Dystopia Appeal


Right now, I’m writing a dystopian romance.  It’s painful.  I don’t like reading the dystopian genre all that much.  I got a lot out of reading The Handmaid’s Tale and Day of the Triffids, but I have absolutely no desire to return to them.  Sorry.

Right now, every author and their mother probably feels inclined to write a dystopian story.  You know, what with the worryingly polarized state of the world, threats of nuclear war, the environment being screwed and all.  Things have happened so fast and I don’t think everybody can keep up.  There is so much to be angry about.

Everyone wants to go back to the past, to when times were simpler, the kids were younger, they were younger.   The future….frankly doesn’t seem bright.  Turns out politicians really are quite corrupt.  And big business people kind of only care about money.  Wow.  Whodathunkit.

So, why I am forcing myself to sit and write dystopian I don’t know.  But I have to.  It’s rather odd as I am a firm believer in “write what you would fancy reading”.  So, this is more of a challenge, because for me to want to read dystopian I have to think of things that could make it appealing.

I don’t want to talk about the story itself too much as despite how pretentious this sounds, my idea is good and I don’t want any vultures taking it.  As a writer, I have moments of being completely up my own backside and moments of soul crushing reality where I accept how common and  not special my ability is.   Anyway….

Like everybody else, I can’t STAND the news.  We all have different reasons for not being able to stand it, but…one way or another, we can’t stand it.  It’s utterly depressing.

So, writing about a “fictional”, polarized, post-catastrophe, “future” is about as appealing to me as swimming in toxic waste.  So, how to make bathing in discolored, mutation causing liquid sound okay?  Hmmm.

Anyway, it’s a challenge.  As I said, I’m pretty sure everyone could come up with at least a premise for a dystopian story these days.   I question my ability to cope with this challenge…but then I see the alternative.

Do I wanna try and go pure romance, maybe head for the cheeky side of things and conjure up a “hunky” billionaire , or a country boy with an endearing southern accent and a “heart of gold” who falls for a likeable-strong-yet-vulnerable woman?   I’ve gotta be honest, those stereotypes have been ruined for me.

Those fellows like Eastern European women who are at least fifteen years younger than them or sixteen year old girls at the local mall.

Or, maybe a hugely successful film producer who is desperately in love with a young actress yet can’t bring himself to break protocol and declare his affection….oh….oh wait no, that won’t work either.  Ewww…

Or I could push the boat out and write a story about a gifted actor, conflicted about his bisexuality and finding himself attracted to a certain co-worker and doesn’t know how to express the growing tenderness between them….oh….oh no.

I mean, from time to time I enjoy escapist romance novels with a dark side but all those aforementioned aren’t sexy, risqué dark sides.  Those are creepy and sad sides.  Let’s face it, in real life ultra rich (and hence, usually white), people are viciously protective of their money and power, and too many “heart of gold” sweetheart types are homophobic religious zealots.  And, shock/horror….Hollywood does have serious issues with immorality, narcissism, power abuse and some messed up gender dynamics.

So, dystopian it is then…with a bit of romance.  But no “hunky” billionaires,  good ol’ country boys or Hollywood dudes get the position…eh hem.

I have a theory that excessively reading romance novels keeps women and girls down.  Reading them gives me this high and this distant admiration of the sorts of relationships that frankly…don’t exist.  Yet we still hold up high, the rich business man, the cowboy, the aristocrat, the Hollywood “heart throb”.  Long as within our lonely, wine soaked, (you realize, I include myself here), minds we believe these “fictional” characters are always noble and attractive, the real life versions of them can behave how they like.  We forgive them.

Real relationships are hard.  They do involve a lot of compromise, and a lot of flawed characteristics that need to be dealt with both within ourselves and within our partner.  Apart from your average lady or gentleman occasionally behaving like an idiot, nobody’s hair smells like apples all the time.  And men’s jaws don’t clench as they brood over some amazing-money-making–yet-helping-those-less-fortunate-decision whilst oozing a fragrance of sandalwood and organic homemade soap.

Perhaps that’s it…real romance requires dressing up, because reality does.  So does dystopia.  I only pray that fictional dystopia isn’t a pleasing reflection of the actual horrors that lurk in our real mortal future.

Dystopia isn’t fun to begin with.  It has to have some far-fetched, silly elements that make it a bit atmospheric, enticing and well yeah, sexy…without being sexist or violating or erotic in a way that would make family members uncomfortable.  Okay.  It still has to have a message, without any preaching or self-righteous rants that interrupt any decent story.  Sure.

Therein lies the challenge of dystopia appeal.  Let’s keep the worst bits fictional people.

I bid you good day.

By jmnauthor3000