The allure of dystopia in fiction

Many young adult novels these days seem to be set in dystopian near future worlds. Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent spring to mind. So, what is the allure of dystopia, and why do so many speculative fiction authors set their works in such worlds?

Dystopia is the opposite of Utopia. Wikipedia has a nice entry:

… a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is literally translated as “not-good place” … Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science, and/or technology, which if unaddressed could potentially lead to such a dystopia-like condition.

I think, for a writer, dystopian settings allow them to explore worlds that are familiar, yet different enough to engage the plot in compelling ways. Since the world is messed up, and the powers that be are making a mess of things, the protagonists can figure out ways to excel in the fractured environment while hopefully changing it for the better.

Check out my list of the top 10 best dystopian novels here.


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