Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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This is kinda cool —

An infographic from Goodreads, showing the popularity of dystopian fiction.

The graphic is here.

Now, a question immediately arises: Is it true that dystopian fiction is super-popular right now? Or is it possible that because THE HUNGER GAMES was such a breakaway hit (and deserved to be), and because of a handful of other successful, popular dystopian titles published around the same time . . . we are now seeing a major trend to DESCRIBE a book as dystopian? A book that might very well simply have been called “science fiction” five or ten years ago?

How about INCARCERON? Dystopia? Or SF? (Or fantasy-SF blend?) Sure, TODAY it is called a dystopian novel. But is that how you would have thought of it five years ago?

How about I AM NUMBER FOUR? Nothing about that strikes me as dystopian — it’s straight up science fiction. But it was published recently! So hey, must be dystopian because that’s what sells!

Goodreads has a list that includes ENDER’S GAME as a dystopian novel. Are you kidding me? It’s a great story, but a dystopia? No way. Here the current preoccupation with dystopias reaches backward to claim victims from the past.

You know what I think is totally, utterly crucial to a dystopian novel? You have just GOT to have a truly oppressive society. You MUST. And if the surrounding society does not fit the bill, then what you have is NOT a dystopian novel.

I’d even separate out post-apocalyptic novels: a society that has just totally collapsed, leading to anarchy and horror? NOT a dystopia.

So if it were me . . . I’d want to see the data that infographic is based on. I’m sure the WORD dystopia is a lot more common today than a few years ago. But not so sure dystopian novels are really through the roof to quite that extent.

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2 Comments This is kinda cool —

  1. Elaine T

    I’d like to see the data, too. From reading the post, it seems to be generated by GoodReads members’ classification of titles on that site. I’m not a member, I’m not sure how it works. But if I’m right it is dependent on a whole lot of individuals with individual definitions of dystopia – I saw the person who nominated ‘the Ender’s Game trilogy’, too. I actually have read that and can’t imagine what that person was thinking of. I’ve read some of the others, the more likely nominees like Lowry’s GIVER. Now THAT is a dystopia.

    Dystopias must be oppressive, not in just one way, but in all.

    Which may make FARENHEIT 451 not a dystopia. It has been a long time, but wasn’t it just books that were suppressed? Ok, for readers that’s pretty bad, but I’ve known people who wouldn’t notice.

  2. Rachel

    Well, but if you’re suppressing books, that implies you’re suppressing knowledge in general. It’s been a long time for me, too, but I would imagine the society in F 451 was therefore probably doing more than just burning books.

    I guess the modern equivalent, if Bradbury was writing that one today, would be burning books and tearing out computer connections and destroying smartphones. Though I don’t know what temperature smartphones melt at.

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