(Originally posted at The League of Extraordinary Writers)
It occurred to me on Friday that I've been blogging at the League of
Extraordinary Writers for two months now and still haven't covered any
topic directly related to the blog's theme: young adult dystopian
novels. But the only thing I wanted to write about was library lending
of ebooks. That topic is probably more comedy than dystopia, though, so I
stuck that post on my own blog and turned to Twitter for help.
came to my rescue. (Go follow her. She's an interesting tweep. Which
should be a species of bird but, fortunately for her, is not.) She
suggested the topic, "all dystopia is sci-fi," which I like because I
disagree with that statement, and as a novelist I lurve me some
Yes, most dystopian novels are wrapped in a
shiny veneer of future tech. Or a grungy layer of apocalyptic dirt. But
the statement that all dystopian novels are sci-fi is wrong both at the
level of text and subtext.
For example, dystopian novels can be historical fiction, like Ruta Sepetys' brilliant Shades of Grey. They can be realistic fiction, like Mitali Perkins' Bamboo People. We even have dystopian non-fiction such as Surviving the Angel of Death
by Eva Kor. All of these depict societies, real or imagined, in which
state power has run amok to the extreme detriment of many citizens.
On a subtextual level, even nominally sci-fi dystopias can be read as realistic fiction. As I've mentioned before in this space, I read The Hunger Games
as a commentary on income inequality in the United States (it also
pokes at reality television, of course.) Julia Karr's work can be read
as a chilling imagining of what will follow if those waging the current
war on women succeed. All dystopian science fiction is at a deeper level
a commentary on the society in which the writer created the work. The
dystopian elements of my debut novel, ASHFALL, are firmly grounded in
real post-disaster dystopias. (Read A Paradise Built in Hell and Zeitoun if
you're interested in the non-fictional inspiration for ASHFALL's
dystopian elements.) Therefore, the title to this blog post: All
dystopian novels are realistic fiction. (Look for them in that section
of your local Barnes & Noble. The staff will love that, trust me.)
do you think? Am I nuts? (Wait. Don't answer that question. Just let me
know if this blog post is nuts.) Let's chat in the comments.