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Some thoughts on Harry Potter as a dystopia.
fractalresilience replied to your postFive dystopias you find particularly interesting...

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.
  • Azkaban,
  • 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.

—  Paolo Bacigalupi, Straight-Laced Dystopias

therehastobetexthere asked:

Im writing a story set in a dystopia, and i'm wondering if you would have any tips on how one would brainwash a society to total submission? Also im totally not an evil dictator.

The most effective dictator is NOT a scenery-chewing evil overlord, and the most effective brainwashing is gradual and subtle. Just a little evil and a lot of fear are all that seems to be required. Like the old story of the frog in the pot on the stove. Plunge him right into boiling water, and he’ll jump out. But sit him in nice, comfy water and gradually turn up the heat and soon enough, he’s cooked. 

Brainwashing is also called “thought reform,” which to me is a far scarier term, reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. While there’s some discussion about whether brainwashing an individual requires torture, it generally requires an atmosphere of genuine fear. The political animal in me wants to whisper, if you are living in the United States, “just look around you,” and you’ll see signs of worrisome, major cultural changes, but I do realize many of our followers might not be old enough to remember much about the world before 9/11. In the interests of keeping this about writing, I won’t provide any links, but there’s plenty of intelligent journalism out there on this subject that a bit of googling should reveal. 

As for modes of transmission, we seem to have already developed a quite effective one. Though I would also add the echo-chamber-disinformation-station that is the Internet, too. 

I think a really effective dystopian leader might be one who doesn’t even realize s/he is leading people down the path toward totalitarianism. Evil is boring. Ignorant is what’s scary. 

I think when white guys think of affirmative action and equal hiring, they think that means “hiring incompetent people.” They imagine these offices filled with people of color who don’t know what a spreadsheet is, women staring blankly at computers and tentatively batting at the keyboard, gay people smearing paint on the walls with both hands

Companies lose millions of dollars due to hiring basically human cats. Cities grind to a halt. The International Space Station plunges into the sea. WE’VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE WE SHOULD HAVE HIRED A WHITE MAN

With all these posts going around explaining why this or that ostensibly happy, positive setting - typically one from children’s media - is actually a horrific dystopia under the surface, I’m half-tempted to flip the script and start explaining why horrific dystopian settings are actually sunshine and rainbows and everything we see in the source material is just a huge misunderstanding.

What to Avoid in Dystopian Fiction

Anonymous said: So I’m writing in a dystopian future, are there any clichés which I should avoid?

I love dystopian literature. Here are just some things I don’t love. This is my opinion, you may disagree, that’s cool too.

Also: you don’t necessarily have to even avoid these things- just make them work in a way that makes sense.

  • This awkward teenager who can barely complete a simple task must single-handedly control an entire revolution and overthrow an extremely powerful government.
  • The protagonist appears to be nothing special but for some reason the world is in dire need of them
  • Unrealistic endings: the main character has been tortured four times, lost everyone they’ve ever loved, had their home destroyed, and never even finished high school… but their life is complete and full of laughter and happiness since the evil regime has fallen.
  • The government is the main part of what is wrong with society/the main conflict
  • Having no reason for the motives of characters/evil governments, or the reason just being that they were seeking power/control
  • The 1%
  • Revolution of oppressed vs. the government
  • Love triangles

Can these things all work? Yes. Should you take extra caution when trying to make them work? Yes.

dwbnerd-deactivated20150529 asked:

I was looking through the Harry potter tag and I saw your theory as to why Harry potter is a dystopia. I must say it is quite interesting. One thing that I did notice is that you pointed out the "house elf slavery" I do remember in the books how the house elves like cleaning. They didn't want payment or freedom. They found pleasure in there work. Creature didn't like Sirius he felt he was betraying his old master. Most elves did like cleaning and working. But the rest of your ideas were great!!!

(Here’s the original post about HP as a dystopia.)

The whole point of Dobby as a character is to prove that while house elves may enjoy housework and servitude (which in itself is somewhat debatable, since they are raised FROM BIRTH to be completely subservient to humans, and be ashamed of owning possessions), they don’t intrinsically “want to be slaves.” Or at least, not all of them do. We know from Kreacher, Dobby and Winky that house elves have a very diverse range of personalities and goals.

The current situation in the wizarding world is that humans can get away with beating, maiming, and probably killing their house elves. Over the centuries, wizarding culture has targeted a vulnerable species of people who like to be helpful and given instructions, and exploited this for human profit while turning those servants into an invisible underclass.

Even if you take house elf culture at face value and assume that every single one of them wants to serve humankind for no pay (which they evidently don’t, because: Dobby), then the wizarding world’s attitude towards them is still completely heinous and feeds into the idea of the HP books as a dystopia. A house elf’s life and work is completely dependent on their masters, which inevitably results in abuse. There is a big different between “wanting to be a servant” and being a slave who can be horribly injured at a moment’s notice, and has been brainwashed into thinking this is their only option in life.

People who grew up in the wizarding world think this is perfectly normal (much like the prejudice against werewolves and part-humans), which is why it takes Hermione, a muggleborn outsider, to confront the inherent abusiveness of how house elves are treated.