Essays can be doubleplus good.

Just to explain: a concept on Maple Ink is to essentially write continuations of classic dystopian works; Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, etc. We’re not limited to continuing with those characters, some are writing new stories with a dystopic element.

Now, the main twist is that we’re writing all of these characters in the same locale, in the same year; the real 1985. Regan, cold war-isms, the whole thing. And it’s going to be in a factory (we’re still deciding which one.) Is 1985 when real dystopia began? Wait and see…

The Parables of Grim
how a twisted mirror might show what needs to be seen

My dictionary defines dystopia as, ‘an imaginary place that is depressingly wretched.’ That’s pretty broad. What I latched on to was ‘imaginary.’ Most other definitions follow that same idea, calling these fictional places parables for contemporary or immanent events.

Parable. Imaginary. Not Real, basically. The ziggurat pyramids of Blade Runner, the ubiquitous face of 1984’s Big Brother, or the medicated society of Brave New World, these flavours of society or environment, are tools of the narrative, practically characters themselves. It’s hard to think of an environment as active, but these dystopias have an important (often plot-affecting) change on the characters.

Some dystopic stories veer away from the parable aspect, not trying to do anything but thrill the audience with horrors, a monster movie with the entire setting standing in for the beast in the dark. That alone might explain the fascination of dystopic-cool, a romanticization of an oppressive environment not our own, visible in fashion, art, even personality. Happy that we don’t live in such a world, we show that happiness by imitating such a life.

The oppression of today is much more distant, invisible. Harder to pin down than Orwell’s oppressive Big Brother images and ‘War is Peace!’ newspeak slogans. The flavours of today’s oppression are so subtle that you don’t realize just how far it goes. Even forms of counter-culture rebellion have become accepted expressions of rebellion, and are now simply a release valve instead of avenues of change. The environment is invisible, and it’s monstrosity wears a mask.

Dystopia is for me what it’s definition calls it; a lens to view the world, mostly concepts taken to a cynical conclusion. It is also an inherently dramatic environment for stories, since putting characters under pressure gives extra spice to each of their choices, each of the relations. Above all, it is a not-real playground, but I can still say something with an ounce of relevancy. It’s more obvious monstrosity brings into focus issues that we may not often question, often with the basic reaction to most stories. ‘what would I do in that situation?’

As for the 1985 project, the concept of setting it in the actual 1985, as we know it now in 2007, means that for me, I can start to look at how today’s particular flavour of oppression became so insidiously vanilla.


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