More On Dystopian Literature
I track my referrals pretty carefully on this site. I’d like to say that this is to better tailor my material, but it’s more to see what completely random posts are getting irrelevant hits off search engines.
One of the more consistently popular ones is “Dystopian Literature: Two Simple Tips,” a little aside I wrote after reading one too many bad novels about the writer’s personal political beliefs. It’s really not about writing per se, but about why you can’t prove an argument through fiction and why it’s a bad idea to try.
While that post was more or less ignored when it came out, I’ve been getting regular hits to it ever since, all of them from some variant on “dystopian literature.” I actually come up very highly on searches for that term. Now, in discussing search engines, I’ve joked that my site must just have incredible SEO, but that’s obviously not true. Apparently, no one else is writing on this topic.
That doesn’t make much sense, does it? A major recent literary trend and no one’s talking about it? I know I’ve seen articles about dystopian literature, but it’s always from mainstream sources focusing on new releases. There’s very little interest in dissecting and discussing the genre.
I can imagine any number of reasons why this might be. Maybe it’s because writers in the dystopian genre are seen as bandwagon jumpers. Maybe it’s because it’s not even viewed as a genre, but rather cataloged as a subset of science fiction and given no further thought. Maybe it’s because the kind of analytical writers who write about the craft have been largely replaced by “get published now!” and “sell a million ebooks!” hucksters. Maybe it’s because self-publishing has resulted in a glut of these kind of stories and it’s easier to just ignore them all.
Maybe it’s because almost all dystopias suck. That’s my personal theory.
That’s still no reason to ignore a whole subset of literature. There are plenty of dystopian novels that are considered classics. 1984 was written over sixty years ago, and it still has purchase today. There’s no reason to ignore the contemporary stuff just because one thinks it’s crap – if anything, that’s all the more reason to discuss it, to help others improve.
But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. I don’t write those kinds of stories. My novels are character pieces about ordinary people with ordinary(ish) problems, not sweeping spec-fic narratives. The only parts I can really give instruction on are worldbuilding (an important part of any SFF story) and avoiding some of the more common pitfalls. If there’s any interest in that at all, I’ll do it – someone really should. Absent that, I’d like to hear from any of you who might have seen any good articles on dystopian literature that have eluded me and everyone else.