1. hughesj
    Offline

    hughesj Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    3

    Dystopia in current Africa?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by hughesj, Sep 15, 2013.

    I am developing a story idea in my head and starting to jot down noted for it. The basic idea is for it to be set in Africa, but with Africa in the sort of state that Somalia was in during the civil war. I don't really know if this would work, though. I am also worried that its going to look like a copy of the setting from Black Hawk Down, even though I am basing this on current situations in the world. What do you think?
     
  2. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I imagine a lot of Africa is complete dystopia especially the Somalian civil war. Are you confusing it with utopia?

    If you're not confusing the two words, then go ahead and write it - you won't be far off the truth.
     
  3. Dean Stride
    Offline

    Dean Stride Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2013
    Messages:
    370
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    University of East Anglia, Norwich
    Don't worry, there aren't that much fictional novels set in Africa, let alone dystopic ones. Go for it.
     
  4. hughesj
    Offline

    hughesj Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    3
    I'm sort of leaning towards the fact that the whole of Africa has descended into chaos. There are a group of Americans that have been trapped there and have no way of getting out since there is no intervention. You bring up a point that it wouldn't be that far off the truth. That is where my concern is. It is not what Africa is like now. I lived there for most of my life and while there is the senseless violence, most of Africa is nowhere near as bad as Somalia was during the civil war. I am concerned that too many people think it is like that and that it will seem like a realistic novel
     
  5. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,855
    Likes Received:
    10,028
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I think people worry overmuch about "is this going to sound to much like that" in general, but... If you're worried about it, it may mean you're very/too close to the subject you're worried about aping through reading, study, work, etc. For example, there are uncounted posts in the forum right now concerned with "is this going to be seen as copying GoT?" to which the answer is usually "probably not, it's done in other books, yadda, yadda." That's the answer I give too (with examples of the other books), but what I usually hold back from saying is, "But if you're worried about your fantasy novel being too much like GoT, you're probably balls-deep in GoT right now. Either back away from the series or back away from your manuscript for a while. You are going to end up aping."
     
  6. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    'District 9' comes to mind. A excellent dystopian/sci-fi film which is set in South Africa.
     
  7. DPVP
    Offline

    DPVP Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2013
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    20
    i dont think it will be an issue. their are enough shit going on in Africa to not make it come across as black hawk down the fictional version.

    look at Zimbabwe that's a disytopia right their. starts out as the bread basket of Africa, they get this utopia idea of redistributing the property, and it becomes a disytopa really fast of starvation and hyper inflation.
     
  8. Dean Stride
    Offline

    Dean Stride Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2013
    Messages:
    370
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    University of East Anglia, Norwich
    That's what happens when you try to apply socialism in real life.
     
    DPVP likes this.
  9. Corazon Santiago
    Offline

    Corazon Santiago Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2013
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    2
    Zimbabwe's land redistribution was the result of racism, populism and corruption.

    A dystopia set in a dysfunctional African country should focus on those things, but above all the corruption of the leadership and the ignorance of the population. It wasn't a true dystopian novel, and the dystopian elements were muffled, background noise, but Vonnegut did this well in Cat's Cradle with San Lorenzo. Maybe give that a read for ideas.

    Based on my own observations, a good dystopia should either take the negativity to an extreme, like 1984, or it should be amusing and light hearted, like Brave New World or Player Piano. The focus should be on the characters's struggles and failures to fit into society. It should also predict a future to come, not necessarily translate the present. So don't just base your story in present day Zimbabwe, instead make a prediction of what it's future will be like.

    If you're merely translating the present, a dystopia novel probably isn't the best choice. Instead, do a more 'standard' story, like Blood Diamond or Hotel Rwanda (sorry, only know of movie examples -- not books).
     
    Dean Stride likes this.
  10. Andy Flood
    Offline

    Andy Flood New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2013
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    1
    If your main concern is that your setting might be seen as a copy, I would suggest that you don't worry too much as your writing and ideas will differentiate it from others (e.g. Black Hawk Down as you mentioned). You might also consider employing some alternative history device such as a prior socio-economic climate which you perpetuate through to present day (e.g. a deposed leader/dictator remains in power). An extreme example might be to write an alternate reality Africa wherein its states/countries are collectively the primary superpower on the global stage, perhaps due to discovery/control of natural resources or similar.
    If you would rather work in a setting that reflects the current reality and climate, then I say strike out with confidence in your ideas and just back them up with good research. Best of luck and have fun. :)
     
  11. hughesj
    Offline

    hughesj Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2013
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    3
    Some very interesting ideas. I think my idea is sort of Africa becoming a dystopia. There is a lot of violence due to something causing people in power to fall. Different clans/gangs are trying to gain control and the continent is splitting up into different groups. I also, however, like the idea of Africa being the world superpower due a discovery of resources. One thing is clear though, I need to research :)
     
  12. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Yes, I would say so. For one thing, assuming that any continent is monolithic is going to present problems, particularly one that has no resident superpower. For another, history clearly shows that simply possessing highly valued resources does not translate into a country becoming a superpower - it's the ability to exploit, develop and control those resources and to convert that into the projection of power over others. Otherwise, Peru and Mexico would have been superpowers in the 15th and 16th centuries and Saudi Arabia would be now. That they never were can be traced back to the fact that they were unable to retain control over their own resources, and I would submit that most African nations today would have the same problem were any of them to discover some new "super resource", which in turn would require both a highly developed industrial sector and a strong military to protect it.

    I also think you do yourself a disservice by seeking to classify your project before it is even started. Keep in mind that genres are marketing tools. In the development stage, they can only hinder you. Focus on the writing and worry about the labels later.
     
  13. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Resources on their own seldom guarantee 'superpower' status. In fact, historically, it's been the countries with very limited resources that were the most serious pretenders on the 'superpower' status. Arguably, this is because of their survival drive, to go and get what they don't have. Countries (or continents, in case of Africa) with lots of resources, especially those still deeply affected by tribal conflict ie. those that don't have a unified idea of nationality, are the easiest ones to exploit.
     
  14. Uberwatch
    Offline

    Uberwatch Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2013
    Messages:
    257
    Likes Received:
    38
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    A lot of places in the African continent are real-life dystopias anyway. If you're worried about making a copy out of Black Hawk Down, then don't involve helicopters and a military invasion on Somalia then.
     
  15. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    What if you set it in the future, basing your events on current events? Since it's fiction, I don't suppose you're literally writing about the real-life events with a fictional interpretation. It'll be your own made-up events, right? But these are inspired by the real stuff, and that's fine.

    Think Hunger Games - it's set in North America and it's certainly dystopian, and no one's confusing it with modern day America, though you can certainly see some similarities, such as the reality TV.
     
  16. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Isn't that the point of dystopian fiction? Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and A Canticle For Leibowitz (just off the top of my head) were all portrayals of current ills being taken to their logical conclusions.
     
  17. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Loool. You have a point there :D
     
  18. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    How about the way people live nowadays in West Africa, where internatinal corporations practicaly rape the land and sea for oil? A friend of mine returned from Sierra Leone, where he worked for an American offshore oiling company for 2years, making occasional trips to Equatorial Guinea: he basically describes the state of those countries as "pirates, mercenaries, and dying children"... and some photos he showed from villages just outside Freetown (talking about a cynical name) are hard to describe...
     
  19. Bromabo
    Offline

    Bromabo Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    4
    That is very true. When one look at the world today one sees that countries that rely on exporting raw materials are often quiet poor while the richer countries exports refined products. I guess this is because exporting raw material requires a less organized society than producing refined products. The raw material itself is not worth very much for a country unless they have a good enough system to be able to make use of it.

    I guess if some very valuable resource was found in Africa which was for some reason very difficult to transport but could be ones it had been refined in some way that required high technological knowledge then that would really spur the economy by bringing in investors from other countries building up social and technical infrastructure.
     
  20. Mouthwash
    Offline

    Mouthwash Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2012
    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    11
    If you're going to make complicated political settings for your story, then you definitely need to read some history books. One or two for the entire continent, and then some more focusing on where your story will take place. I'd also recommend reading anthropology, too.
     
  21. Cailinfios
    Offline

    Cailinfios Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Pretoria, South Africa
    Go ahead, but let me warn you to be careful. Some Africans who read it might be offended by it.
     
  22. PBrady
    Offline

    PBrady Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2013
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    Nottingham UK
    To take readers into an unknown territory such as this requires you to be a persuasive and dedicated guide.
    We hardly need a work of fiction to portray the desperate state of some areas of Africa. Almost any copy of National Geographic will give you that.
    However, having a narrative that might draw us into seeing it from another perspective could well work.
    District 9 has already been mentioned as a science fiction approach. There is also Zoo City (Lauren Beukes) which takes a fantasy approach by borrowing the idea of the animal companions from Philip Pullman, but in a different way in the setting of current day Johannesburg. A good read.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    You can find current warring clans and gangs all over the world on large and small scales, long term and short term. Not hard to find examples in Africa to fit any story idea you want. I suggest you write the story you want to tell making up whatever stereotype situation you want. If Africa is a world power, it's going to have to be united like the EU. So you can just make countries and ethnic groups up in your new United States of Africa.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_armed_conflicts

    As for how this united power came about, take a close look at Chinese capital that is currently pouring into Africa to develop the resources there. The following has a wealth of ideas for anyone who wants to develop the United States of Africa as a dystopian world power. Ands there is plenty for a hundred other stories as well.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/chinese-investment-in-africa-boosts-economies-but-worries-many-a-934826.html
     
  24. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    More fascinating stuff about the development of African resources turned up on Democracy Now this morning. They are at the Sundance Film Festival and reviewed a documentary about South Sudan and the oil and other mineral resources:
    The contrasts between the cultural triad, Chinese oilmen, Sudanese natives, and Christian Evangelicals, just boggled my mind.
     
  25. bossfearless
    Offline

    bossfearless Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2014
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    50
    Putting both "dystopia" and "africa" in the same sentence is redundant. In the mind of the general public, that place is the desolate wasteland that will one day spawn the zombie apocalypse, so just go to town with it.
     

Share This Page