1. Bwater
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    Bwater Member

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    Is dystopia always science fiction or fantasy?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Bwater, Jun 19, 2014.

    Hi, something that's been on my mind recently is dystopian universes.
    Iv been playing around with several stories set in a dystopian setting and can't decide if I should be making them science fiction novels by default.
    My main focus is on a future earth with no magic powers or the like, so is the fact it's set in a potential future enough to mean it must be a science fiction genre?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose that, technically, dystopian settings are all fantasy settings. That doesn't help, though, when it comes to classifying things in useful ways.

    The term I think you're looking for is "speculative fiction." It abbreviates to SF, so people associate it with science fiction, but it doesn't have to have strong science components to the story. Speculative fiction generally takes off from where we are now as a society and projects our current trends and obsessions into the future. Where will we be in fifty years if we keep doing such-and-such a thing? Even if it isn't science fiction, it's certainly speculative. You can check out more in this Wikipedia article.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Two of my favorite dystopian novels are Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. Neither could be considered either science fiction (unless you want to count Bradbury's description of wall-size televisions and intentionally vacuous programming 50 years before it happened) or fantasy as those terms are commonly understood.

    Then again, genre is not an absolute. It is a marketing tool, a handy means by which people can more quickly find what they are looking for - whether in books or in music. My advice would be to write the story you want to write and worry about genre later.
     
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  4. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Dystopian" does not automatically make something science fiction or fantasy. There are many places in the world today that might be considered dystopian, with no need for speculation or addition of fantastical elements (i.e. magic).

    In your case, however, I would say you're writing speculative fiction, which is a rather broad genre. As @EdFromNY said, don't worry about genre. Write the story. An awareness of genre can be useful, but if an inability to define your genre is getting in the way of your writing, cast such classifications aside until you're done.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
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  5. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    As the others has said + :
    writing your novel without knowing/deciding/caring what genre it is in will help you to avoid clichés and tropes usually associated with some genres. You will end up with a novel which is more fresh than a "mainstream" sci-fi or fantasy would be.
     
  6. Bwater
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    Bwater Member

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    Thanks for the thoughts all, it's been worth signing up to the forum already
     
  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do think you can have a realist dystopia in stuff that is only mildly speculative. I wouldn't classify my universe as dystopian, but it's 20 years in the future, with minimum technological advances, and shows that the world is slowly sliding toward a dystopian end if not corrected.
     
  8. Bwater
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    I'd imagine that's an interesting point to be writing in, so many books sit in an already dystopian universe, to be implying it's coming allows for far greater construction of that inevitable failure
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's definitely a fun place. It's a fun divide between those who see the deaths of a thousand cuts and those who don't :)
     
  10. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    Here's some different food for thought. I would consider places in the world, right now, as dystopian. Look at Nigeria, with mass kidnappings and boko haram. Look at Syria with entire cities bombed to hell and the government dropping "barrel bombs" at the first sign of people congregating. Countries where women driving can be arrested and marrying someone other than the one your parents chose for you can result in your being stoned to death. I copied and pasted this from wikipedia:



    A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia,[1]kakotopia, cackotopia, or anti-utopia) is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many artistic works, particularly in stories set in a future. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization,[2]totalitarian governments, environmental disaster,[3] or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science, and/ortechnology, which if unaddressed could potentially lead to such a dystopia-like condition.



    Hell, I've done a lot of travelling. I've been in a lot of different societies. There are many, many places in this world that a parent cannot go to bed at night confident that their child will live through to morning. What the hell is more dystopian than that?


    Future doesn't always mean science fiction. Setting does not equal genre.
     
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  11. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    North Korea is a dystopia. It is real, but it just as easily could have been the setting of a story by George Orwell.
     
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  12. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    We know very little about how early man lived. There is ample opportunity for writing a story which portrays a dystopia in pre-history.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    A dystopia is an imagined future or world where everything is bleak or bad. This can stem from varying causes—totalitarian regimes, political upheaval, climate change, or any other massive natural disasters (comets hitting the earth, etc) that create the 'end' of the known world order.

    There may be a way to change this world back into a better place, or not. The people in the story are usually working toward that end, or working to escape altogether.

    I'm not absolutely certain, but I think most dystopian fiction bases its storyline on a previously 'better' state, and that this dystopia isn't the original state of the story's world, but is the result of some bad event. Often there are folk memories (either very distant or fairly recent) of 'better times' that came before everything broke down.

    This kind of story can probably be classified as Sci-Fi, if it's reasonably realistic speculation about what might happen in the future here on Earth (or on other planets) based on the things we know. Or on the things we are doing now.

    These stories will probably be classified as Fantasy, however, if some supernatural element gets added to the mix. Somebody acquires magical 'powers' or people become wizards, etc.

    I think a pre-historic dystopia would definitely be Sci-Fi, if it doesn't include magic.
     
  14. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    If you write about tower Hamlets, in London, surely that would be dystopia....
     

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