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Dystopias: Home

This libguide examines dystopian fiction, a subgenre of speculative or science fiction.

What is Dystopian Fiction?

Dystopia: An "imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one" (Oxford English Dictionary 2016).

Dystopian fiction is a subgenre of science fiction, or what is sometimes called speculative fiction. Generally set in the not-so-distant future, dystopias present a world in which the illusion of a perfect society is maintained through oppression by bureaucratic, corporate, religious or philosophical means. You know you are in a dystopia when:

  • Citizens are under constant surveillance by security forces
  • Propaganda is used to control the populace
  • Dissent and individuality are considered bad
  • The natural world is shunned
  • Society adheres to a strict caste system

Classic dystopian novels include 1984 by George Orwell, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. These explore topics including women's autonomy, human rights, war, terror and oppression. In other kinds of speculative fiction, these characteristics may also be present in books that imagine a post-apocolyptic world in which an event has devastated the earth's population, such as in Cormac McCarthy's The Road, or Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven.




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