As many of you know, I’m a novice author who has published multiple books and is currently writing even more which will be published. (Shameless self-promote: x).
So earlier this year, I pitched a story and many people seemed to like it. A huge war had destroyed most of civilization and a small utopia was built after the fact. About a hundred years later, this utopia runs on the “survival of the fittest” mentality (which was going to be the name of the book) wherein only the strongest ones get supplies. Because of this, the mayor has ordered all of the disabled are killed. A teenager with a missing leg subsequently rescues a ton of children with disabilities and they live out in the woods, trying to avoid being hunted down. The son of the mayor, who originally was one of the people hunting them, gets hurt and joins the group. He and the leader fall in love, the leader has a younger brother, there’s a good story, good characters, etc.
And I adamantly refuse to finish it.
I can’t. I can’t write a story where a society wants disabled people to be killed under the guise of “survival of the fittest”. Especially since I’m living in one. (The scarcely talked about mass stabbing in Japan was what turned me off of this book.) I can’t romanticize that concept. I can’t normalize that concept.
Which brings me to the main point of this post:
Can we please stop with the dystopian survival of the fittest books?
I blame The Hunger Games. I never read the series but I know that it’s basically about just that right? A bunch of kids have to compete survival-of-the-fittest style to see who gets to stay alive. And ever since then, dozens and dozens of rip offs have come out where it’s exactly the same thing.
Why the hell are adult authors so obsessed with writing about kids who are being killed because of an unfavorable trait? It’s disgusting. I feel disgusted with myself for getting as far as I did with my book before having the, “Wait wtf” moment.
I’m sure Survival of the Fittest would have been a great story. I’m sure a lot of these dystopian fight-to-survive stories are great stories. But the genre itself has such horrific implications and too many parallels to our real world that hit close to him that it’s sickening.
We need to move away from this.
If you really want to write that dystopian novel, write something akin to The Giver or Fahrenheit 451 where everyone is allowed in the society so long as they all follow the rules. (Although The Giver’s pretty sketchy because as much as I love the book, the author wrote sequels where, coincidentally, the disabled were killed.)
TL;DR: YOU SHOULD NOT KILL OFF MINORITY/WEAK CHARACTERS IN YOUR DYSTOPIAN NOVELS AS A WAY TO SHOW THE LACK OF CONFORMITY AND WE NEED TO MOVE AWAY FROM THE BOOKS THAT DO JUST THAT BECAUSE THEY’RE DISGUSTING.
(By the way, even though I didn’t finish and won’t publish this book, it’s still copyrighted so none of you are allowed to steal it.)
We’ve been hard at work this semester on our musical Dystopical!
It’s a musical parody of YA dystopian novels like Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent. We hit the stage on December 8th and hope to have a youtube video up of the performance!
💥 College is hard enough without the world ending! What would YOU do if you woke up and found out everything you know is outlawed? If you lived in a Dystopia, would you be the Stereotypical Heroine destined to find love? Her nerdy and a-little-bit-too-clincy Nice-Guy friend? The distant and handsome Brooding Heartthrob, or the bad-ass Rebellious Girl? Join Kat, Peter, Trish, and Gil as they fight their way against the notorious “Center” and their plan to outlaw all forms of art; all the while learning that maybe embracing our differences is the key to success. 💥
Interesting, why do you consider harry potter is a dystopia?
I find it impossible to think of Harry Potter as anything BUT a dystopia. Even Hogwarts itself is a dystopia.
Children are segregated based on a personality test at age 11, and then left to fulfill roles that were set out a thousand years ago, leading to cultural divides that continue for the rest of their lives. The Hogwarts house system is one of the main foundations of the pureblood/muggleborn conflict. And I haven’t even gotten into how Hogwarts is run, how useful it is as a tool for preparing people for adult life, and how dangerous it is to live there.
As for Wizarding Britain at large:
There’s no evidence that the Ministry of Magic is organized by anything other than cronyism.
The Minister for Magic is not a democratically elected leader.
Voldemort easily finds a foothold in mainstream society (even within living memory of his last reign of terror!) and his supporters easily infiltrate the government and implement all sorts of nightmarish and bigoted policies.
We rarely see people working to innovate any aspect of wizarding society, with the exception of eccentrics like the Weasley Twins or Luna Lovegood.
Wizarding society is so isolated that purebloods find it strange if a witch or wizard takes much interest in muggle culture, even if they are muggleborn.
Umbridge is allowed to torture children and spread propaganda at the only major educational institution in the country.
There’s a huge amount of discrimination relating to non-human races, particularly House Elf slavery.
I could go on at some length on this topic, but instead I’ll finish with my pet theory: that Wizarding Britain is so fucked up that the rest of the wizarding world has just given up on it.
We know from the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament that there are plenty of magical cultures all over the world, but Britain receives NO kind of international help when Voldemort is on the rise or when the Ministry of Magic is in turmoil.
Obviously the “real” explanation is that the Voldemort/Harry/Hogwarts narrative must to be isolated for Harry’s story to be told… but I still quite like the explanation that Wizarding Britain has been abandoned by the rest of the world. Their society has become so warped, so backward and so beholden to irrational beliefs and traditions that other international wizarding powers have decided the situation is unsalvageable.
There’s no point in stepping in to get rid of Voldemort unless he becomes a threat overseas, because another Dark Lord will probably rise up in a few years anyway. And Wizarding Britain seems functionally incapable of defending itself from this threat without the help of Harry and his team of teen sidekicks – who by the end of the series are all suffering from PTSD because they have spent their formative years fighting in a dystopian war.
(P.S. Even if my pet theory ISN’T true, then the international wizarding community must still have SOME reason not to step in and help Britain fight back against Voldemort. Which, in itself, makes the world of Harry Potter seem even more dystopian than before.)
The more I write stories for young people, and the more young readers I meet, the more I’m struck by how much kids long to see themselves in stories. To see their identities and perspectives—their avatars—on the page. Not as issues to be addressed or as icons for social commentary, but simply as people who get to do cool things in amazing worlds. Yes, all the ‘issue’ books are great and have a place in literature, but it’s a different and wildly joyous gift to find yourself on the pages of an entertainment, experiencing the thrills and chills of a world more adventurous than our own.
And when you see that as a writer, you quickly realize that you don’t want to be the jerk who says to a young reader, 'Sorry, kid. You don’t get to exist in this story; you’re too different.’ You don’t want to be part of our present dystopia that tells kids that if they just stopped being who they are they could have a story written about them, too. That’s the role of the bad guy in the dystopian stories, right? Given a choice, I’d rather be the storyteller who says every kid can have a chance to star.
That [election night] show was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. You couldn’t cut to commercial either. We had a bunch of made-up commercials, but none of them were appropriate once we knew we were playing to an audience of the condemned. My audience was sobbing openly. Who can make jokes to a sobbing audience?
…I’m all for giving him a chance, but don’t give him an inch. Because I believed everything he said, and I remember everything he said, and it’s horrifying. The job changes a man, that’s the cliche of the presidency, but every president tries to achieve what they promised. And you might say there are levers of power in Washington that could possibly slow him down, but two things: One is, they’re cowards. Second is, they tried to stop Trump. Everyone tried to stop Trump. Do not delude yourself. Everyone except the people he’s going to appoint tried to stop him, and they didn’t. He owes them nothing. That’s what scares me. He owes the checks and balances of Washington nothing, because they tried to stop him and they couldn’t. And he’s a vindictive person. So, it’s all going to be fine. Merry Christmas.