Monday, January 2, 2012

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic

So, 2011 has come and gone, and we welcome in 2012 with hopes and dreams and the excitement of all the cool books coming out this year. The blogging world has been awash with these lists of "must-have" books of 2012, making me realize two things.

1. There are a LOT of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels coming out this year.

2. There are a LOT of people who think they are one and the same.


And, since I myself have a post-apocalyptic vampire novel coming out in 2012, I thought I would try to clear things up. Post-apocalyptic and dystopian are not the same. They are two different beasts; though they have similar qualities, it is wrong to lump them together. Here are my thoughts on why:


DYSTOPIAN

Dystopian has been the popular term of late, the catch-phrase for all novels that feature a futuristic society, a world-ending event, survivors fighting against horrific conditions, etc. However, a dystopian novel is about a SOCIETY where something has gone terribly wrong. Many times, the society's evil and corruption is portrayed as normal, as in the Hunger Games where Tribute Day was a day of celebration. Other times, the evil is hidden, though there are always hints just below the perfectly groomed facade. Dystopian is the opposite of Utopian, where society IS perfect and everyone is happy, except the utopian society almost always turns out to be dystopian, because a perfect society would make for a very boring book.

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic can be easily confused, because a dystopian society usually rises from the ashes of a post-apocalyptic event. However, a dystopian novel's focus is on the society, and everything wrong with it, rather then the event itself.

Examples of Dystopian novels: The Hunger Games, 1984, Matched, Uglies

























POST-APOCALYPTIC

A post-apocalyptic novel, on the other hand, is about a world-changing, cataclysmic event: floods, zombies, the super flu, earthquakes, solar flares, the moon falling out of alignment, etc. The event could have already happened, or is in the process of happening, but post-apocalyptic novels are about the survivors and how they deal with this new, deadly world. It could even have hints of dystopian in it, as new societies emerge from the remains of civilization. But a Post-apocalyptic novel is about the survivors, and everything they face after the world ends.

Examples of Post-apocalyptic novels: The Road, Life as we Knew it, The Stand, Ashes Ashes.


























Is it possible for a novel to be both? Yes, absolutely. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan comes to mind. Clearly, the world has fallen to the zombie apocalypse, but the novel is also about the village and the society surrounded by the forest. So there are crossovers. But I wanted to point out the differences between dystopian and post-apocalyptic, because they are not the same. So when you do get that book you've been dying to read, you'll know what to call it. ;)

Note that this is just one person's opinion on the matter. Feel free to discuss or argue the point in the comments, though please keep it clean. I am in no way an authority on all things dystopian/post-apocalyptic; this is just my understanding of the differences between them.

31 comments:

  1. Ooooh. Ok. I understand now. lol thanks for explaining!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very true! I'm glad you pointed this out; it's good for people to know not just the difference, but what they even mean-- it seems lots of people tend to label everything "dystopian," even if it's not!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I want to write a dystopian novel.. I love the idea of being completely without anything but organic materials and the Earth.. it's so awesome! Oh, and I love you Julie! :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Now I understand. Thanks Julie! :D

    ReplyDelete
  5. I actually knew the difference between the two, but I'm really glad you explained it anyway. I think it's a very excellent explanation of the differences of the two with good examples of both types. Then you go a step further and give examples of both in one book! Awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Enlightening... : )

    ReplyDelete
  7. THANK YOU. That's all, just thank you, Julie. I already knew the difference, but it drives me insane when people confuse the two.
    (Plus, I'm sick of dystopians, but I still love post-apocalyptic novels, even though I can't spell "apocalyptic." They have so much more variation than dystopians!)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for this post! I have noticed post-apocolyptic video games coming out as well.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks Julie, I always get these two confused and now I understand the difference. I appreciate the post and clarification. :D

    ReplyDelete
  10. I thought the Maze Runner trilogy had hints of both as well, with an emphasis on the post-apocalyptic aspects.

    Excellent post...it drives me crazy when people confuse the two as well!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sorry, my kindle went crazy and posted my comment twice.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 are also classic examples of dystopias. So is a lot of what Ayn Rand wrote. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy tries really hard to be utopian (so, of course, does Utopia), and Hawthorne wrote a really good (or, at least, a complex 19th century version) critique of utopianism in Blithedale Romance.

    I think that the dystopian novel is an older tradition. The post-apocalyptic novel is newer. The oldest one I can think of is The Time Machine.

    Sounds like a cool premise. Excited to read it, and thanks for clarifying your thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Lol. I never knew that thanks for telling! Oh and by the way I have actually read Uglies, the series is pretty good. But not even close to the Iron Fey series!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thx, i def get it now. I would always switch the 2. I was so off! :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. loved this, Julie ^-^ I get the difference now 100%. thank you :D

    ReplyDelete
  18. THANK YOU. This had been driving me nuts all throughout 2011! A friend pointed me toward this wonderful flowchart: http://www.embowman.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/IsItDystopia_flowchart.jpg which has never failed me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Would that "Ashes(my laptop s broen and won'type commas or the letter that comes after J n the alphabet or the vowel that doesn't appear here:a e o u Sorry!!!) Ashes happen to be by Jo Treggar(no vowel)

    Really sorry for the mess of a comment!!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great post! I have a post-apocalyptic (can never say that word!) that needs a home. Your explanation helps clarify.
    Cristal

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for the great post. I did not know they were different but glad to find out I'm a fan of both genres! :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hmmm...didn't society go terribly wrong in THE HUNGER GAMES after they tried to end the world with lots of bombs? Isn't it possible for some novels to be both?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hey, thanks for making the difference between the two clear. I was actually pretty confused by them until you explained. It helped a lot when I wanted to write a dystopian short story.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you so much for this explanation. I thought they are the same!! All right, tonight I had learn something new :D

    ReplyDelete
  25. thanks now i get the difference :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you for spelling it out so clearly. I am working on a Post-Apocalyptic series and I knew it wasn't the same as a Dystopian novel but I couldn't explain why. This helps!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Excellent comparison of the two! Also, your writing style is refreshing. That first semicolon just screamed "I know how to write properly!"

    ReplyDelete
  28. Now I get it. It's so easy to really get confused about the two genres. Thank you so much for clearing that out.

    ReplyDelete