I read a lot of dystopian novels last year. Everything from Wool to Station Eleven to The Girl with All the Gifts. I also read the popular Hunger Games and Divergent series. I even reread Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Though Station Eleven is more about the point at which society unravels, all of the rest of the stories begin in some alternate universe set in the future after everything has fallen apart.
The world as we know it – with all of its smart technology, and internets, and social media– has ended due to some catastrophic event and now everyone has to live in a silo, or in districts where they nominate tributes each year, or in one of five factions. Either way, the world is in disarray and there now exists in this alternate universe an immediate problem that must be solved.
Except none of the (teenage girl) protagonists know (at least not fully) the origin story of this world that they now inhabit. In fact, there’s a general confusion among the entire population about how the world came to be.
The hard drives were erased. Books were burned. Crucial information has been omitted. Mistakes were made…
Always passive tense; the names of those who caused The Fall lost to history.
The teenagers can’t fix the immediate problem because they have no understanding of how it (their particular problem) began. And so you read either one novel or a trilogy about a bunch of protagonists who go about fixing their world by figuring out their Origin Story.
America in 2016 has all the makings of a good dystopian novel: there’s stratification of citizens by race, rampant oppression, the 1% who have has much wealth as the bottom half of the citizenry combined, presidential candidates openly advocating for blanket discrimination of Muslims, citizens marching in the streets for their rights, people being extrajudicially murdered.. The only thing missing -depending on the book — is the zombies.
And of course, above all, there’s the cloud of confusion that shrouds most of the country.
How did we get here? What happened? I don’t understand how Trump is a candidate –who is voting for him? Why is Black Lives Matter is a thing? Shouldn’t it be #AllLivesMatter? Why is everyone so angry all the time?
Our history is known, but everyone seems fuzzy on the details:
oceans were crossed, lands were discovered, the Natives were dispersed, the constitution was created, people were enslaved, the King was cotton wars were fought, bad things were done, better things happened, Europe was saved, the almighty dollar was raised, Sept 11 happened, more wars were fought, Barack Obama was elected…
There’s that passive tense again. Things were done by persons unknown and, well, here we are.
But like every dystopian novel ever created, in order to figure out where we are, we’ll have to go in depth to learn our own Origin Story. We’ll have to figure out how our world came to be.
Let me tell you a story….