From the BBC Education website:
dystopia: (n) an imaginary place or condition in which everything is bad.
This definition from the Oxford English Dictionary would seem fitting in relation to the situations and societies often depicted in dystopian literature. When we think about the dystopian novel, what first comes to mind is often George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. First published in 1949, it was Orwell's final work. In it he prophesied the advent of a flawless totalitarian society, in which the individual is of literally no significance. However, as it happened, the year 1984 came and went and we did not find ourselves slaves to the Party...
The critic Bernard Richards once said 'dystopias are useful; they warn us about what might happen'. This seems fair enough; you can finish a copy of 1984 and breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that you don't live in the repressive state of Airstrip One in Oceania.
If we take this view, the dystopian novel is a comforter to the human psyche; we like to read about death and corruption, as long as we know that it can't happen to us. Or do we?
Mr. C's question:
Okay, so how realistic are dystopian novels/ short stories? Should we be worried? Please post a response.