Why Dystopia? Author Dan Wells Explains The Importance Of Hunger Games, 1984 And More

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As Dystopian Week comes to a close today, we’re looking forward to a future not quite as bleak as the one presented in a lot of our favorite novels. That’s because we have plenty more dystopian fiction to look forward to! Partials, due out February 28, takes place after a war between humans and the genetically engineered beings that rebelled against their creators and released a virus that killed 99.9 percent of the population. But one girl among the immune humans is going to try to save the species. Here, author Dan Wells tells us why he thinks we’re drawn to this genre:

Why are we so excited by dystopian stories these days? Do we like to be scared? Do we like the danger? Is it just fun? The best answer I can come up with is: Look around. We read dystopia not because these societies are strange and unfamiliar, but because, more often than not, they mirror our own. Fractured government, questionable freedom of the press, a massive reduction in personal privacy—check, check and check. Our handling of the Occupy movement, for example, is so backward that oppressive foreign dictators are using it to justify their own brutality. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Occupy or not: Our response to it is maybe not the best reflection of a free society. Dystopian fiction allows us to play with these ideas, to explore them, to see where this law or that revolution might take us. We read dystopia because we want to understand our own world.

My novel Partials, coming out in February, has a lot of dystopia in it. The human population has been wiped out by a virus, and the world “Broke”; the few scattered refugees have gathered together and started to rebuild, and that means forming a new government. Dystopian governments fascinate me because they seem so evil, but someone, at some point, thought they were doing the right thing. As my editor and I worked on the book, we kept one guiding principle in the forefront of our minds: There is no evil supervillain. The world is a scary, dangerous place, even after the Break, and everyone, on every side of the issue, thinks they’re saving it. This let us play around with so many fascinating ideas: How far will you go to save the human race? Can oppression ever be justified? If a revolution turns deadly, are you sure your ideals are worth it?

You read, which means you’re smart, and you read dystopia, which means you’re smart enough to think about important issues. You care about the world around you. Where do you think that world is going? Is our obsession with violence and media going to make The Hunger Games a reality? Is our gradual loss of privacy going to create the world of 1984? I’m not advocating a specific philosophy, I’m just advocating action. You’ve seen the books, and you know the pitfalls.

Whatever you believe, fight for it.

[Editor's note: Dan was also inspired to write a much longer piece about dystopian fiction on his own blog here.)

More from Dystopian Week:

Is Dystopia Really The New Vampire? Editor-Writer David Levithan Weighs In
Your Dystopian Survival Guide
Dystopia Is the New Supernatural
Exclusive: First Look At The Hunger Games Movie Tie-In Books!
Shatter Me Author Takes Things “To Extremes” For Dystopian Week
Watch Out, Katniss, Legend’s Formiddable Dystopian Heroes Are On Your Heels
'Shatter Me' Author Tahereh Mafi Talks 'X-Men' Comparisons
How Will Delirium’s Love Cure Translate To The Screen? Dystopian Week Begins!
5 Questions With 'Divergent' Writer Veronica Roth
Marie Lu Imagines A Teenage, Dystopian 'Les Miserables' In 'Legend'
'Delirium' Author Lauren Oliver Talks Sequel 'Pandemonium'

[Photos: Balzer + Bray, FearfulSymmetry.net]