The Reality Behind Dystopian Futures 1/7/17
with Sarah Govett (@SarahGovett) and EJ Swift, (@Catamaroon)
I am always attracted to a good upbeat title.
I also enjoy being able to listen to authors engaged in creating new worlds. Both authors at this particular festival event did not set out to create novels in the dystopian genre but they were both relaxed about having trilogies that fitted comfortably in that sector.
Both authors have created worlds where the rising sea water caused by global warming causes mayhem. They use this watery world as a back drop in which to discuss their topic of choice, for Sarah Govett this is the distorting effect of a corrupt education system and for EJ Swift it is concerns about immigration.
Nuclear vs climate dystopia
Novels that fit into this genre are set in futuristic worlds where life is unrecognisable from what it is today. In the past the devastating action came from nuclear war or contamination, where the most modern of weapons has wreaked havoc on its creators.
This invisible death and destruction has been replaced by something less other worldly and more natural. In later novels it is nature itself that has decided to take its revenge.
In the new dystopian worlds the cataclysmic event that changes the course of history is often a result of climate change and this theme is consistently repeated across emerging YA works.
In these new worlds the collapse of our societies existing norms mirrors environmental disaster. This radical change of physical world often requires societies within them to make ever more extreme decisions to survive.
Does the dystopian novel have an obligation to change views, to encourage positive change?
There was also a fascinating discussion about Weber’s concept of the ‘finite pool of worry’; which I have to confess of being ignorant of, prior to this session. This can be defined as the suggestion that there is a limited capacity for the kind of worry that motivates action. This means that if there is an increase in concern in one area then worry is subsequently reduced in another. This means that the sheer scale of the number of things to worry us can create a sort of torpor, where we are actually frozen into inaction.
And sometimes the stuff closer to us, our exams results, our lack of friends or inability to get a date, are far more important than the distant worries about climate change. This overwhelming sense of our own lack of ability to enforce change can cause fatalism.
Weber explained that there are two systems working together and opposing each other; the analytical and the affective. The positive message from Weber was that the affective system – the system that is based on emotion, is dominant. If all the stats and graphs in the world (analytical system) fail to make individuals change their behaviour then maybe a good story that scares you more than just a little, could be just the thing we need.
So the good news is that it’s even more important to have some good old fashioned dystopian worlds that affect us on an almost visceral level. Maybe that’s exactly what we need to ensure that the world in these novels never actually come any closer than a book.