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10-21 Sarah Raplee – Author of “Blindsight” Psychic Agents Series, Book One

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

dys·to·pi·a

[dis-toh-pee-uh]
~noun
A sub-genre of science fiction depicting post-apocalyptic societies characterized by oppression, misery, squalor, disease, and / or overcrowding and often highlighting concerns about current societal trends. An imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be.
When I told a friend that I write Dystopia, I got a blank stare. “What’s that?”
I gave her the above definition.
She said, “Why would anyone want to read that?”
I had to think about it. Why do I read Dystopia? How is it different from science fiction?
Hard science fiction can tend to focus on describing how things work, while Dystopia is more about society. Don’t get me wrong - I love to take scientific theories and expand them, creating a future full of “what ifs;” eternal life, photosynthetic skin, solar powered cars. But even more, I love creating new cultures, new landscape, even new species within that landscape.
Still, that’s not what drives me to write Dystopia. What is society without people?

Dystopic characters start out as ordinary people, oppressed by the world they live in. People like you and me facing enormous odds. Then they find an inner strength they didn’t know they had.
And they use it to change the world.
So I have my answer.
“When things can’t get any worse, heroes are born.”
What's the last book you read where the characters changed the entire world?
Tam Linsey
Science Fiction Author
© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

35 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Tam, One of the things I love best about this blog is I'm able to learn so much about genres I don't know much about.
Last week I read Mae Pen's post on Steam Punk and this week I get to read your's on Dystopia.
Thanks for the definition.

In the books I read the characters may not change The World but they do change their world.

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks, Judith! I've enjoyed reading the posts here, as well. :)

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Tam,
I grew up reading sci fi and my favorite books were always those where, if not the whole world, at least one segment of society was completely out of whack. I think of Heinlein's late work and old, old stories like "Logan's Run." Recently, the BEST Dystopian (I always think of it as the opposite of Utopian)book I've read is a soon-to-be-published thing called "Botanicaust." :-) Thanks for a great post. Say 'hi' to Alaska for me!

Pauline Trent said...

My favorite theme in any form of fiction (books, movies, plays, whathaveyou) is courage and bravery in the name of friendship. Dystopian stories tend to play into these, which makes me happy. As for what book have I read where the characters changed the world, I'm realizing it has been too long and it's time to catch up on those stories!

Paty Jager said...

Now I have a clear picture of dystopia. Kind of what I thought from the name. Sounds interesting. I'm not sure I've read books where the hero or heroine changed the world. They may have changed their world or the world of those around them but not the whole world. Interesting.

Tam Linsey said...

Love you, too, Liz!!! :)

Tam Linsey said...

Exactly, Pauline! Friendship and love are two of the best motivators for change out there. Thanks for stopping by!

Boone Brux said...

Love me some Hunger Games, Tam. Nothing like kids killing each other to set the mood:)I love how dystopia pushes the envelope. Good times and great blog!

Boone

Sarah Raplee said...

Tam, it's been about twenty years since I read a dystopian novel, but it certainly stuck in my mind! I can't remember the title, but I DO remember the characters and the story.

I'm glad these uplifting stories are gaining popularity. They give people hope and heroes to emulate. It's great to have you as one of our Genre-istas!

Tam Linsey said...

Paty, thanks for commenting. A character who changes themselves or their own world can still feel just as big as a character who changes the "whole" world. One of my recent favorite Dystopic novels is The Hunger Games - check it out if you want a good example!

Tam Linsey said...

Boone! LOL - I just referred Paty to The Hunger Games. Good to see you!

Tam Linsey said...

Sarah, I think Dystopias tend to stick with you because they often emulate and amplify a current condition in our society. They make you think.
And I'm glad to be a part of this group, too :)

ArcaneRhino said...

While I am not yet convinced that I like Dystopia as a genre (I prefer following politics to get my daily dose of depression), I do like dystopic elements in my fiction. Seeing the "gritty underside", or the impact of unintended consequences, makes a story much more interesting to me.

Maybe it is just prurient voyeurism into the dark underside of humanity.

Tam Linsey said...

Hehe - true, Arcane. Thank you for stopping by.

Sandy Shacklett said...

From one of those people with a blank stare - Thank You! You have expanded folks knowledge of the English language as well as use of the same in writing.

Jenny Bernard said...

Thanks for the great explanation of Dystopia -- I've never completely understood it until now! Perhaps because I haven't gotten on the Hunger Games train yet. But I'm with Liz, the soon-to-be-forthcoming Botanicaust is a perfect example of the genre. ;)

DeNise said...

I read SF and particularly distopia because I love crawling out on the shore of some other place and watching how the people there deal with terrible things. Those authors taught me a lot of arcane trivia that may help when this world falls farther into the toilet than it already is. Gibson comes to mind and many more. Good post.

B. A. Binns said...

Andre Norton was one of my all time favorite writers, and she created some major dystopian fiction and amazing characters who had to live in those uber-brave new worlds. Daybreak 2250 A. D. is still one of my favorites. When people talk about why teens like dystopian these days I just smile, remembering that I liked the genre back in the days before it had it's own name.

Vonnie Alto said...

I don't think that I've read a Dystopian novel. Now that I know what it's about, I'll have to try one. Regarding "changing the world," I enjoy listening to the lyrics of Michael Jackson. Many of his songs are about trying to change the world and make it better.

Terri Molina said...

I've never heard of dystopia...of course I don't read SciFi/fantasy...just can't get into it. But, very interesting blog post. =)

Tam Linsey said...

Glad to help, Sandy!
Jenny, I'm happy to see you - maybe I can get you on that train someday :)
DeNise, I am so with you! I actually started "learning" from Little House on the Prairie - lol! How to butcher a hog, etc. But you are right, modern Dystopia gives lots of "survival" ideas.

Tam Linsey said...

B.A. - I cut my teeth on Andre Norton. I remember my dad bringing me home my first of her novels when I was down with the chicken pox at age 12. Funny how I remember the books better than the illness.

Tam Linsey said...

Vonnie - love it! Michael Jackson as Captain EO. Everyone has some dystopian tendencies.

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks, Terri. Now you won't be the one to give that blank stare when a friend tells you he/she writes Dystopia :)

Maxine Mansfield said...

Love your story and will love the series.. Just waiting patiently for the made for TV series :)That would sooooooooooo rock

Sarah Raplee said...

I had to pipe in again as an Andre Norton fangirl!!! My memory for book titles stinks, so thanks to B.A. for giving me the title of the story I was trying to remember - Daybreak 2250 A.D. :)

Cindy Carroll said...

I write dystopian fiction too. Not all the time but I've found a few of my recent stories fell into the dystopia category. I did a blog post about it as well during the A - Z blog challenge. They aren't for everyone but I really enjoy reading/watching characters who make a change in their society.

Diana Mcc. said...

Well, Tam, the last book I read where the characters changed the world was "How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire". Roman, (vampire) has developed a synthetic blood that can be used for surgeries for humans and drunk by vampires, eleminating the need to kill humans. Of course, not all vampires want to drink it and there is a war etc. etc. Don't know if that qualifies, but he did change the world in this book. Enjoyed your description of Dystopia. Don't think I've ever read one.

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks, Maxine - I love my beta readers!

Tam Linsey said...

Cindy, I've been to your blog, but not as far back as the "D" entry! Very cool! And I didn't realize you were on an A-Z challenge - that's cool, too. Thanks for commenting!

Tam Linsey said...

Diana, paranormal dystopia - I love it! I could see that being a genre itself someday.

Julie said...

'BOTANACAUST' - the next big dystopian novel. Can't wait until it's published!

With a plot that draws the reader in and a wonderful cast of characters, pre-release reviews of 'Botanacaust' entice readers of all genre to give it a read.

Not being a fan of sci-fi myself, I was reluctant to consider spending my precious time reading a genre I thought I was not interested in.

However, 'Botanacaust' sounds like it has thought provoking human interest that will appeal to even Sci-Fi virgins such as myself and start a real 'buzz' among readers.

Thanks for this post, Tam, and clarifying the word 'Dystopia' for those of us not familiar with this genre.

I'm looking forward to this whole NEW WORLD!

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks, Mom. *sheepish grin* Thanks for stopping by to support me.

Robin Weaver said...

Hi Tam--great, and informative, post!

Tam Linsey said...

Thanks, Robin!