Friday, July 26, 2013

Guestopia: Rosanne Rivers

Why is Dystopian Fiction Still So Popular?
by: Rosanne Rivers

Early last year, I had just finished writing After the Fear, and, excited to get it out into the world, I spoke to a few literary agents and industry insiders about how to get it published. Predominantly, I was told that ‘dystopian fiction is on its way out’ and that readers had read enough about tyrannical governments and high-stake scenarios. A year and a half later, Allegiant by Veronica Roth is one of the most highly anticipated YA releases, and dystopian fiction still continues to dominate the YA bestsellers on the Amazon Kindle lists, (four out of five of the YA and teen bestsellers are dystopian). I think it is safe to say that readers have proven some publishers wrong.

But what is it about dystopian fiction that we love so much? Why is it still proving popular, long after the initial buzz of The Hunger Games is over?

There are a few ways of approaching this quandary. Many critics have talked about why dystopian fiction might be appealing to teens and young adults (living within the confines of so many rules is supposed to mirror a teen’s life ruled by adults), however, many of the readers of YA dystopian fiction are adults themselves, and not all of them ‘young’! So I want to look at why dystopian is so popular right now. What is it about our society that is driving us to these books time after time?

One of my theories is that the general public have been becoming more interested in politics over the past ten years. Young adults and teens are beginning to see the cracks in their governments or leaders due to the economic crises and various scandals that have come to light in the recent years. Take the UK for example, during the last UK government election, many young adults voted for a certain party because they promised lower university fees for the future. When they came into power via a coalition government, the fees were actually tripled.

I’m not suggesting, of course, that the UK are under the rule of a tyrannical government, but moments like that demonstrate to the public that, while we may be in control of our votes, we are certainly not in control of what the government do once they come into power. That lack of control we feel is mirrored within dystopian fiction, where the situation is augmented.

I wonder whether the rise in popularity in dystopian fiction coincides with moments of political or social unrest. It would certainly seem so, looking at the graph in this brilliant blog post by Patrick Brown at Goodreads: ( The moments when dystopian fiction is the most popular are during World War II and during the Cold War, and again in 2010. It’s difficult, however, to distinguish whether this is a result of the social climate or due to the rise in popularity of one particular book. For example, 1984 by George Orwell was published in 1949, just before the spike in popularity of dystopian fiction in 1950. The success of this book could have propelled success of other books in the same genre, regardless of the times, much like The Hunger Games has undoubtedly enhanced the success of other books within the same genre since 2008.

Moira Young, author of Blood Red Road (an amazing book, by the by) seems to believe that the rise in dystopian fiction is due to anxious adults. She writes in an article for The Guardian, ‘Adults write books for teenagers. So anxious adults – worried about the planet, the degradation of civil society and the bitter inheritance we're leaving for the young – write dystopian books.’ She also writes, ‘Those of us who write for young people are reluctant to leave our readers without hope.’ I agree to an extent; anyone who writes a good dystopian book has looked at the world in which we’re living in right now, and wondered about where it could go in the future. But I believe the audience (teens, young adults and other adults) has created this market, not the authors themselves.

For teens and young adults, the future is uncertain, but exciting and full of possibility. Dystopian fiction could be seen to mirror that; anything is possible within these new societies, whether that’s a bad or good thing for the characters involved. There are endless possibilities, and like Moira Young states, there is always hope. Hope for the future is something that humans all have in common, no matter what age we are, where in the world we are living or what is going on in our society at that moment. Perhaps it is that hope that keeps dystopian fiction so popular.

Whatever the reason, I have no doubt that dystopian fiction will keep on proving popular. Like all genres which withstand the test of time, I’m sure it will mould and develop, collide with other genres and be given many different names (‘light sci-fi’ etc), but let’s face it, the themes highlighted within dystopian fiction are here to stay.


Rosanne Rivers

Rosanne lives in Birmingham, UK and considers it one of her favourite cities, second only to Rome. She delights in writing for children and young adults and hopes to bring readers to an unfamiliar yet alluring setting. Rosanne was inspired to write when she read the Harry Potter books, and at age fourteen, she wrote romance fanfiction on just about every pairing you could dream up from the HP series. She currently lives with her partner and two bunny rabbits and is working on a post-apocalyptic adventure book for middle grade readers.

After the Fear blurb
You have not attended a Demonstration this month.

In Sola’s city, everyone obeys the rules. Stay away from the trigger cameras and regularly update your Debtbook, and you just might survive. But having to watch the way criminals are dealt with—murdered by Demonstrators in the Stadium—is a law Sola tries to avoid. When a charming Demonstrator kisses her at a party, however, she’s thrust into the Stadium and forced into the very role she despises.

Armed with only natural resourcefulness and a caring nature, Sola narrowly survives her first bout. Her small success means she’s whisked off to a training camp, where she discovers a world beyond the trigger cameras and monitoring—a world where falling in love with a killer doesn’t seem so terrible.

Yet life as a Demonstrator has no peace. Sola must train her way through twenty-five more Demonstrations before she can return home to her father. At the end of each battle, only one survivor remains.

Sola could face anyone in the Stadium . . . even a loved one.
Buy this book
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