Monday, May 21, 2012
Dystopia: the Next Vampire Craze?
I'm not sure what my opinion on this debate is. It's definitely possible, and anyone can see how many books of this genre are slated for publication over the next year or so. I myself am authoring a dystopian fantasy which will be out at the end of the summer, but it's not YA.
All I can say is that if this genre is destined to be the next market saturation, it's best to get in now on the ground floor. Just as with vampire stories, if you wait until the market is already brimming, no one will want to buy your awesome dystopian story. So, if you're working on one, now, might I strongly suggest that you hurry it up?
So what's the allure of dystopian fantasy?
I thought about this for a long time and came to the conclusion that it's not much different than most fantasy's allure. Fantasy tends to have very clear cut right vs. wrong. Not that there aren't complicated plots and compelling conflicts (if there weren't, they wouldn't be worth reading, would they?) but there is generally a very tangible antagonist involved. It can be a person, group of people, entity, or idea. Sometimes it's society itself. No matter what form it takes, there tends to be a very tangible thing for the characters to fight against. This thing's "badness" is generally pretty obvious to the audience, if not to the characters. Whether the characters will against this evil force or simply break themselves against it is for the author to know and the reader to find out, but it tends to make for very compelling fiction.
I think in a world of so many gray areas, it's nice to have very cut-and-dried lines in fiction. We can totally relate to the characters' dichotomy and indecisiveness, but we also know beyond a shadow of a doubt how the story is supposed to end. When our favorite characters triumph, there's something both intensely satisfying and deeply cathartic about it. It gives us the courage and drive to go back to reality and face our own, less-easily-defeated problems.
So why is dystopian all the buzz now?
I think the growing popularity of this genre speaks both to traditional ideas and religious dogmas that are branded deeply into our collective cultural identity, as well as to deep-seated fears our society pretends not to have. But is there anything wrong with that? Of course not! Art has affected positive change in society since time immemorial. How do you rouse people against slavery? Create anti-slavery and anti-racist art. Make people feel something about it! So what's my point? Just this: maybe the best way to prevent our society from becoming a bonafide post-apocalyptic mess is by telling these stories and making sure people feel them keenly enough to take steps to prevent them. Or at the very least, to give us more courage and efficiency in dealing with these epic problems as they appear. If dystopian fantasy can do that, I say bring on the market saturation.
Besides, it's really fun! :D