Dystopian Fiction and its appeal...Why is it popular amongst young readers?
This article caught my attention.
"What’s behind the surge of dystopian novels in the Young Adult department? In other words, why are nightmarish, futuristic alternate-realities suddenly sexy?" Lauren Sarner asks in her 2013 article linked above.
In my opinion, the surge and popularity of dystopian fiction is closely related to the sense of powerlessness many younger folks have as they watch their elders make decisions that will affect their daily lives for many years to come with little to no regard for their, or anyone else's future. We have become a society intent on making the most profit--capitalizing on any given situation for the immediate gain-- with no regard to how our decisions may cause those "butterfly-effect changes" further down the road.
I believe our young people see this trend as evidence of our self-destructive behavior and see no real future. Our youth cannot see a grand vision of what humanity might become if we could look beyond our petty differences, like Gene Roddenberry postulated with Star Trek, because they see us mired in our own small agendas. They observe us, as a civilization, consumed by fears of people who look different than 'us,' who believe differently than 'us,' or who are not from 'our' little corner of the small rock we live on and they realize that we, as a species, are not ready to move beyond our little rock. If we aren't ready to accept, cherish, and learn from the many and varied cultures on our own planet, how could we possibly be ready to accept a totally alien species and the inevitable differences in their appearance, culture, and beliefs.
We have been a people, a species even, of explorers from the beginning of our existence. Growth and change does not come easy, nor cheap, but throughout history we have invested our time, our monies, and our lives in efforts to explore the world around us. We have some of the greatest mysteries in the universe before us, and the capabilities to reach out and study those mysteries, but we continue to dangle our toes into the ocean, afraid to even wade out ankle deep into the vast mysteries of space because it's too expensive, and people might lose their lives in the pursuit of knowledge. We allow our fear to control our destiny as a species, just as we allow it to control our personal lives. Our youth see this as weakness, whether consciously or not, and since there is no clear path forward into the heights of what humanity could become, our love of fiction--our escape from reality--will tend to point us in the direction we are already headed.
Let us not forget that fiction like Star Trek was of a different time, a completely different era. We, the United States, were a growing and prosperous nation, a nation reaching for the stars. Star Trek was produced in 1966 as the nation was preparing for the eventual Apollo Moon Landing on July 20, 1969. We could see humanity's path forward at that time, and our fiction reflected that path. Today we struggle with even maintaining our infrastructure here on Earth, much less building an infrastructure in the heavens above.
Do we want to be hopeful? Sure.. but our path, is headed toward those dystopian futures currently, and our young people foresee those dystopian outcomes within their lifetimes. Let us embrace the change, embolden ourselves, and reach toward the stars once again with renewed wonder. Let us give our young people hope that we, as a species, are not doomed to relive our mistakes, mistakes like endless wars, the profiteering of mega-corporations, (along with their aristocratic owners) and the incessant corruption of the political machine. Give us something to believe in... (as the song says)