This Dystopian Life
Dearest Smarties. In honor of our dystopian country situation, I thought it might be appropriate to make a list of my favorite (and most apt) dystopian novels, stories, and movies for your apocalyprepping pleasure. We all have a lot to learn, clearly, from our foremothers and fathers who had written all about this already and are howling from graves and writing desks across the globe, “I TOLD YOU SO.” They sure did.
First up, we have the book that has sold out across the nation: 1984, by George Orwell. I’m starting here because so many of us are seeing parallels between this book and our current politic… um… *atmosphere *. Now, 1984 is about a government that demands total control and obedience. A government that does anything and everything to control the account of what goes on in Oceania. A government that changes history to suit its own… WAIT A MINUTE THIS IS STARTING TO SOUND FREAKY FAMILIAR, IS IT NOT? Mmmhm. You’re going to find that happens a lot in these stories. Anyway, read it. Find out how to undermine the Party. Find out how to escape Big Brother, who is always watching. Find out how to avoid the overly simplified language of Newspeak and never, ever say “bigly” ever. Oh wait. That last one isn’t from the novel. But you get what I’m saying. Language is a weapon. Let’s use it.
Next, we have Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Much like 1984, we have a super controlled society called “the World State.” Here, people are grown in bottles inside factory labs, separated into castes and, apart from the tippy top caste, people are generally dispensable and created to benefit society. They are also “conditioned” (i.e. brainwashed while in the ol’ hatchery) to believe that society as a whole is more important than the individual and, as such, must do as they’re told: consume, consume, consume, and instantly-gratify the crap out of themselves with technology, sex, and drugs. And you know what? THAT’S STARTING TO SOUND FREAKY FAMILIAR, TOO. Dammit. In fact, some folks argue that while we’ve been worrying about 1984 coming true, Brave New World already has. Not altogether incorrect, I’d say.
Let’s take a little look-see at something written by a woman, shall we? Howz about ye olde Handmaid’s Tale, by the incomparable Margaret Atwood? This one’s set in Gilead, where women are property and only have value if their ovaries and uterus work properly and they’re thoroughly obedient. Wherein women lose all of their rights and the men give no shits because they have all the power. That could never happe… OH WAIT GODDAMMIT. The extra scary thing about Handmaid’s Tale is that the characters in this novel *remember * what life was like before. This is the story of a plausible future (or a current existence in some parts of the world) that can occur all at once… and I think we can now see how easily and quickly things can change and get so, so much worse.
OOOH OOH. And what about Octavia Butler? Parable of the Sower offers us a window into world that’s fallen victim to pollution, global warming, drug abuse, poverty, and major racial tension after the collapse of functional government. Even the few that have managed to stay safe and together amongst the anarchy are eventually put to the test. The main character here, Lauren, is a young woman who benefits from both her strength and her empathy as she tries to rebuild a community. While the extremes of this novel may have seemed entirely out of reach a few months ago, I’ve found I desperately want to reread this novel to catch warning signs. Which. *gulp *
Has anyone read Feed, by M.T. Anderson? A book about teenagers who have a hard time focusing or communicating in any real way because of the constant (ads + social media-like) feed running through their field of vision all day? Sound, I dunno, like actual life? MAYBE. There’s more to it, of course, but this YA book is a fantastic satire and does an excellent job critiquing a culture that’s completely at the mercy of media and big corporations.
Can we talk dystopian lit without bringing up Ray Bradbury? NO WE CANNOT. A lot of his work is ringing oh-so-true lately, but I’ve been particularly focused on a story called “The Pedestrian.” In this story, people don’t interact at all anymore. Instead, they spend all of their time indoors in front of their “viewing screens” and any aberrant behavior like, oh… say… going for a walk, can get you killed. So. That’s not relevant at all. Nope.
And then we have good ol’ Vonnegut. My buddy. If you haven’t read “Harrison Bergeron” I’m going to slap you on the wrist right this second and tell you to go follow the link IMMEDIATELY after reading this and read it. DO NOT TEST ME. So, this story is about a society made entirely equal. By force. Any outlying ability or advantage has been handicapped and, as such, everyone functions on a very low—but equal!—level. It’s a frightening vision of what too much governmental control or attempts to homogenize everyone might look like. So. You know. LOOK OUT.
And while we're at it, maybe a quick viewing of some dystopian films? Try Blade Runner, V for Vendetta, Children of Men, The City of Lost Children, District 9, Aeon Flux (animated series, obv), The Man Who Fell to Earth, Metropolis, Idiocracy, Moon, and all the Mad Max films. Hell, even The Lego Movie and WALL-E are a good start.
And so, friends, there you have it! Our futures! Dystopian in all their horrifying glory! Go read and learn what we need to avoid and how we might accomplish that. (Hint: RESIST.) About Shannon