Seriously, though, I enjoyed the post… which considers how much dystopias can teach us about the contemporary world. In addition to holding up a mirror to contemporary problems, Betz writes that a dystopian story like Dredd can help us understand why desperate people in anarchic environments might invite even the harshest guardians of justice–like the Taliban.
I’ve read a lot of discussion lately about the current obsession with dystopias. Somehow, our culture haas migrated from C.S. Lewis’ vision of “a fawn carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood” to teen dystopias where children murder each other.
That’s a pretty remarkable shift if you stop to think about it, and it has people talking. Consider this article by James Pinkerton comparing the sunny optimism of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the despair of Blade Runner. Or this brilliant article by Brian Phillips, which understands Star Trek: The Next Generation in the context of America’s post-Cold War optimism. Amy Sundberg asks if science fiction has gotten too depressing. For SF author Neal Stephenson, the answer is yes; he has actually created a new project called Hieroglyph to rally SF authors into writing more optimistic fiction.
As someone who is immersed in the problems of the contemporary world, I have to admit that I find the tilt toward dystopia somewhat refreshing. I like uplifting stories and believe that one role of fiction is to call us toward higher and better lives, but I also expect serious fiction to grapple with the reality of the human condition. Unfortunately, too much golden age SF oversold the future; authors and their devotees believed that technology and progress could bring something akin to religious salvation. Arthur C. Clarke envisioned that 2001 might bring the next stage of mankind’s evolution; instead, we got September 11th.
In my view, modern dystopian authors have simply rediscovered what Thucydides told us almost 2500 years ago.