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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dystopia 102 (or 101 Part II)

Last week I wrote about some of the basics of writing a dystopian book. To summarize, be sure your idea is well thought out and preferably is something new. Above all, do a little research; remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Dystopian vs Post-Apocalyptic

Many don't see the difference between the two sub-genres. Though they may be subtle, the differences do exist and are important, very important.

Dystopia is the exact opposite of Utopia. Think of a Utopian world as the perfect setting. Something like you'd find in Shangri-La, as portrayed in James Hilton's Lost Horizon. Men and women, beasts and humans, liberals and conservatives all live in peace and happiness - the perfect world.

Dystopia, then, is the opposite of that. Perhaps it begins with an oppressive government, or no government. Perhaps there are too many laws guiding humankind. Or perhaps no laws exist anywhere. People are free to choose, people are slaughtered if they don't follow strict rules. Dystopia has its options.

Dystopia will usually play a role in most post-apocalyptic settings. More or less dystopia comes calling when the end of the World hits us. But, and this is an important distinction, you do not have to have an apocalyptic event to bring on dystopia.

A World Gone Bad (or Mad)

I've written a dystopian book series that will be published sometime in the next two years. The entire series falls under the title of The Smith Chronicles, with the first book entitled Golden 5. While nothing here may sound very dystopian, I guarantee you, it is planted firmly on Orwell's 1984 path.

In this series, the United States economy has finally collapsed (as many now predict it will do, soon). Not overly original, but the series is based on an event that many people have already considered. After the government tries to use its heavy hand to stop the troubles that follow, it (our government) finally collapses as well.

Imagine if you will, for a brief moment, the United States without its mammoth and powerful government at the helm. Without constant tax revenues the military, the National Guard, your local police won't get paid. How many of these fine service members are going to continue showing up at work, risking the life daily, when there's no paycheck at the end of the rainbow? See the problem.

States, counties and local municipalities will begin to assemble militias. Some will be good, most we hope. But some will fill their ranks with undesirables; the type that are given the choice of jail or service (perhaps even death or service). And that, my dear friends, will be your protection. Or, you're new oppressive form of government.

No Messy Bombs Required

Without the need to destroy the world through bombs, EMPs, solar flares, explosion of the Yellowstone cauldron, I've created a world that is dark, a world where hope is in short supply. A world where people are looking to Washington for help, not realizing Washington as they knew it is missing. Bring in the anarchists, the wicked, the revenge seekers. The strong and the well-armed shall inherit the earth - well, at least my little portion of the earth in northern Wisconsin.

If done properly, a dystopian tale can be quite interesting. One just needs to avoid the cliches found in the genre. Don't create a modern version of 1984 or The Handmaids Tale. Be original; come up with new settings, new problems, new and interesting characters. Create your dystopian book or novel from a point of view that hasn't been tried yet. I could give you examples, but then I'd be giving away some of my secrets.

Whatever you write, do it well. Spend the time creating that it deserves. Rome, my friends, fell overnight. But the planning had been going on for years.

Until next time - read, read, read.