Escaping Our Dystopian Futures

If I wanted to know how horrible this world can be, I’d watch the news. Like I said before, when I read, I read books to remind myself of the good things that can exist in this world. That’s not to say I don’t read stories where bad things happen. In some of my favourite books, terrible things happen. I just don’t get why some people like to read books that are dark and despairing from beginning to read, without a ray of hope anywhere.

Like dystopian science fiction.

We had to read The Chrysalids in school. I admit, there might’ve been a miniscule ray of hope at the end. But it was doom and gloom for the other two hundred and thirty-nine pages, as if John Wyndham was doing his best to convince me I’d hate to live in a world devastated by nuclear bombs. Hey, I wasn’t arguing. I won’t even start to argue with that, so why act like you need a whole novel to bang that point home to me? This is why I have such a love-hate relationship with science fiction. The idea of writing about an imaginary future is neat. But does it say something about us that we’re so incredibly pessimistic?

The consensus is, if humanity has a future, we’re going to be struggling out of the ruins of civilization somewhere. I suppose this isn’t an unreasonable assumption – the Roman Empire collapsed, after all. But I think it says something about humanity that we’re so convinced things are getting worse. That no matter what new thing humanity invents, it will somehow contribute to our downfall.

Oh well. Utopian science fiction does exist, apparently. In fact, here’s an author who thinks we should write more of it, and inspire inventors and future engineers. (As if there’s anything left to invent, now that we’ve come up with the iPad?) Maybe I should go read some of that.

What about you – can you handle depressing fiction?

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4 Comments

Filed under Misc. Books

4 responses to “Escaping Our Dystopian Futures

  1. rk5000

    I gave “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy to my father for Christmas.

    I have enjoyed some grim tales; “Frankenstein” and “Brave New World” and of course “The Road” come to mind at first . . . but I didn’t find them depressing so much a cautionary. I found a thrill in their dark themes, I find the same thrill, or something close to it, in Dostoyevsky’s dark passages too.

    Anxiety is one of science fiction’s engines and chief elements, I think its healthy.

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    • You know, I think caution is one of the biggest benefits from dystopian science fiction. It does point out where we could go as society. I guess I just get anxious enough about our future without reading about it?
      I’ve heard a lot about “The Road.” Worth reading?

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  2. Not dystopian perhaps, but I found the first book of A Game of Thrones so disheartening that I put it down 2/3rds through and never went back. Well written it may be, but must every main character die? I found I could connect with no one for fear they’d be gone a chapter later (or become the bad guy overnight – no good or evil, just gray). I’ve heard people call that “realism”. I heartily disagree.

    Have you ever read a Nero Wolfe book by Rex Stout, Harma? That can restore your hope in a wonderful world in a delightful 150 pages or less. Prisoner’s Base or The Doorbell Rang or whatever you can find at the library, really. My favorite author, my favorite books! 🙂

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    • Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll have to check those out. I think I’d have trouble connecting to characters too, if I was always anxious about whether they’d still be there twenty pages later. Probably why I haven’t picked up Game of Thrones yet myself, despite the hype about it.

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