This is a continuation of the Science Fiction / Fantasy Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.
What is a Dystopia?
If a utopia describes is a perfect or harmonious society, then a dystopia is the illusion of a perfect society. The illusion masks the truth that society that is controlled by an oppressive regime that does not allow for individual freedom, and for those who do not have power, life is extremely difficult or dangerous.
- A class oriented society where the standard of living varies dramatically from top to bottom.
- Protagonist who questions the societal values. An insider, not an outsider.
- A totalitarian or authoritarian government that stresses conformity instead of individuality.
- Some kind of oppressive societal control: bureaucratic, technological, corporate, philosophical/religious
- Fear of the outside world is encouraged. An insular society.
- Farenheight 451 by Ray Bradbury
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The use of the term ‘dystopia’ in genre circles seems looser than the definition. It seems to be used as a catchall term for a negative society. Would you still consider a society that does not appear outwardly Utopian, but features general chaos and turmoil, a Dystopia?