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Dystopian Fiction - Introduction

Understanding the genre of The Stone Gods

Bob Gembey

on 4 February 2014

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Transcript of Dystopian Fiction - Introduction

Use as control device for groups via rampant fundamentalism, theocracy, strict moral codes (particularly for women)
Fahrenheit 451
Not given a specific time period, but hints at around a late 21st century. In this society, books are banned and illegal to carry. Firefighters don’t put out fires, but instead they burn and destroy books. The society is essentially hypnotized by television (glorify it) and don’t partake in an intellectual activities. This is the flaw of this society. Citizens seem like they’re happy, but they’re living in ignorance and for pleasure; they don’t pay attention to what’s going on in their society. This lifestyle only begins to show flaws when the main character, Guy Montag, begins to uncover the wonders of books and how much people are missing out. Guy is a fireman himself and eventually gets caught storing some books. Frantically, he runs away and escapes to some other outsiders like him. Coincidently, there’s a war going on and Montag looks back at his old life and sees it get blown away by bombs.
A Clockwork Orange
Once again the time period for this novel isn’t specified, but it’s assumed to be not too far into the future. This story focuses on a young teenager named Alex who goes out at night with his gang to rob, murder, and rape for their amusement. Then he gets caught, arrested, and sent to jail. After two years they decide to give him a new ‘special treatment’, which essentially brain washes him so every time he has violent or sexual thought he gets sick to his stomach. He comes back to his old life only to be rejected by his family and friends. He befriends a group of people who are against the treatment Alex went through, which is the central idea in the novel: whether it’s better for someone to freely make the bad decisions or be controlled to make the right ones. He ends up reverting to his old habits, but realizes that he gets no pleasure from it anymore. In the end Alex matures and leaves his violent ways.
“He floated on his back when the valise filled and sank; the river was mild and leisurely, going away from the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapours for supper. The river was very real; it held him comfortably and gave him the time at last, the leisure, to consider this month, this year, and a lifetime of years.”
"Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?"
On the Beach
I Am Legend
“Time had lost its multidimensional scope. There was only the present for Robert Neville; a present based on day to-day survival, marked by neither heights of joy nor depths of despair.”
•Dr. Robert Neville is “the only man” alive after a catastrophic virus infects humans at a global rate, turning them in blood-thirsty creatures- vampires
•Having been traumatized by the death of his daughter and wife (whom he had to put down himself), Neville lives as a depressed drunk in Los Angeles, following an everyday routine of survival; scavenge, kill, hide, protect
•Endures many psychological burdens; suicide, loneliness, hopelessness, past vs. future, morality
•Over the course of the novel he takes on one main goal; saving humanity
•Aside from trying to find a cure for the disease, he too tries to save his own humanity; trying to befriend a dog, and meeting Ruth
•A twist in a the plot occurs when Neville discovers the Ruth is an infected and she was really sent by the community of vampires to spy on him
•Neville is captured by the community and is sentenced to death for killing many other vampires
•To them, Neville was as much a threat to them as they were to him
•Neville dies a “legend” of the old world – similar to how “vampires” were legends to the old world
The story begins in Australia around 1963 and World War III has destroyed most of life in the northern hemisphere. Due to these bombings, nuclear fallout is spreading to the south and people are slowly succumbing to radiation poisoning. Australians find a signal from Washington and using one of the last American nuclear submarines set on a journey to find whoever sent the signal. The American crew with the two Australians find and uncover the reasons as to why the signal was sent. However, they find nothing and travel back to Australia. In the end the characters choose to live happily in the last remaining moments of their lives and inevitably commit suicide. =(
Passage from Fahrenheit 451
“Nobody listens any more. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense. And I want you to teach me to understand what I read.”
Faber examined Montag’s thin, blue-jowled face. “How did you get shaken up? What knocked the torch out of your hands?”
“I don’t know. We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help.”
“You’re a hopeless romantic,” said Faber. “It would be funny if it were not serious. It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books. The same things could be in the ‘parlor families’ today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it’s not the books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched of the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
The story is set in Oceania and follows a character named Winston Smith who works in the Ministry of truth which deals with various types of propaganda and changing them accordingly to the government's wishes. Big Brother, the party leader, has numerous posters with the caption "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU". The telescreen is monitoring technology to make sure all people are under surveillance. Winston is frustrated with the government and acts in what is called "Thought crime", the act of rebellion. He meets a woman named Julia and falls in love with her. Both wanting to rebel against the party, Julia and Winston join The Brotherhood. However, The Brotherhood they joined was false and were then handed in to be tortured. In the end, Winston learns to love big brother and is brought back into the world, losing his love for Julia in the process.
Passage from 1984

Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended. Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The blackmoustachio’d face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
“It's not the end of the world at all," he said. "It's only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan't be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.”
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
Welcome to the Future
A DYSTOPIA is an imaginary futuristic world in which society lives under the oppression and control of a totalitarian government, a repressive society, a force of technology, or a corrupt business corporation.
Dystopias often start with an illusion of a perfect society, or UTOPIA. But as the story progresses, the reader and characters both realize that this fictional world is the opposite of perfect.
Dystopias often focus on a current social, technological, or governmental trend and shows us what would happen if this trend were taken way too far. It's basically an exaggerated "worst-case" scenario. This allows the dystopian story to make a criticism of a trend in our read world.
In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, dystopian literature became an important way for writers to criticize communism, fascism and socialism and many other "isms". These decades produced some of the most important dystopian classics:
The new few decades saw many more dystopian novels, such as
The Clockwork Orange
V for Vendetta

Until 1993, when Lois Lowry published
The Giver.
This was one of the first dystopian novels written specifically for young adults.

This started a movement.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, dystopian novels have become one of the most popular and successful trends in young adult literature.
A Super Brief Introduction
Common Story Elements
Most Dystopian Stories share common elements or ideas
Citizens of dystopian society live under harsh control- usually the control of a government, a corporation, technology or religious or philosophical ideas.
The truth about the world is often kept a secret from most of the society.
The story sometimes takes place after an apocalyptic event that ends the world as we know it and gives rises to a new world and a new way of life.
Citizens are expected to strictly conform to society's expectations. Individuality is seen as a bad thing.
The society tends to dehumanize its citizens.
There is often an illusion of a perfect society covering up how horrible things really are. Sometimes the story's oppressors truly believe that there are doing what's right; but often the illusion of a utopia is merely propaganda meant to keep the citizens under control
The main character of a dystopian story is often one of the few (or one of the first) to question the goodness of his or her society. He or she recognizes how wrong their society is, and this character's perspective helps the reader recognize the negative aspects of this world.
Themes in Dystopian Stories.
Most dystopian stories share common themes, or messages.
The Dangers of a particular type of Government.
The Dangers of Technology

The Dangers of Desensitization.
The Importance of Humanity.
The Importance of Knowledge and Truth.
The Danger of Allowing one group to have too much power.
The Importance of Free Will and Individuality.
The Hunger games is a Dystopian Novel written by Suzanne Collins in 2008. It became a movie in 2012 and it opening sales grossed $155 Million dollars. Katniss the main female character and Peta the main male character lives within the district 12. Every year each district has to offer up one male and one female between the ages of 12-18 to fight to the death . Katniss relies on her hunting and survival skills she learned while back in her district. She and Peta are the last ones standing at the end, 22 people have died during the days of the Hunger Games that year.
Topics and Current Trends
In this post-literate near future, a sterile world of media, gadgetry, and meaningless sex serve to create a morally bankrupt society
As a consequence of global warming, Washingon D.C. is underwater and war-torn as warring factions create a culture more akin to 3rd world scarcity & war-lordism than 1st world prosperity & defense.
Cancer is cured, but following a catastrophic earthquake in L.A., scarcity and government bankruptcy pits the old vs. the young when the younger generation refuses to pay for old age entitlements.
An engineer must try to live in a fully automated world controlled by a supercomputer and run by machines.
In this classic polemic against socialism, a rebel falls in love and fights against evils of collectivism while virtues of individualism are explored
This polemic against the evils of unfettered capitalism concerns a brilliant but poor revolutionary's fight against the tyranny of the plutocrats.
In the novella, If This Goes on
found in Heinlin's Revolt 2100) the U.S. is run by a brutal theocracy that places superstition & supernatural belief over
Atwood creates a post-apocalyptic
world where GMAanimals and
people survive alongside few "natural
human beings.
Organ harvesting!
Mary Piercy creates a world
where corporate technocrats
rule in protected pods and
talking houses and robots
show more humanity than
many human beings.
In this famous novel about an America ruled by extreme Judeo-Christian-based fundamentalism,
women are either breeders, outcasts, or wives of powerful men.
Dystopias look at various aspects of society and their effects on the quality of life for people
Economics/Monetary systems/policies -
capitalism, marxism, etc. false equality, profit, scarcity, consumerism, class stratification, globalism, ETC.

Control by ideological systems: single parties, democracies, oligarchies, plutocracies, monarchies, republics, dictatorships, anarchies, theocracies, bureaucracies,"kleptocracies," police or totalitarian states.

Environment/Resource Depletion
Many dystopias characterized by a lack of nature (animals, trees, clean waterways, etc.) often as a result of global warming and over exploitation of natural world. Similar topics alluded to include energy (oil, solar, gas, nuclear, etc.), water, farming, GMO food, environmental disasters...
Social Structures
families (extended, nuclear, institutional, etc.), gender roles/status, aging, relationships, class stratification (usually see minority of wealthy juxtaposed with a majority of the poor) longevity, fertility, education, law/order, sexual promiscuity vs. religious puritanism.
Science, Technology, Media:
Effects of AI/robotics, Singularity; privacy issues (surveillance, data mining, drones, etc.) reactions to pandemics; use of technology as tool for oppression, alienation; negative use of medical advancement (organ harvesting, cloning), apathy, entertainment and advertising as tool for distraction from reality...

are framed by a lack of humanity (love often considered subversive--family as threat to state or corporate loyalty) & assume a man vs. society or authority: the community, the collective, the corporation, the bureaucracy, the machine, the master/dictator, economic system, etc.

Also, psychological or physical punishment often thwart protagonists.
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