Growing up I read a lot of dystopian fiction. You know the type: totalitarian governments, environmental disasters, atomic war -everything going to or gone to Hades.
As a testosterone poisoned adolescent that type of fiction really drew me in. It was escapism at its finest. Heroes struggled and triumphed in radioactive wastelands. One of the big attractions of the genre was the tearing down of the old ways, but with a chance to remake it anew. Those were the stories that drew me in.
In school we read dystopian fiction: 1984, Brave New World, and I’m going to include Lord of the Flies. Those stories started out interesting, but for me they all had one fatal flaw: there was no triumphant hero at the end. I found it pretty depressing. For me dystopian fiction was not about how everything goes to crap, but on how plucky survivors carry on.
Of course, dystopian fiction was a lot more fun when it was fiction. While I did grow up in the days of duck and cover, the nuclear threat was something most people ignored. Even as a kid I could see that most adults did not take it seriously. In retrospect they probably should have, seeing how close we came to nuclear war by accident. However, the perception was that nuclear war would be too terrible to unleash so it would not happen.
Personally, as our real world has become more dystopian, reading fictional tales about such a world is a lot less entertaining. Many of those books were meant to be cautionary tales, not blueprints. There seems to be a lot more the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it (TEOTWAWKI) fiction being produced of late. However, only a tiny handful of those books are getting any significant traction.
Historically, when people lose faith in science, technology and the future, fantasy fiction becomes a lot more popular. No wonder Game of Thrones is doing so well.
-Raymond M. Coulombe
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