Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dystopian vs. Post-Apocalyptic

2012 is upon us, so I felt this was a perfect time to talk about: 

Dystopian novels are all the new rage in young adult literature and I am loving it.  The Giver (1993) by Lois Lowry has been my favorite book since I was 12, so I've loved the genre for a while.  Then came along Haddix's Shadow Children series (1998), Westerfeld's Uglies series (2005) and finally Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008).  After Hunger Games, the popularity of dystopian young adult literature sky rocketed.  Thus started a wonderful trend of fabulous dystopian books.  Soon, though, I started to realize that post-apocalyptic novels were being lumped with dystopian novels.  The two types of books are similar because they are both subgenres of science fiction, but there is a difference!!  I see a confusion between the two on "Best of..." lists, Goodreads, Twitter, etc. so I wanted to help clear up the
difference between the two.

Definition: Dystopian
Dystopian is the opposite of utopia.  Dystopian stories normally take place in a society that has pulled themselves back together after a disaster or epidemic and now has a controlling government where the citizens are repressed. Often the citizens have come to terms with the society that they have lived in, but looking in we can see the oppression which is being handed to them.  Most likely the protagonist of these novels are going to realized the injustice and try to fight the government in some way.

Two interesting blog posts that also talk about the definition and aspects of dystopian:
Defining Dystopia at Dystopian Divas and YA Common Cliches: Dystopian at Maybe Genius
And a fun flow chart to determine if you live in a dystopia here.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger G...
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins where the Capital controls the different districts forcing each district to send two children each year to a fight to the death that is televised for all to see. 

Definition: Post-Apocalyptic
Post-apocalyptic stories take place after a disaster that has devastated the world or region the character lives in.  The character has survived the catastrophe, but other humans did not. The protagonists focus is primarily survival. 

Life as We Knew It (Last Survi...
Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer which closely revolves around Miranda and her family (mother and 2 brothers) after a meteor hits the moon, moving it off course causing a string of worldwide disasters including tsunamis, loss of electricity and floods.  The family's main focus is survival and making it through the devastation that was caused by the disaster.

Cross Overs
There are novels that cross over between the two and have a mixture of elements from both genres primarily because most dystopian novels take place in a world after a disaster of sorts
(sometimes an apocalyptic disaster).  

Ashfall (Ashfall, #1)
Ashfall by Mike Mullin is primarily post-apocalyptic, taking place after the Yellowstone volcano erupts devastating most of the United States.  However, the book has dystopian elements when Alex ends up at a FEMA camp that is corrupt.  

Enclave (Razorland, #1)
 Another is Enclave by Ann Aguirre which begins as dystopian because Deuce lives in an underground world where orders are given out and citizens are often banished (leaving them to the dangers of zombie-like creatures in the maze of tunnels).  Then later in the book the characters are faced with surviving in the ruins of a devastated NYC thus being more post-apocalyptic. 

In Closing
Though not everyone agrees with my definitions (sometimes dystopian is defined as the exact opposite of utopian which means that post-apocalyptic and any other disaster-type book would fit into the genre), but overall the definitions above are pretty well received.  I hope that I have helped clear up any confusion.  

To help celebrate these genres, I am not only going to participate in a 2012 Dystopia Reading Challenge (see 2012 Challenges), but we here at Teach Mentor Texts are also going to host a mini-feature for the next 10 weeks where we will have guest bloggers post about their favorite dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels as well as their outlook on the genre.  We will also have some surprise authors who are going to guest post and share their books with us!  Exciting!

See you next week for more dystopic and apocalyptic conversations, 

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