Monday, February 1, 2010

It's a Dystopian February

While everyone else is cheerfully talking about love and Valentine's Day, I'm going to be depressing you all month with stories about oppressive societies, destroyed worlds and desperate people in terrible situations. ;) Still with me? Great! You must either be a fellow dystopian fiction fan, dy-curious, or suicidal. Welcome!

I've definitely noticed an upswing in interest in this science fiction sub-genre and many interesting titles have recently been released or are on their way. So what attracts readers to dystopian and apocalyptic fiction? Is it because it shows us that "there is always light in the dark" as My Friend Amy so eloquently argues? It is because we are curious about how bad things could get if we don't stop screwing up now like Chris of Book-a-Rama? Are we in it for the thrill, because stories of survival (or attempted survival) against all odds are inherently interesting?

And what do we classify as dystopian fiction anyway? Does the society have to be have been "aiming at utopia and missed" as Joni Sensel suggests? That's a narrower definition than I have. For the purpose of my personal list, I count as dystopian any future society that values the stasis of said society over certain individual human rights that we currently hold to be self-evident. Or as I propose in my article "What if?" (also interesting for my comparison of adult and YA dystopias) it's a dystopia if the author is asking “what if society was really, really frakked up?”

Oh and it doesn't have to be a society full of misery. In fact, depending on your point on view, it could look pretty utopian (see my article "Who's Dystopia is it Anyway?").

Since post-apocalyptic fiction is pretty closely related, except that usually there is a complete breakdown of society due to some cataclysmic event, I include it on my lists of dystopian fiction - because let's face it - there's nothing utopian about that (unless you are a libertarian, perhaps).

Looking for some recommendations to get you started or to further your addiction?

Here's my index of dystopian reviews that will be kept updated
A great list of select YA dystopias (with pictures of covers!) over at Bart's Bookshelf
Jen Robinson's more inclusive list of Futuristic, Speculative, Science Fiction and Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults
List of dystopias by type at The Book Smugglers
Rhiannon Hart's personal dystopia challenge with links to her reviews
Half a century of YA dystopias list
The Last Blog in the Universe group blog with articles and reviews
The Spectacle group author blog about speculative fiction

Stay tuned! I have lots of reviews, interviews, guest blogs, book previews, series overviews, and contests coming up this month, and even Emmy and Finn are getting in on the you'll see tomorrow!

PS: Why not join the Dystopia Reading Challenge over at Parajunkee's blog? And then read with me :)

Reviews coming up this week:
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
The Maze Runner by James Dashner


prophecygirl said...

Great idea, Lenore! I look forward to reading all your dystopian thoughts and reviews :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I'm looking forward to this.

bermudaonion said...

What a great idea! I don't read a lot of dystopia but do enjoy it from time to time.

Jenny said...

I think February is an excellent month for dystopia. I agree with you that a dystopian book is just a book where things are very messed up - though I always wonder if someone from a totally different place would read about our society and consider it dystopian.

Oo, and I wonder if concept plays into the definition - the dystopian aspects of the book are usually pretty easily explained. The moon comes closer to the earth; the people catch a virus where they can hear each other's thoughts - like that. Does that be part of the definition?

christina said...

I love your February theme! I might have to read a dystopian in your honor :)

Sab H. said...

Awesome post! :D

Jodie said...

Looking forward to it very much and I really liked your ideas about how dystopias can look utopian to some in society.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Jenny - I think a cool concept is usually part of the "what if?" question. What if the moon would come closer to Earth? What if people would catch a virus where they could hear each other's thoughts?

Michelle said...

I am so happy to see you doing this! I can't wait to see what you books you spotlight!!

Zibilee said...

I am a big fan of dystopian lit, but haven't read any in a long, long while. I will really be looking forward to these reviews. Are you also a big Atwood fan? She has done a ton of these and I am wondering where she falls in your estimation.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading some of your suggestions, about dystopian lit, Lenore. I have a few eighth graders who are coming at least once a week asking me what I have that's new in that genre. They are voracious!
I nominated you for Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award. See the post on my blog for details.

Unknown said...

Hey! Great post, thanks for the link!

Wrighty said...

What a great idea! I've been enjoying these kinds of books more and more over the last few years. I just got two more from the library today. I don't know what the appeal is but there are some terrific books out there.

Michelle said...

I'm super excited for Dystopian month! It really is my favorite focus in literature. I've even decided to do Parajunkie's challenge. I read so much anyway it would be foolish not to!