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Dystopian Horizons

Dystopian Horizons
  • 1984 (by )
  • Anthem (by )
  • Animal Farm (by )
  • The Iron Heel (by )
  • Selections from Brave New Worlds: Dystop... (by )
  • Attack on Titan - Before the Fall 1 Volume No. 1 (by )
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Concrete uniformity. Brutalism. Doublespeak. Big Brother is watching you. Firemen coming to burn your belongings rather than douse them. For the good of the people, the nation. Propagandize the anthem. Remember, remember the fifth of November, The Gunpowder Treason and Plot!

Speculate on the words above—does it make you squeal? If so, is it with joy or horror? Does it make you dream, or does it suppress your foolishness so you may sleep soundly, night after night? Does it connect you to the overmind? And what may help relegate us to true uniformity?

It may be dystopia.
John Stuart Mill first coined the term saying, “It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable." The word finds its roots in the Greek words “dys” and “topos”, which translate to “bad,” “ill,” “abnormal,” and “place”. Mill’s was speaking against British Parliament at the time, but the word resonated, and soon described all societies in stark opposition to the utopian novel genre vastly popular in the 1900’s. 

As a subset genre of speculative fiction in and of itself, it grew into an identity much more complex, to the point where the dystopian theme must generally encompass societal and political commentary through an anti-utopian landscape. Some critics will differentiate novels that take place in dystopian societies, but not qualify as dystopian novels because the story does not make an attempt to both identify the issues social or political issues offer up a solution for them. The finicky categorization is a bit elitist, but nonetheless has led to the pronouncement of some of the greatest literature of the 20th, and surely the 21st century.

Prime examples of dystopian literature can be found in the cornerstones Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1984 by George Orwell, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

George Orwell categorized doublespeak as deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language used by the omnipresent government party of Big Brother in 1984 to quell thinking and subsequent individualism. It has been helpful in spotting political rhetoric in today’s events that has ulterior motives.

Although the ties are tenuous, Aldous Huxley seems to have predicted the creation of Soma. Soma is a drug in Brave New World created to control the population, which the government describes as, “euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant.” Years after publication, one such muscle relaxer coincided on the name Soma, and helped to block pain sensations between the nerves and the brain. Side effects of the actual Soma drug include confusion, chills, dizziness, sudden loss of consciousness, and unusual tiredness or weakness.
A large part of Fahrenheit 451 owes its existence to the great age of McCarthyism, where America turned on itself with baseless accusations of subversion and treason due to the fear of communism. Bradbury’s theme revolves around the panic many were experiencing about suppressing dissenting ideas.

All fear and speculation of fully fledged dystopias aside, the genre has become one of the most entertaining in the past century. And so, we must be eternally grateful for those forces which bolstered our comrade authors to create such works. Do discover such other classic dystopian stories as Anthem by Ayn Rand, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and The Iron Heel by Jack London. More contemporary dystopian stories can be found in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, John J Adam’s Selections from Brave New World: Dystopian Stories and the ongoing manga series Attack on Titan

And never forget, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

By Thad Higa

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