Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I Don't Consider my Writing to be Dystopian (but it's not a future I'd want to live in either)

The last few weeks at DFWWW I've read my SF novelette "Pour Your Memories Down on Me". Last night, one of the critiquers called it 'dystopian' and that stuck in my craw.

Why? Not because I don't enjoy dystopian stories. I do. In fact, they are a particular fav of mine. I admired tales such as The Postman (the movie, didn't care as much for the book) long before The Hunger Games introduced the genre to a much wider audience.
What bothers me is that any SF story that presents a less than ideal future is called dystopian. I disagree with this association. Yes, it would be wonderful if humankind
·         Harnessed a new power source that freed us from fossil fuels

·         Solved world hunger/poverty/class issues/etc/etc

·         Had a forwarding address out among the stars

This image does not totally support the views expressed
in my post, but the artwork was too poignant not to use.
Until (if) these things happen, I believe SF stories can be told that extrapolate from today's world, without those stories being dystopian. The primary reason the dystopian tag troubles me is because it implies the world we inhabit today is a utopia. I would counter that if we could talk to visionaries from the Golden Era of SF, they might consider 2014 (and many years prior to that date) to be dystopian:

·       Rather than freeing man to live a life of leisure, industrial robots (& not even cool-looking ones) have replaced many human workers increasing unemployment and poverty (I'm confident that's not how Isaac Asimov envisioned the future). 

·       Drones kill innocents, the NSA spies on people worldwide, and governments control more of the average person's life (Robert A Heinlein and his libertarian ideals must be spinning in their respective graves).

·       Dwindling resources, growing populations, and devastating pollution (lots of Golden Era SF writers got these right).

I, too, want flying cars, jet packs, 20-hour workweeks (with 40-hours of pay), food in a pill form - basically, The Jetson's-lifestyle. Until (if) we achieve these things, I feel a darker future is not so much dystopian as it is a reflection of the world we already inhabit.

Okay, I've had my say. Any folks who disagree and want to bash my take on the subject are welcome to do so now. Hell, I even encourage your good, bad & ugly comments. It'll let me know there are other thinkers out there.    

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