1. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    What do you think is essential in creating a Dystopian world?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by shambles, Mar 10, 2016.

    I have an idea for a dystopian novel playing around the back of my mind and I was trying to think of the essentials in creating that sort of world.

    Here are some things I think are essential:

    1. Corruption - this leads to uprisings and rebellion and it seems to be key to every dystopian I've read such as Divergent, Brave New World, and Anthem

    2. Government control - I think this is important because it is something we fear as society, we fear oppression especially by those who dictate our laws

    3. Overcoming - this is when a group of misfits, loners, seemingly weak people band together and fight for the greater good, I think it's because we all want to be a hero

    What are some things that you think are essential for creating a dystopian universe?
     
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  2. obi-sem kenobi
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    obi-sem kenobi Contributing Member

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    A credible, well build-up reason for why the world is the way it is. Usually, humanity doesn't go down the drain in a day. We've been working very hard for millenia to get the level of shitty society that we're in now, so in order for the world to be truly distopian, either a lot of time has to pass with very subtle developments, or something truly shocking that makes the public viable for an unorthodox solution.
    Tying into this I guess, depending on the type of dystopia, is that unless it's a "We made a big mistake and now everything is bad" type of dystopia, you need people that actually believe in the system. People are never just evil for the sake of being evil. Not even the government. Even in Star Wars (with the possible exception of the Emperor himself), the servants of the Empire believed they were bringing order in a world of chaos. You need something to sway the people into staying with you, apart from just military might (after all, those soldiers also need to stay on your side).

    To me, that's really what separates ''good" dystopian from "bad".
     
  3. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I remember a short story in the collective short dystopian stories Brave New Worlds. It is about a man who got high, and then froze to death on a mountain climbing trip. He is found 100+ years later by the 'new' society (which turn out to be far right fundamental Christians). They have the tech to bring him back to life, and then sentence him to death for a 'committing' suicide and using marijuana. Seems pretty dystopic to me to bring a dead guy back to life to formally execute him. So religion can be a means to a dystopian society, where you have to join or die (much like extreme fundamental Islam).

    Perhaps you are a clone, and then are classified as a second class citizen/property. Then you're only allowed to be equipment for misc. companies, and can be 'retired' (killed) for not doing your duties well. Naturally the clones would try to reach out to their natural citizen brethren, because the clones do not see themselves as less than their counterpart humans.

    Sometimes it does not involve so much the gov. as it does societies will. There is always more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. :p
     
  4. Wolf Daemon
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    Wolf Daemon Active Member

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    Well the U.S. has all of those except for the third.

    I would say you would need to push all of them to the extremes to make it more dystopian

    Also:

    - Lack of Resources
    - Giant gap between poor and rich(or powerful) e.i. no middle class
    - Terrible ways of living
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    To be persecuted for your beliefs - this goes with anti-religion as well - and/or targeted because of the beliefs ( Think of the Jews in Europe during World War 2 and even what's going on now in other countries - very dystopian. )
    A breakdown of law and order
    Grim environmental conditions - one of my favorite classic dystopian novels is No Blade of Grass in which a disease starts destroying all plant life driving groups of people from one patch to another.
     
  6. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    The gap between the rich and poor is actually one of my main concepts of my potential novel. That is really what I want to show as the main theme in the story.
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A sort of cruel indifference to the plight of the underclass. The underclass's life tends to be dreary, with little hope--barely treading water and one slip away from oblivion, characterized by very little individual control or upward mobility by the individuals.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Regardless of the elements you decide will be featured trials and tribulations of your dystopia, I would say you need a central criticism you are making. Dystopia is ALL about criticism.

    Divergent - We are being homogenized and valued only for certain traits that can be turned into jobs. We educate to pass tests, not to be smarter. We pigeonhole.

    Hunger Games - We have let the powerful have ALL the power. The rest of us stand naked with our "junk" in their cold, raspy talons.

    Brave New World - Humans are smart and science is awesome, but we have super shitty moral compasses.

    So, what do you want to SAY with your dystopia story?

    ETA: Sorry, I just realized this was posted specifically under Setting. My bad. :bigoops:
     
  9. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I find myself most moved by dystopian worlds that exhibit deep injustice, preferably against the MC.
     
  10. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A road to it paved with non-evil intentions. I think a significant--not all,but significant--portion of the "bad" in this world was created with non-evil intentions.
     
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  11. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I'd just like to note that #3 doesn't always apply. For instance, The Man in the High Castle has no resistance movement, and rebellion in 1984 ends in failure.
     
  12. Jeni
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    Jeni Member

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    In my opinion, a story featuring an ideal dystopian world would contain the following:
    Technological control/abuse, government corruption and control, a loss of freedom, distrust (possibly surveillance of the people by the powers that be), the real world would be widely considered unviable, lots of exaggeration (like in hunger games: the way the capital dressed and how they drank something to induce vomiting so that they could eat more), there should be struggles and questions about the old world and the new, and readers should be able to envision both sides of the struggle (the good and the bad), religious persecution would probably also be in the extreme, and lastly there should be fear lots of fear
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016
  13. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    My old dictionary describes dystopia as an imaginary place, as a country, of total misery and wretchedness. I think the interesting part is that it is imaginary, a lot of people, me included, like to watch movies like the Hunger Games, etc. but the story lines are always a bit illogical. In reality as a general group of people, we probably could never enter a dystopian society unless it happened rapidly, such as WWII in much of Eastern Europe. If we look at the past, say the middle ages, you could view that as a dystopian society in today's light, but the people back then didn't see it that way, that was just the way life was. So in my mind to create/reach a dystopian society would require rapid change where the people actually knew life could be better, not just some old tales passed down from the elders.
     
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  14. Jeni
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    Jeni Member

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    We had a devastating hurricane here once. The scenery was surreal. Trees were downed and everything was littered with grass and mud. My mailbox looked like a muddy blob with hairs in the shapes of grass and leaves. There was no power and no water for over a week. My neighbors home stood there divided by a tree that had smashed through the roof. Flood waters were everywhere and to leave my home we had to cut trees apart every thirty or so feet. It certainly felt like a dystopian world even though it was real.
     
  15. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    The word dystopia itself has a very broad definition. I think it could even be construed to encompass post-apocolyptic fiction as well. But the most popular theme in the genre is government oppression. George Orwell's 1984 is based off of the oppressive nature of communist governments in particular during his lifetime, and modern dystopian fiction stems quite often from post-9/11 concerns regarded the increase in government surveillance and intrusive security measures.

    Generally, the kernel of these stories (in my opinion) is a struggle between an oppressive upper-class (it could be the government, the wealthy, a cast of elites, etc) against an oppressed lower class. Essentially, there is a group of people doing very well because of how the world is structured. To them, it's a utopia. But also there's a group of people doing very poorly, who see it as a dystopia.
     
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  16. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    While I understand what you are saying Matt E, and truly in the context of this forum the dystopian stories are always imaginary unless you want to include historical, which if you consider time an illusion then even history is somewhat imaginary. So when the OP wants to create a dystopian world undoubtedly they are seeing it from our current perspective. "The Martian" paints a dystopian world for the MC, but I don't think we think of it that way, just another Robinson Crusoe on Mars story. My point is that people living in that "dystopian" world would not perceive it that way unless it was a rapid cultural change that happened within the character's life time. My family was relatively poor when I was a child but I never saw it that way as a kid, things seemed fine to me. Same would hold true for most situations despite how dreadful the circumstances are, if you grew up in that state you would not really expect that things should be exponentially better than they are.
     
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  17. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    One area of dystopian world's hasn't been mentioned. Instead of a big intrusive government how about no government. Look at Mad Max, Walking Dead, and similar stories. Total breakdown of society with only small bands competing with each other for limited resources.
     
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  18. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well, it depends on whether you want a dystopian society, or an actual dystopian world. A dystopian society; just look at dictatorships. A dystopian world. Probably going to need some kind of massive event, so it works best with post-apocalyptic societies.
     
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  19. TheApprentice
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    TheApprentice Contributing Member

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    An explanation of what made it Dystopian would be nice.

    In Time never explained how people got the way they did with their time to live on their arms. It annoyed the heck out of me.
     
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  20. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    That would be more like a post-apocalyptic society, not dystopia.

    A lot of people make this error and confuse the two. Utopia is the perfect society. Dystopia is a dysfunctional utopia. They still function, and on the outside it seems like the way things are and should be. But further investigation by the protagonist eventually reveals what is wrong with this society.

    Walking Dead and Mad Max aren't like this. Society doesn't really exist to have dysfunction in the first place. Lack of government or society makes it not a dystopia.

    Post-apocalyptic focuses on how the world and people change in response to a cataclysmic event.

    http://www.bookpunks.com/unfinished-enormous-huge-gaping-difference-post-apocalyptic-dystopian-fiction-damn/
    Language warning btw. But this lists the difference in a simple to understand way.

    http://www.traciloudin.com/2015/07/dystopian-vs-apocalyptic-fiction-whats-the-difference.html
    This shows examples of each.
     
  21. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Seems like a thin distinction. If you have three people on the planet they will form their own society. Walking Dead might be post apocalyptic but they do form groups. Those groups are a society and the do govern themselves. It may not be a formal laws written down type government but the people inside each group know what other people expect from them.
    I think Stephen King's The Stand did a great example of this. It was a post apocalyptic world and during the story the characters that survived drew together and began reforming themselves into a society that we could all recognize.
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Oh yeah? "A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening." That seems to describe post-apocalyptic stuff fine; as long as people get together at some level.
     

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