Continuing our series on Dystopian universes, this week we look into the future. Dystopian narratives are quite interesting for a variety of reasons, one being that they encourage exciting things to happen (a revolt against the government, perhaps? Dramatic chase scenes?), and if they're good, they make you think about the way you're living your life. Dystopian stories that take place in the future make the readers think about the possibilities that lay ahead and whether or not they want to be a part of shaping that future.
Scott Westerfield's young adult trilogy, starting with Uglies, is about a future society in which plastic surgery is gifted to teenagers on their 16th birthdays by the government, thereby turning them from Uglies into Pretties. The new Pretties are then able to party and romp freely, leaving the younger Uglies envious. The series follows an especially mischievous Ugly, Tally Youngblood, who, at least in the first book, has yearned to be pretty her whole life. Her closest friend Shay, however, has run away to the mysterious, rumored camp of a bunch of Ugly rebels, and Tally is tasked by the authorities to find her and the rebels.
This series is so good because it allows us to see the downsides of what some people would deem a utopia. Come on, we’ve all looked into the mirror and considered what we would change about ourselves if we could – imagine if you could change and enhance what you wanted to, every day of your life! But being Pretty comes with a cost, and this series won’t let you forget that.
The Handmaid's Tale
In the near future, the United States has fallen apart, and the Republic of Gilead has taken its place. Extreme Christian/far-right ideals have been put into place as law in the new monotheocratic government, and the result is terrifying to most women. Women in this society are stringently controlled, and are unable to have jobs or money. They are also classified into the chaste, childless Wives, the Marthas (who are aptly named housekeepers) and the Handmaids, who bear children and then are only allowed to hand them over to the Wives. Offred is a handmaid who remembers how things used to be and depicts how this insane society came into being.
As a woman, this sounds completely awful to me. Even our real world, that still doesn't have a single country in which women have equal rights, is better than this. Women in this society aren’t even able to read anymore, and that crushes me. This novel makes me want to take a stand and enforce women’s rights. Maybe exercise your rights to read and pick this up?
An unbeatable classic, this novel illustrates a future in which literature is outlawed. Guy Montag, an average, everyday kind of guy, is a fireman, which means that his job is to destroy houses with books in them by setting them on fire. He doesn't think anything is wrong or especially crazy about what he does until he meets Clarisse, a young neighbor who presents a past in which citizens didn't live in fear and created their own ideas. In a world where Montag's wife, Mildred, sits in a room made completely of telly screens and sits with her virtual 'family' all day, Clarisse is a light in the darkness, and soon, Montag is hoarding the contraband that he had been destroying all his life. In the end, he runs away, and joins an outlaw group of scholars waiting for when the wisdom of literature is needed again.
There is a reason why this novel is regarded as a classic and why it’s read in so many classrooms around the world, and that is because it makes us think about not only the rapid improvements in technology but also what could happen if we did stop reading, and therefore thinking, all together.
You can read more about dystopian books, TV shows and movies in our upcoming new Gothic Dreams book Dystopia (ISBN 9781783613212). The growing popularity of dystopian works is discussed by author Dave Golder alongside fantastic contemporary art. You can find the book on Amazon here.
For now, why not download one of our illustrated Gothic Dreams books from the iTunes store? Perfect for fans of the undead, monsters, and the macabre. For our amazing title on Steampunk, just click here.
For more information about Uglies the series, click here.
To listen to an album that was inspired by the Handmaid’s Tale (titled 'Transgressions'), click here.
To learn more about Ray Bradbury’s work, click here.
This post was written by intern Taylor Steinberg.
Images: Uglies, The Handmaid's Tale, Fahrenheit 451.