necessarily categorize dystopias as particularly science fiction novels or want the two to be combined. Michael Solana of Wired argues that the creation and popularity of dystopian science fiction has a certain capacity to entertain and shape the way readers view and understand the future of technology. He further presents the idea that manmade technological advancements in many novels often lead to disruption of lower order societies which is something to be feared. This specific combination of dystopia and science fiction allows a reader to believe that mass technological and environmental revolutions in the real world may lead to a dystopian society. This is where the combination of these two genres can overlap and cause confusion and even panic in a reader. While the two genres are certainly similar in many aspects, it is important that a reader or viewer recognizes the ability of science fiction to be independent of a dystopia.


“Stop Writing Dystopian Sci-Fi—It’s Making Us All Fear Technology.” Wired, Conde Nast, 14 Aug. 2014,

“Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

“Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

Dystopia is a form of literature that has a definition that’s often confused with that of utopia, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, etc. Dystopia is different than all of these listed, kind of. If you google the definition of dystopia, it says dystopia is a noun: “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” This definition is entirely negative, and has nothing that could be considered optimistic. Dystopias are not happy places. That is a fact. But, from different points of view, what some consider a dystopia might actually be a utopia to others. A utopia is “an ideal place or state.” While dystopias and utopias are virtually opposites of one another, the people in power would view a world where they hold totalitarian control as a utopia, while the poor, starving, and miserable citizens of this very same world view their nation as a dystopia. Point of view matters.

Image result for dystopia vs utopia 

The genres of post-apocalyptic, science fiction, horror, etc. are easily confused with dystopias because they are all sub-genres of dystopian literature. The difference is in the details with these genres, as post-apocalyptic comes after a world ending event, science fiction is more unreal situations, etc. Dystopian literature implies problems with our world today because of how realistic the dystopian society is portrayed. The characters have normal problems that we have today, and the literature is attempting to warn us of what could happen in the future. While these genres are different from dystopias, they are often combined in YA literature. I read a lot of post-apocalyptic, science fiction, and dystopian literature and it all blends together in my head because of how similar the genres are to one another. The difference is in how realistic dystopian societies are to our present one and how sometimes they even parallel one another in environmental, social, or political conflicts. Including all these other genres in the general definition of dystopia changes it a little bit.

Dystopian literature includes stories that are almost completely controlled by one government-like power that took control after a disastrous event and has attempted to rid the world of previous problems. When put into YA literature, the dystopias try to capture the problems of young adults and how they overcome what the higher powers have been forcing upon them. Most dystopias I think of are YA literature, I’m sure you can name a few.



Works Cited:

  1. “dystopia”. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 23 Jan. 2017. <>
  2. “utopia”. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 23 Jan. 2017. <>
  3. “Utopia Vs. Dystopia – Lessons .” TES Teach with Blendspace, TES Teach, 21 Jan. 2015,
  4. “Young Adult Dystopian Novels……..How Do I Analyze Them??” Let’Slearnwithfun, WordPress, 3 July 2015,

What is dystopia? Literary scholars would like to adopt a lengthy definition such as “a fictional portrayal of a society in which evil, or negative social and political developments, have the upper hand, or as a satire of utopian aspirations which attempts to show up their fallacies, or which demonstrate ways of life we must be sure to avoid in the unlikely event that we can agree on particulars” (Claeys 107). I prefer a much simpler definition: a utopia is a place that is too good to exist, dystopia is a place too bad to exist. Since the dystopian genre first appeared after Enlightenment and the French Revolution, it was a response to the unexpected destruction brought about by the supposed struggle for utopia. Thus, all dystopias afterwards followed this tradition of reflecting on reality, whether it is ideology, science and technology or the political system. Consequently, periods with great changes in the world correspond to surges of dystopian writing, for example, the French Revolution, the World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution and the establishment of communist regimes, Hitler and eugenics, the Cold War, etc. Through dystopian writing, the authors express their concern of the current society. And their works serve as warnings or pieces of constructive advice on what not to do to avoid such dystopias.

“Dystopia.” Dystopia Page 1.

In contrast, apocalyptic writings present completely negative outlook of the future. If dystopia is an indignant speech, apocalypse would be a pure whining. Some apocalyptic writers are completely frustrated with the human nature, and thus provide an omen that the doom’s day is coming due to the sins of man. Unlike that of dystopia, readers of apocalyptic work are not expected to respond positively by trying to save the human race from destruction, but to give up all hope and hate all men. Therefore, as dystopia may contain apocalyptic elements, it is a totally different genre from apocalyptic fiction.

However, dystopian novel is frequently mixed with science fiction. Many dystopias rely on advanced technology to support the ruling system and the society. Sometimes science and technology are the target of critique in the dystopia, often reflecting their damaging power in the real world through atomic, chemical, biological and other weapons in war.

“The Capitol Skyline.” The Capitol.

Also, technology may be representative of the ruling class’s oppression on the people, as in The Hunger Games. In the book, the Capitol, where the rulers live, is very futuristic in terms of technology and living standard, while District 12, one of the districts for common people, is poor and dilapidated and lives on

mining as people did in the 18th century.

“District12.” Hunger Games’ District 12.



Advanced technology is also employed to manipulate the Hunger Games, particularly creating lethal situations for the tributes, to make the game more entertaining to the residents in the Capitol.

Young adult dystopia is a division of dystopia where the protagonist and main characters are young adults like the readers, usually 12 to 18 of age. Therefore, the language employed is simple, everyday language spoken by teenagers. A noticeable feature of YA dystopia is that its plot moves on very fast, lacking the big chunks of descriptions often present in adult dystopia writings. YA dystopias embody easy-to-understand themes closely related to teenage life, for example, pursuit of freedom, acknowledgement of personality, etc as in Divergent, as opposed to critiques on certain political systems, such as totalitarianism as in 1984.



Works Cited

Claeys, Gregory. “The origins of dystopia: Wells, Huxley, and Orwell.” The Cambridge
Companion to Utopian Literature.
Cambridge University Press, 2010.