Time was I would see a word like “dystopia” look it up, move on and I wouldn’t see the word again for years. This week, I have read the word in almost every media format from newspapers to magazine, online listings, movie and book reviews and tweets. Is the universe giving me a clue? Is dystopia the new black? Or is my usual fare of historical murder mysteries not dystopian, by definition?
It started with a review of The Hunger Games. Then the Smithsonian magazine. Finally, The New York Times Book Review listings for Print/Children’s Best Sellers under Paperback Books and Series the number one book reviews for both categories contained the word dystopia:
“Divergent, by Veronica Rogh … A teenager must prove her mettle in a dystopia split …”
“The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins … In a dystopia, a girl fights”
Egads! Am I a fatalist?
It is interesting that both utopia and dystopia are frequently incorporated into the science fiction genre, i.e., it is not real, people! However, it may be even more interesting that dystopia is also a medical condition where there is a “malposition of an anatomical part” according to Merriam-Webster. But the Smithsonian used the word as if it is a future state of being as in “[l]ately our future seems to have grown more dystopian, worst-case scenarios waiting for us at every turn.” (BTW, I would highly recommend reading this issue. There are articles about or by Richard Clarke, E.O. Wilson, Bruce Sterling, the Futurist art and transhumanist movements, Arthur Radebaugh, and Neal Stephenson, not to mention Casanova, proms, giant snakes, and Libyan women.)
So as I wade more deeply into the steampunk genre, should I wear a life jacket?