Dystopia: From the Greek for “bad place,” the opposite of a utopia. A dystopia is usually set at some point in the author’s future and describes a nightmarish society in which few would want to live. Writers presenting dystopias generally want to alert readers to the potential pitfalls and dangers of society’s present course or of a course society might conceivably take one day. Accounts of dystopias inevitably conclude by depicting unpleasant, disastrous, or otherwise terrifying consequences for the protagonists as well as for humanity as a whole.
EXAMPLES: George Orwell’s 1984, written in 1948, describes a totalitarian society in which a figure known as “Big Brother” is always watching and political party control is paramount—even, perhaps especially, over people’s thoughts. Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (2009—10) is a dystopian novel, set in a 1984 Tokyo parallel world, whose title alludes to Orwell’s 1984 and puns on the similar pronunciations of “Q” and “9” in Japanese. In The Handmaid’s Tale (1985; adapted to film 1990 and television 2017— ), Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood depicts women as having been stripped of their personal freedoms and slotted into male-controlled categories: wives, servants (Marthas), breeders (handmaids), and women who enforce the repression of their peers (Aunts). In Suzanne Collins’s adolescent fiction trilogy The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games ; Catching Fire ; Mockingjay ), which reached a multigenerational audience when adapted to film (2012—15), young people from the twelve impoverished, outlying districts of a nation known as Panem fight to the death for the amusement of the President and those who reside in the darkly decadent Capital.