Shattered worlds, oppressive or brutal civilizations, these occupy the dystopian crystal ball of many science fiction tales. Often these fantasies offer an intriguing plot with an underlying message. V for Vendetta warns of a government with too much power and a people controlled by fear.
What’s the allure? We all see small oppressions and miniature tyrannies in our daily lives. Like most fiction, these examples seep into a writer’s mind where the imagination finds fertile soil within which to grow a monstrous, deformed clone. In it we watch and wait to see how twisted things will get before someone steps up and defies the powerful oppressor. Beat down, driven to exhaustion, or lorded over with fear; our heroes come to a crossroads and must choose whether to surrender something sacred or combat impossible odds. And when that hero strikes a chord with his neighbor, when his revolution fills with ranks of strangers ready to follow him into the lion’s den; we cheer and exult the person we hope to be should the world take a turn for the darker.
Another favorite of mine, Logan’s Run, approaches its story with a different angle. During Logan’s undercover assignment he learns the ugly truth about a utopia he’s sworn to defend. His perfect world has come at a price no one is allowed to know. The plot is further darkened when Logan discovers a world beyond his own that nullifies the necessity for the sacrifices his people make.
For my works, I consider an aspect of life and twist it into something painful. Dystopian worlds often claim noble goals or feed on the populous’ fear to secure the reins of power. In Adventures Above the Aether, the civilization on Kathal grew from a world which held women with no regard. With no rights and no voice, their sexual revolution boiled into an all-out war. The Et’ee, on the other hand, neglected their role as stewards of their planet. Rampant pollution and biological engineering brought their world down around them. And like many civilizations, their overreaction threatened to kill their only chance for survival.
We live a larger life through these rebels. We see the little guy stand up against the bully. We hope to rise to such a challenge should circumstance descend into the abyss. But I contend that these mental exercises challenge us to see the small tyrannies and take a stand. It won’t mean the freedom of a nation. No one will sing of the sacrifice we made. But by inches and minutes, together, we might push back against the tide of corruption, villainy, and power-hungry despots.