Here’s an interesting post at The Christian Science Monitor: ‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias
Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny.
I basically never get tired of anything, because I don’t ever seem to read enough of any one subgenre to burn out on it. Well, except grimdark, which I burned out on REAL fast, essentially as soon as I recognized the category. But fundamentally, no, if a new take on a dystopia is well written, I’ll be happy to give it a try.
But to me, dystopias don’t seem fundamentally pessimistic.
Wait, I mean young adult dystopias don’t seem fundamentally pessimistic.
In YA dystopian fiction, the horrible repressive government always gets destroyed, thus laying the groundwork for a better future. (Are there exceptions? Let me know and I will avoid those.) YA dystopias are thus fundamentally optimistic and The Hunger Games does not belong in the same sentence as The Handmaid’s Tale. Really, I don’t know how the author of this post — Stephen Humphries — could have missed this obvious distinction between YA and adult dystopian fiction.
On the other hand, Humphries is in fact actually framing a broader argument about literature and society, and about pessimistic versus optimistic visions of the future:
But perhaps the debate over utopian versus dystopian fiction should be reframed. A more helpful distinction might be the difference between nihilism and existentialism in science fiction. Amid doom-and-gloom scenarios, does the hero or heroine have agency and an ability to win the day?
And there you go, there is the fundamental distinction between grimdark and everything else, rather than between dystopia and everything else.
Humprhies seems to be lacking some of the background categories — dark vs grimdark, for example — which would make it easier to frame thoughts on this topic. This is true even though opinions differ about what delineates various categories of SFF. Still, the post is worth a look if you have a minute to click through and read the whole thing.