What’s in a Genre: Dystopian
One of the reasons I love being an indie author is because we can blur genre lines. We can write a story, any story. If it becomes a steampunk-zombie-romance that’s fine. Well its fine until you go to upload it to Amazon or with any other e-publisher. Then you need to suddenly have a category to pigeon-hole your beloved mishmash manuscript into. And lets not get into the need for a solid genre or two for promotion.
Which is where I am with my WIP. I’m hoping to release the first set of short stories this fall. I’ve been calling them everything from dystopian, military, dark fantasy, and, to add to the confusion, there is a touch of romance and some scifi. It’s a mutt! Ack.
And that is the point of this series of posts. What is in a genre? How much fantasy is required to be dark fantasy? Do you need robots to be considered scifi? Does romance require happy endings? I’m not sure, but I want to find out. If you do too, then stick around.
The Hunger Games, Wool, Soylent Green, and the Matrix all fall into depictions of dystopian societies. Wikipedia defines dystopia as is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Which is all well and good, but what is the essence of dystopia because with that definition everything from historical tales to a lot of modern day thrillers would be dystopian!
There are some common themes: oppression either political, religious, or societal norms having been subverted (no longer family units), economic issues that lead to social stratification, violence, and issues with the natural world such as no contact with it or it has become dangerous.
Dystopian novels usually start in the middle of the problem… or very near its end! There is a back story, often elaborate, that has altered society into something new, and often dark. The main character is not an outsider viewing the changed world in wide-eyed amazement, but someone born into the altered universe and feels something isn’t quite right. Their questioning initiates a rebellion or a change, which, sadly, often fails or at least leaves the future uncertain as the novel ends.
Interestingly, dystopian literature is often set in the future and, therefore, a part of many scifi tales.
All of these typical themes line up with Friends of my Enemy, happily. Or unhappily, since we ARE talking about dystopian! It is set in the near future in a world beset with turbulence caused as much by climate change as nations maneuvering to maintain control, or gain control, of needed resources and people. Oppression of civil liberties is a method of maintaining order used by some governments, and feared by those opting otherwise.
Since it is the future, there is a bit of scifi tech around, though all the turbulence of the prior decades managed to keep the technological leaps forward rather small… and mostly military based. Go figure.
All of this research has made me comfortable to say my next release is decidedly dystopian. It isn’t like any of the other dystopian novels out there, but that’s a good thing! It’s my take on the genre. Now I just have to figure what else it is…