Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dystopia - Dyswhatsia?

This past weekend a very lively discussion ensued at the holiday party of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The party was fabulous. Get a bunch of crime writers in one place and ply them with drink and great food and you have a recipe for a very interesting evening.

The specific discussion I'm referencing took place between myself, Denise Hamilton and Les Klinger.  Actually, it was more me listening wide-eyed while Denise and Les gushed excitedly about dystopian novels, mostly young adult novels.

I've been hearing the word dystopia a lot lately around the author water cooler.  I kind of, sort of, knew what it meant, and I knew it was the latest craze in YA novels (The Hunger Games, Mockingjay). For those of you as in the shadows as I was, in a nutshell, dystopia novels center around a negative utopia, like a utopia gone wild and ugly.  Think Lord of the Flies or The Time Machine, two of my favorite novels.

The day after the party, I looked up the term dystopia to make sure my understanding was correct, and was pleased to discover it was.  Whew. Nothing like feeling like an author who may be clueless and out of touch. I was also pleased to learn I had been reading dystopian novels most of my life and just didn't know it by that term. I'd always thought of them as science fiction.

While I've never read The Hunger Games or any of the currently popular dystopian novels, I have read quite a few of the classics.  And I bet you have, too.  Here's some of my well-read and well-loved dystopian novels:

Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Time Machine - H. G. Wells
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Animal Farm - George Orwell
1984 - George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury


JeanC said...

Haven't read many of the new ones (I keep meaning to grab The Hunger Games next time it crossed my desk), but I've read most on your list. The exception is Atlas Shrugged. I keep trying to read it, but my eyes cross after the 2nd sentence and my brain melts :P

Hannah Dennison said...

Thanks for this post, Sue Ann (and you were looking radiant at the SinC party earlier by the way). I hadn't a clue what Dystopia meant - excellent explanation!