Thursday, April 24, 2014

U: Utopia (A-Z Blog Challenge: Evocative words)

Dystopias have been in fashion here lately, especially in Young Adult literature. In my middle school, stories like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched are jumping off the library shelves.

It makes sense that dystopias would appeal to children this age. They are, after all, living in a world they didn't create, with systems in place that may or may not serve them well. Punishments seem draconian and capricious.

A really good dystopian story is often a story of disillusionment, of learning that the fairy land you thought you lived in isn't one. There's a dark underbelly you didn't know about. A cost. (Soylent Green is people!) Maybe the system was put in place with the best of intentions, but but it falls apart or becomes something very different than what was intended.

My heart says that there is no such thing as a utopia because there's no one way that will work for every citizen.  My utopia could be your personal hell.

Just for contrast, I went googling for utopian novels. The most recent one on a wikipedia list of such things was 1962 (Aldous Huxley's Island). There wasn't anything on the list I had read.

From another list, I found a few I had read: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Again, though, I run across this theme of utopia not being utopia for everyone.

Maybe that's why no one seems to write an unambiguous utopia these days.  We understand too well that it all depends on where you stand whether you see paradise or purgatory.
This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.


  1. The major problem with trying to create a utopia here is that it will involve people. And we never get things totally right, do we? :) I agree, though. One person's utopia is another's dystopia. And there is a cynicism to our age that would be suspicious of anything that looks too good to be true.

  2. The Giver is on my TBR pile (well, lost in my new stupid Kindle that won't let me organize things the way I want). I don't think of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books as a utopia, but I guess it is an amazing techno future. Highly recommend them if you like harder sci fi with extremely well written characters.
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  3. I think nobody writes about a utopia because, since everyone is happy, there's no conflict to drive the story.

  4. You're right, Ellen! And like Colin said, societies (even utopias) are made of people (like Soylent Green) . . .so perfection is impossible.

  5. Love this post! I'm definitely a dystopia fan though I haven't read Matched. Might have to check that one out. Just saw Soylent Green for the first time in years, one of my all-time faves! The 70's was such a great decade for dystopian movies.

    You may have stumbled on a great idea re; utopian stories. Sounds like an unexplored genre - given today's culture of greed i could easily picture a story of a utopian society and a greedy protag who ruins it. Or would that not be a true utopian story?