Opposite Day!

One of the best things about reading or watching sci-fi and fantasy is seeing how the writers weave familiar problems and current events into worlds that are nothing like our own. I immediately think of suicide bombers on Battlestar Galactica and the omnipotent “government” in so many YA spec fic books these days.

But what I want to talk about today is a kind of switcheroo. We’re so used to fantasy and sci-fi taking elements of our world and turning them into allegory, or even just plot points, that we don’t often think about the opposite. What non-spec fic books could be looked at as a sci-fi or fantasy allegory?

Scratching your head? Go take a look at the comments from PJ’s post a few days ago. She was asking if an author needs a sci-fi background to write dystopia, and it made me think about what dystopic books are out there that AREN’T spec fic. The immediate book that comes to mind is GONE WITH THE WIND.

I know you’re like, whah? Huh?

But think about it – this book has everything. A world infected with a soul-crushing, fatal-to-the-known-way-of-life disease (slavery – and thanks to PJ for pointing that out)… a devastating war between good and evil – except that in the book the good IS the evil for the most part – and yet it still makes you sympathetic to the plight of the anti-heroes…. it shows the fall of a civilization and then the scratching and clawing to survive in a post-apocalyptic world… GONE WITH THE WIND is maybe one of the best examples of dystopia I know.

So I wonder, what other books are like this? Can you think of a non-spec fic book that does, in fact, follow our “rules” (or maybe not rules – but “patterns”) of world-building and story-telling?

What do you think?

KA Holt was supposed to write her post on Monday, but forgot (sorry!). Now, though, she’s glad her brain broke earlier in the week because this stuff is fun to think about.

4 Comments

Filed under K. A. Holt

4 responses to “Opposite Day!

  1. There’s a depressing case to be made that most of history is dystopian.

    There’s a similar argument to be made about aspects of the present:

    Laura Miller has a nice article in the New Yorker which asks, “What’s behind the boom in dystopian fiction for young readers?”

    She says, It’s not about persuading the reader to stop something terrible from happening—it’s about what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader. “The success of ‘Uglies,’ ” [Scott] Westerfeld once wrote in his blog, “is partly thanks to high school being a dystopia.”

    So there you have it: dystopias right in our own neighborhoods.

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/06/14/100614crat_atlarge_miller?currentPage=all#ixzz0qeliR6ij

  2. Really trying here, but it’s hard to come up with one that has all those elements that GWTW has. We have lots of slavery stories of the people being set free (Exodus), but the vivid imagery of the town of Atlanta burning really sticks in the mind.

  3. Parker Peevyhouse

    Still thinking about this one, but I think High School tops the list as the best example of a dystopia.

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