a hard habit to break: dystopia, utopia, dark fantasy/sf and the in-between

I’m always writing dystopias and dark fantasy/sf.  Cherryn and her whole series (and spinoffs) are dark/dystopian.  Much of Kritter (though not all) is dark fantasy, even with little people and elves running around.  I even have one world where its stories take place after nuclear disaster, and one where its stories take place after volcanic devastation.  And then there’s the “Soul Garden” stuff, which is entirely dark and twisted, somber and freaky.  It ranges from dark fantasy to horror all the time.

I didn’t always write this way though; “Rubikia”, started when I was much younger, begins on a positive note.  Even though there are some horrible things that happen, it remains pretty positive compared to the later worlds.  It’s kind of the exception to the rule here. 

It’s easy to fall into dystopian writing.  You see it everywhere these days; if it isn’t the “Harry Potter” books getting darker as they progress onward, it’s the Scifi Network’s stream of disaster movies and “Ghost Hunters” reruns.  Yes, disaster stuff is big business.  But actually, Tolkien himself did it too, back in the 1960’s – “The Lord of the Rings” was muuuch darker than “The Hobbit”, even forgetting the memorable stuff in Mirkwood that used to make me freak out when I was a kid.  So disaster/dystopia/darkness in fantasy and sf aren’t so new, if you look at it objectively.  Hoeverr, the constantness of them IS a pretty contemporary idea.  I wonder why?  Is it maybe that humans are just more pessimistic these days?  I know when the London Olympics were talked about one of the very first things mentioned was terrorism.  I know people now almost automatically link New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina, even though hundreds of hurricanes have attacked that area in the past three hundred years and more, since the continents divided and people settled near there. 

I also know writing utopia, flat-out utopia, is difficult.  Oh, it’s easy to dream up a perfect world — everyone has their idea of what that would be, from big to small.  But maintaining said world AS a utopia is hard.  How do you make it interesting?  How do you not fall into “well, it’s perfect there, but…”  “A Brave New World” ended like that.  “Logan’s Run” did too.  There’s always somebody who wants out, for whom that world ISN’T so nice after all.  How do you not do that, I wonder?  Not even Gene Roddenberry could do it, though in fairness the Earth of “Star Trek” does still have some flaws like the occasional crime and so on.  I guess you could call his world “semi-utopia”. 

I started a semi-utopian world myself yesterday.  (Leave it to me to think up one when sick).  It takes place in futuristic America — not Cherryn’s future of this Earth.  So far there’s no chinks in the armor, but I’ve only just started.  I want to try it at least, and see where it goes.  I think natural disasters will be hardest to figure my way around, and I wonder if I even need to do so.  There might be some way to work that in… So goes my utopia.  Have you writers out there ever tried it?  What worked and what didn’t for you? 

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One Response to a hard habit to break: dystopia, utopia, dark fantasy/sf and the in-between

  1. jbw0123 says:

    I think you’re right about people being more pessimistic these day. There is not only a lot of dystopia, but also a lot of post-apocalytic fiction. It might have something to do with many people facing a sudden change in circumstances after that 2008 crash, thinking about what really matters in life if everything is taken away.

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