Thursday, April 04, 2013

So ... Has Dystoptia Peaked in the YA Market?

Dystopia is still on the shelves at my local bookstore - I would bet there's a whack of YA dystoptian books at your local shop, too.  So are post-apocalypse books - I know, I just finished revisions on a project for my agent and we're about to start submitting to publishers. So really, I suspect that literary agencies and publishers are still swimming in the stuff after the massive success of The Hunger Games.

Is this just publishers trying to cash in on a trend after some authors hit it big or is there more to it than that? I think that in order to answer the question we have to try and look at the world through the eyes of your average run of the mill teenager and I can't do that because I'm what the average run of the mill teenager would  classify as old. (Cough ... I'm 45)  But I do remember what I was reading when I was a teen (which was, like, more than thirty years ago). Stephen King's THE STAND. It is and will always remain the GOLD standard when it comes to post apocalyptic fiction. I read it when I was in grade ten so that's like 1982 or something. I've read it numerous times since and it's the book that inspired me to write my own version of hell on earth.

So ... is there a demand among young readers out there?

Well ... a  lot of teens back in 1982 were reading King's novel. As a matter of fact, I do recall a friend giving me his dog-eared copy and telling me, "read this book. It's wicked." (We said "wicked" in 1982 instead of "awesome".) And it was. That led me to WAR DAY by Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka (which I'm sure is the template for Max Brooks' brilliant WORLD WAR Z - though I can't prove it.) NATURE'S END by the aforementioned pair of authors and finally SWAN SONG by Robert R, McCammon.

In short, the only thing that has changed is that Young Adult is an actual market now whereas it didn't exist per se in 1982 - that's why we were reading King and everybody else that our parents frowned on. Why did we read it? I dunno ... probably because it was "wicked" and, you know, being a teen sucks nineteen times out of twenty. It was worst case scenario escapism and I think that there was even an element of end of the worldishness back in 1982. Sure, we didn't have planes crashing into buildings, student massacres or Al Qaeda and homegrown terrorism, but we sure as hell had the Cold War - the documentary below is called IF YOU LOVE THIS PLANET. It's still terrifying to watch.

We had Jonestown and war in the middle east and an immediate family member who actually fought in a world war ... this AFTER having lived through ten lost years of the great depression.

I guess I'm arguing that an element of dystopia has been clinging to the fabric of our lives for as long as I can remember and  I suspect that's why teens and even adults gobble this stuff up. At least now teens have their own identifiable genre and this can only be a good thing because end of the world fiction when written very well is thought provoking, terrifying, hopeless, bleak ... you name it. When it's not written well, then it's just like every other poorly written book - it doesn't matter if it's romance or horror or even really bad literary fiction.

What do you think? Is end of the world/post end of the world fiction a fad or a genuine genre that's been around for decades. Me? I think it's been here for a while and will continue as long as there are original takes on it.


  1. I'm in your peer group and agree that dystopian stories have been with us for a long time. Before the books you mention were, of course, the modernists' twists: 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. Those were coming out of the two world wars and eras of unprecedented violence.

    To my mind, dystopian stories examine "what if what we think is bad now got worse?" And to a degree they encourage action in the now to prevent that possible future. They also help us realize that things aren't as bad as the COULD be. So they are a kind of weirdly encouraging type of story.

    As far as a publishing trend...well, that's another matter altogether. Vampires continue to be born every minute, though outside legacy publishing--and their fans continue to gobble them up (though the Twihards are now post-college and want adult vamps). Whether legacy publishers will continue bringing dystopian to the shelves remains to be seen. I get the sense they're looking for more genre-bending takes on difficult futures. Make it sci-fi-ish or Noir or suspense-ish and you might have a chance.

    I have heard some unhappy rumblings that YA is far too short on humor these days. If anything's worthy of a revival, it's some laughs.

  2. I grew up at the same time as you and remember reading The Stand in high school too. I think dystopia has always existed in literature, as a warning about how the world might turn out if people today are not vigilant. It's just been given a name now, and has become the domain of YA because the young people of today are the ones with the future in their hands.

  3. Totally and completely agree with you. Sometimes we forget that books are finding new readers each and every day. Genre fads may not last too long overall, but when readership is found and those readers share their love, new readers will pop up. Even when most are convinced a genre should be over with already and are screaming "I'm so tired of this (insert genre here) phase"!!!, word of mouth trumps all, and the book love WILL continue. :)


  4. I think the fad itself is sort of dying out, seeming to be replaced with increased demand for contemporaries, but the genre's not going anywhere. I have hopes of seeing more quality dystopian fiction coming out as the initial wave of Hunger Games-inspired popularity calms. There's still room for more awesome titles, and I think most of the bandwagon-jumpers should have moved through by now, or will have a harder time selling their novels, since demand for dystopian titles for their own sake does seem to be decreased.

  5. I don't think it's a fad. I just think it is a story type and there will always be people writing about an alternate future. Maybe the word dystopia will go away but then I think it will be called Science Fiction then. But it will always be around!

    Angela's Anxious Life

  6. Hi,
    I would be happy to fix your blog badge code if you could please send me a message at: I can get your replacement code out.

  7. I really think that a lot of people miscategorize post-apocalyptic stories as dystopias, instead of thinking of dystopia as something like 1984, Brave New World, and Yevgeniy Ivanovich Zamyatin's We. I prefer a true, classic dystopia like that, instead of something following a formula to fit with the current trend.

  8. Dystopian stories are quickly becoming a favorite of mine...and I'm 10 years past "teen hood"... ;) I have yet to, however, read a single book authored by Stephan King! This post has made me want to all the more now.

    (I, just today, found this blog and gave you a follow. Love it!)

    Take care :)

  9. Oh do read The Stand ... fantastic book

  10. This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am in fact pleassant to read everthing
    at single place.

    my site; vakantiehuizen

  11. Wow! After all I got a web site from where I know how
    to genuinely get valuable data concerning my study and knowledge.

    Review my homepage vakantiehuizen

  12. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your web site provided us with valuable information to work on.
    You have done an impressive job and our entire community will be
    grateful to you.

    Also visit my site; france holiday rentals normandy

  13. Fantastic web site. Plenty of helpful information here.

    I am sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious.
    And obviously, thanks on your sweat!

    Here is my blog post; france 24 francais

  14. I do consider all of the ideas you've introduced on your post. They are very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for starters. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

    Also visit my website; vakantiehuisjes frankrijk

  15. It is not my first time to pay a quick visit this web page,
    i am browsing this website dailly and obtain nice data from
    here daily.

    Visit my homepage vakantiehuis frankrijk

  16. It's going to be ending of mine day, but before ending I am reading this fantastic paragraph to increase my experience.

    my page vakantiewoning frankrijk huren

  17. Good replies in return of this matter with solid arguments
    and describing all concerning that.

    Feel free to visit my weblog :: vakantiehuizen huren


Breaths that matter...

Related Posts with Thumbnails