The Appeal of Dystopias


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My husband and I were having lunch one day and, out of nowhere, our conversation took a weird turn. This isn’t anything new for us. We usually come in at opposite sides of the conversation, though.

He was getting excited (perhaps a bad choice of word) about the possibility of a virus that could be introduced into the human brain through a connection to a computer system and if it would be currently possible to create an AI program that could evolve quickly enough to battle the brain…or some smart thing like that.

So I waited for a long pause and jumped right in with the only thing I could think to say: “You, my love, have stumbled across the next great American novel…if only you could write.”

“But, Melody, I’m not talking about fiction. This could actually happen.”


I think I actually did shout, “Aha!” I find that it’s better to act like you’ve planned these things.

Why the “Aha?” Because, as I told my dear husband, that’s the basis behind any truly good (read relatable) dystopian story. Think about the last dystopian world that you read about. What was the first thing that drew you into the story?

I know the probable answer: The problem.

Was there a nuclear holocaust? Is the environment polluted? Does everyone live under military rule? Has the people’s history, rights, minds been taken away from them? Has a plague of nanobots wiped out the human populace?

In my opinion, readers tend to be drawn toward dystopian stories that have some level of realism. We go, “Oh my!” when we see characters going through difficulties that we might have to face ourselves.

And there’s the other appeal to dystopian novels. The messed up worlds draw us in and the characters hook us. This is especially important for teenagers and YA dystopian books. They need to know that young people like them can make a difference.

So, in conclusion:

-I believe that we are pulled to dystopian novels FIRST because they show up the horror that our world could become;

-And SECOND because of the characters who strive to make a better world;

-Also, my husband could be a good novelist.

Do you share my opinions about these book? What’s your favorite dystopian story?


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