A scene from Michael Radford”s movie adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian science fiction classic, 1984 (full text at Project Gutenberg) (movie trailer)

Why Dystopia?

Some thoughts here on the trope of dystopia, writing about a crapsack universe, and making this the starting place for Freehauler

The fun thing about science fiction mythopoesis is you can be as dystopian as you like. Dystopia lets scifi writers explore worst-case scenarios in action-adventure form

That doesn’t mean dystopia is everything. The Alcioneverse starts in dystopia but doesn’t end there.  Also, dystopia is only one element, and is almost benign in a number of aspects. In this my own presentation is as different from traditional dystopias such as 1984, Handmaid’s Tale, and Warhammer 40K as it is possible to be.

Dystopia is also the perfect genre for Young Adult fiction. Teenagers live in a world in which they have little or no say in determining things, and in which overbearing authority figures (parents, teachers, religious leaders, politicians etc) make absolute pronouncements on how they should lead their lives. Hence rebellion against dystopia, and the otherthrow of dystopian oppression,  symbolic of coming into adulthood and taking on responsibilities of one’s own.

Inspiration for dystopia

My own representation of dystopia is based on a sort of kitchen sink mashup of all the worst dystopias I can think of, but subverted to make them more entertaining and less grimdark.

  • Cult of Personality – the classic staple of every narcissistic despot as well as every wannabe despot.  Some larger than life character studies are provided by Donald Trump and Kim jong un today, but they are by no means the only ones.  Note that the psychology of the political cult of personality is identical to the psychology of the religious cult and its leader
  • Fascism: From the actual horrors of Nazi Germany to the terrifying dystopian alternative history of The Man in the High Castle, to the alt right’s neo-Aryan mythos of the West under assault from endless brown hordes (Camp of Saints); Fascism is the classic form of dystopia.  But unlike dour Stalinism, Nazi-style fascism has a real stylish glamour, as shown by the extraordinary special effects of the TV adaptation of the Man in the High Castle (see this amazing short on how the CGI was done using my favourite (I suppose because it’s free) 3d modelling and movie-making software Blender).  Central to nazi-style fascism is xenophobia, with ethnic genocide justified on the grounds that other races pose an existential threat to one’s own race
  • Grim dark totalitarianism – Fascism taken to ten.  For nerds, the classic study of pessimism and despair can be found in the Science fiction – fantasy – horror cross-over from Warhammer 40k, although the original inspiration was the theocracy of medieval Europe, as shown by the gothic iconography of the WH40k setting
  • High Tech and Low Life: From Bladerunner, Neuromancer, Shadowrun, and Cyberpunk 2020 the idea of a corporatocratic world in which hackers-for-hire ply their trade under the noses of equally immoral megacorps, and people on the streets get by by adapting advanced tech to their grey or black market activities
  • War as Entertainment: From CNN’s Desert Storm footage, embedded reporters and reality TV comes the idea of the Military Entertainment Complex, of military expansion as a form of popularist entertainment
  • Madvertising: From Baudillard’s simulcra and simulations, targeted advertising, the filter-bubble effect, and the internet of things comes the idea of all persuasive “madvertising”
  • Plutocracy and Kleptocracy: both  Communist China with its western style capitalism and consumerism under maoist-lenisist style gerontacracy and corruption, and Western Conservative Ideology (politics and neoliberal think tanks) provide a sort of reverse socialism, in which governments subsidise corporations, and the lower and middle classes contribute to wealthy, comes the dismantling of social welfare and an exploitative, predatory capitalism devoid of all concern for its customers, environmentally vandalising plutocracy;
  • Memetic engineering: From Goebels Ministry of Propaganda, Orwell’s 1984, and Katherine Conway’s Alternative News
  • Puritanism: from right wing religious politics, conservative shock jocks, popularist conspiracy theory, comes the puritan etc and paternalistic enforcing of religious and conservative values

Some Links