Tuesday, May 11, 2010

But...but...it's depressing!

I've given up telling people I don't know that my novel is dystopic, even though it is. Invariably, they ask what dystopia is.

"It's like a utopia," I say, "but opposite."

*blank stares*

Eventually they get it. And then they ask, "But why? Why would you want to write something so depressing?"

But...it's not. Not really. At its heart, dystopian literature is anything but depressing.

OK, sure. The society is depressing. The environment. The government. But dystopian literature isn't about those things. Not really.

It's about the individuals.

Think of THE HUNGER GAMES, arguably the most famous dystopic work out right now. The world is empty, dark, dreary. Government not only lets people die of hardship--it actually holds competitions in which children fight to the death for the entertainment of the rich.

OK, yeah. That's a bit depressing.

But then think of Katniss. Not how her father died, or her mother was depressed, or her sister was nearly selected. Don't think about how she left Gale, or how she entered the Games. The blood and pain and hunger and hardship.

Because that's not what the story is about.

The story is about how a girl, in that world, with that pain, can still be human. Can still love.

That's why dystopic literature isn't really depressing. Because it's about the strength of humanity beyond the cruelty of the world.

If the characters were always happy, always good, and never had to worry--what would be the point of the story? How is it a triumph when two people fall in love when they live in a world where love is lauded? If you don't have to fight for the basics of humanity, is it little wonder we don't appreciate them?

Dystopic literature is a dark frame around a beautiful picture.

It's not the dark, bleak, black; it's the spark of light flickering within it.

And just in case the topic still depresses you, here, have a video:

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