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Jetse de Vries

The Dystopia/Utopia Dichotomy

As I prepare for another evening of Roadburn, let’s talk about roads that burn as we take on extreme points of view. Dystopias represent what could happen if we continue to go down the “wrong” roads, utopias are an idealised endpoint if we unwaveringly keep taking the “right” roads (for whatever your versions of wrong and right).

What typifies almost all those dystopias and utopias is that they either see everything through dark-tinted or rosy-coloured glasses (“Mirrorshades” or “The New Improved Sun”), with precious few nuances. It’s heaven or hell, with nary a purgatory or two and almost nothing else in between: your literary future in starkly contrasted, two-dimensional monochrome. In the meantime, the modern consumer lives in a full-spectrum, super-high definition 3D world (and their gadgets approach it ever closer).

It’s this “let’s-distort-society-to-an-extreme” approach that ultimately renders both dystopias and utopias unrealistic at best, and useless at worst.

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Series: Dystopia Week

The Dystopia Tunnel Vision: A Counterpoint

The writing world is full of dystopias, both in- and outside of our favourite genres. I have read and enjoyed quite a few of them, but I personally think that dystopia as a literary form has—with precious few exceptions—become a tired cliché, a one-sided mannerism and a default defence mechanism of an unambitious approach to writing.

And this in the middle of Dystopia Week here at Tor.com? Well, I’ve been asked to provide a counterpoint (hopefully not the only one), a differing opinion. So here goes.

One of the major problems with the dystopian form (I’ll get to other problems in later posts) is that it, almost by definition, asks certain one-sided assumptions from both the writer and the reader, and sticks to them at all costs. I call this the “dystopia tunnel vision.”

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Series: Dystopia Week