Thursday, January 14, 2010

There is Always a Light in the Dark

Yesterday, Chris asked why fans of dystopian fiction love it so. I have definitely noticed that dystopian fiction seems to be all the rage lately, and I'm sure everyone has their own reasons.

Here's mine. (and for the record this is also relevant to post-apocalyptic work and many stories about severe social injustice as well)

Despite the fact that dystopian stories paint a bleak picture of humanity and often the future, they are in fact the most hopeful stories of all. I think severe conditions and circumstances reveal what is truly inside of us--and while overwhelming evil and darkness exist, there is always some light. Love. Sacrifice. Choice. There is always a choice.

When times are easy, it's easy to be good. When it doesn't cost me anything, I can afford to be kind. But when my life or free will or next meal are on the line...these acts of goodness and kindness mean so much more. And the belief...the belief that people will continue to be good, that there will always always always be something of dignity hidden in the hearts of mankind....that's what makes dystopian fiction worth reading.

Even in the blackest of nights there is always a light somewhere.

How about you? Why do you or don't you enjoy dystopian fiction?




Amy

27 comments:

Beth Kephart said...

Amy, this is your best post ever.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I ditto Beth. I personally love dystopian fiction for those same reasons. In fact, my daughter just finished "Life As We Knew It" (soon to be read by me), and we were having this conversation. About how tragedy brings out the best and worst in people. That it is a test of our hearts and our mettle. These are great lessons for our young people to learn!

readerbuzz said...

I just brought home A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster from the library. I saw it on a year-end recommended list. I've been through two natural disasters and I'm curious about this. Let's see what I find out.

Lenore said...

Well put. That's the main reason I read it (and love to read it) too.

thekoolaidmom said...

WoW. Your's is so much better than my answer, which is basically that I like them for the same reason people rubberneck at accident scenes and house fires. I'm just nosey and like watching how the human animal can and does turn on each other. I like dystopia because I find sociology fascinating.

lol.. now I feel like an ass.

But I do also like them because I like to see the put-upon break free. That maybe one thing that I didn't like about The Road, it just doesn't have the hero-wins-in-the-end feel.

good post :-)

Jenny said...

I think you are definitely on to something. The way I've articulated it to myself seems to be just another facet of what you're describing. I think it's interesting to see how people (even fictional people) respond to senseless horror; and when it's dystopian fiction, it's a horror that's set one remove away from me by not being real. So I can be fascinated by the way the dystopian worlds make monsters of some and heroes of others, without it getting too close to my real life.

(Which doesn't sound very admirable! But there you go.)

Beth F said...

Can't add anything. Read GENESIS -- I am now wondering where the hope is.

bermudaonion said...

Very beautifully put. I do like some dystopian fiction, but not all, and I'm not really sure why. I think it has to do with the strength of the characters, which is similar to what you said.

Elisabeth said...

Excellent post. I love dystopian literature because it makes for great discussions. (Note, your post.) I also love it because in taking ideas to their extreme, it makes us think about the implications of our thoughts and beliefs. In a way, it forces us to be accountable for them.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Wow! So well said!

I love seeing the human spirit persevere.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

Such a simple, beautiful description. I agree wholeheartedly.

Jason Gignac said...

On another blog, recently, there was a post frustrated that there is so much fiction with suicide in it (and authors who commit suicide). I see it the same way as this. Fiction is all about figuring out what we, as humans are, and extremes - dystopia, suicide, disasters, etc - are a sort of purifying fire. They burn away all the outside layers, because there is simply no time or resources to deal with the outsides, and leave us sort of morally, spiritually naked. So you see heroism and villainy, and all the other things that we recognize in ourself, more clearly.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

If you replace dystopian fiction with genocide, war, abuse, etc. then this is the exact same reason that I like to read such dark books about such disturbing subjects. You've worded it perfectly.

Tracie Yule said...

I love dystopias with a passion. I think the main reason that people love them is because deep down inside they believe that they are in some sort of dystopia in real life and are looking for hope that they will prevail over all obstacles (basically be the main character of their own book). Like hey, if this gal can get over most of the world dying, then I can get over the fact that my boyfriend just dumped me. Something of that sort :)

Pam said...

The reason I enjoy dystopain is the struggle involved. It plays on the unconcious fears we all have of an apocalyptic event and a mad crazy government or crazy scary religion reigning supreme after. The struggle for truth, honesty, and human rights in a fantasy setting. Escapism and thought provoking, are my reasons.

Zee said...

I agree with you, I like dystopian fiction because I like the way it shows mans capability for good. I also like it because it makes me appreciate what I have.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

You have me thinking here. I even looked up dystopian fiction to make sure I had a good understanding of what this covered. I have dabbled a little with the books and have enjoyed what I have read. I have seen many movies on this type of storyline and for the most part have liked them all.

I think this year I will fidn myself reading more of these books as through blogging I pick up on such interesting discussions such as this one.

TexasRed said...

I do like post-apocalyptic stories. Your notes about a light in the dark and re-focusing on important values in tough situations is definitely part of the reason.

For me, I think there's also an unrealistic level of feeling more prepared, too, maybe? Like you read mysteries and know you shouldn't walk into a room and pick up a murder weapon or shout that you want to kill someone in front of witnesses and then spend the evening alone in your room with no alibi. Same thing for civilization ending and needing to learn how to create a vegetable garden or band together for safety or whatnot. Of course, I felt that way after reading "My Side of the Mountain," as a kid, too, but never needed to know how to survive in the forest after a plane wreck.

The1stdaughter said...

This is exactly why I read it. Besides the suspense, the action, the conflict, it all boils down to wanting to see the best surface above the struggle. Yes, I think as a whole the population in most countries today are full of "good" people, but the world is getting closer to this dystopian reality than ever. We all want to believe deep down that the good in us will conquer the evil knocking at our door. That if these days ever do reach us that we will rise above and succeed. It gives us hope.

Jenn said...

I'm also fascinated by dystopian fiction, and I have to agree with you on why. There's something utterly compelling about people being in the midst of such squalor and hopeless oppression and still trying to find a way out of it, still trying to be good people, trying to make life mean something. It's, ironically I guess, kind of uplifting.

Ti said...

I feel the same way. I like to see a character who is stretched beyond his limits. Once you remove all of the fluff, you get to see them for who they truly are.

Rhiannon Hart said...

Yep, that's exactly how I feel. There's so much hope in dystopian fiction.

S. Krishna said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. :-)

Literate Housewife said...

This is a beautiful post, Amy. I didn't think I was one for reading this type of novel, but then I tore through the first two books of The Hunger Games trilogy. I see exactly what you're saying. Well said.

Michelle said...

I love so many different aspects of Dystopian fiction. I adore the other worlds that are created -- they allow me to experience something (not always good) that I wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to. Like, you I enjoy that even though there is such dispair there is also a semblance of hope. That there is a fight/struggle for change to make things better. I also really enjoy that, more times than not, there is some level of overcoming adversity....the ride we go on as readers as that happens is quite interesting and thought provoking.

All in all it's just fabulous to read!

Nymeth said...

I love dystopias because they (and certain historical periods that feel like real life dystopias) sort of work like magnifying glasses that amplify...well, everything about human nature, really. They show us at our very worst, but like you said, also at our very best.

Debbie's World of Books said...

I agree with what you said. It is easy to be good when times are good. I always find it interesting to see how people come together or turn on one another when things start going bad. I also like to see the different ideas of how people thing society could go in the future. Like in The Unit. It's kind of scary to think of a world where we could think of our old as dispensable.

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