I love dystopias. I like reading them and love the ones in which the protagonist fights his/her way out of them.
Margaret Atwood’s worlds had been my favorite for a long time. Her The year of the flood fascinated me. I rarely read a book twice, but I did with this one. I think what I loved most was how Toby, one of the main characters, was fighting her way out of a barren world without doing harm.
Writers create dystopias, knowing that there is a safe distance between their dystopias and the real world. Dystopias give us a chance to project our fears, anticipations and cautions. And, most importantly, pose our questions on where we’re going as a species. Dystopias are a way to talk about our worst nightmares and, if we choose happy endings, it means that we’d overcome the nightmare.
In the dystopian series that I am currently writing, Inline (a working title), there is a distortion of values. Right and wrong are different from what we universally agree upon. This is one of the main aspects that makes a dystopia earn its title.
In general, a dystopia starts as a utopia, at least, within its intrinsic dynamics. It promises its inhabitants of well-being, or a definitive answer to their problems. In Inline, there is that, the false promise of idealism, if you will. But what happens is a deviation from the initial promise, which turns it into a space of distress, oppression and suffering to the majority of its inhabitants.
In Inline, I have different settings, they come to life from the start, i.e. from book one, but I am still building them. In the series, it’s not only about bad places, as there are a few “normal” and, even, “good” places. So the distortion of values might not apply to all the settings there.
I am writing book two now and the story is unfolding to its full complexity. I let my characters show how much they like or dislike the place they live in, how they cope with its laws and rules and how they defeat or disrupt the systems or accept them, believe in them and live within them.
Writing dystopias is not easy. As a writer, sometimes, you’re afraid you’re bringing bad omen to our world, by saying that the future won’t bring us hope. Sometimes, you’re excited, because you’re showing human resilience and courage in a dysfunctional future world. Other times, you remind yourself that one of the roles of literature is to expand the scope of our questions beyond the present time. And, maybe, this is why people like to read dystopias.