In recent weeks, I’ve pondered the popularity of dystopian stories and why they’ve risen to the top of our entertainment. The Hunger Games. Divergent. Maze Runner. Revolution. Matched. Jericho. Legend. The list goes on and on.
A dystopian society is the opposite of a utopian one, meaning the society is less than perfect, and in most cases, it’s simple citizens against a flawed, fallen government.
My newest trilogy, Citizens of Logan Pond (coming spring ’14), is set five years in the future after the financial collapse of America. Technically this puts it under the dystopian umbrella as well. The people have to live off the land, depend on each other for survival, and their biggest enemy becomes the government who swears they’re only “trying to help.”
It’s different from others I’ve read and watched in that it’s only set five years from now, and it deals with a small Midwest neighborhood of thirty-six people, not the whole wide expanse of America. It’s smaller-scaled and more, “This could easily be us/me.”
As I did my last read through before it goes to the print house, I wondered if people who read it might think I’m anti-government. My little band of survivors are living illegally on government property, and they’re the “good guys.” But I’m not anti-government. I’m really not.
I love the American government. I love the Constitution and believe it was founded by God-inspired principles that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s survived 230-ish years for a reason. I think America is the greatest country on earth, and has been-and hopefully will be-for a long time.
But as I look at the current popularity of dystopian books, movies, and even music, I wonder if it’s not a sign that people are concerned with our current US government. Very concerned.
Not just concerned with President Obama. With Congress. With interest groups. They’re concerned with ALL of it.
Approval ratings across the board are lower than ever. The most recent Real Clear Politics survey found that 82% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.
So it makes me wonder if the public is embracing the dystopian genre-to some degree-because our brains are trying to process the possibility that things might not always be rosy and peachy in America. That good things certainly can come to an end, and if they do, here are a thousand possible outcomes (in fiction) as a warning to prepare us.
I suppose my trilogy can serve as a warning, too.
- Are we truly prepared as a nation and individually for the collapse of the dollar?
- Could we survive if the banks shut their doors tomorrow and never reopened?
- Do we know how to grow crops, hunt food, purify water, heat homes, mend clothing, cook over a fire, heal simple, physical illnesses-let alone the complex ones-without doctors, hospitals, and Google at our disposal?
- Basically, how can WE survive the collapse of life as we know it?
It’s strange, because I’m a natural born optimist. I’m not a “glass is half-full” kind of person, I’m a “glass is three-fourths full, so why not just call it full?” kind of person. I always round up. Always. So I should be the last person writing a dystopian novel. But I’ve had a blast with this trilogy! I’ve loved exploring the “What if?” questions. I hadn’t meant it as a warning to the American people, and maybe other authors/composers/screen writers don’t mean their dystopians as a warning either.
But what if they do?
And what if the public is embracing it because we’re all feeling the fear that our US government is less than it was created to be and…it seems to be falling fast. The rise in popularity of the dystopian genre seems eerily correlated to the fall of public approval of our US government.
What do you think?
Is there any correlation between the popularity of dystopian fiction right now and the low government approval ratings? If you’re a fan of the dystopian genre, have you thought about why?