When I got my hands on my much-anticipated ARC of Ashen City by Sara Baysinger, I was also first in line to sign up for a quest post with this amazing author. After shooting a few emails back and forth, we agreed on our mutual interest of the topic of the evolution of the dystopian genre!
If you like what you read, please check out my review of her new release, Ashen City, and be sure to purchase it on Amazon!
The Evolution of the Dystopian Genre, by Sara Baysinger
I was so excited when the subject of the evolution of the dystopian genre popped up as a blog topic for me to write about. For those who don’t know, dystopian is the opposite of utopian. While utopian is about a paradise-like government where everyone is equal and pretty much happy, dystopian is a government where everything is…not so perfect. There’s usually oppressive leadership, a large gap in class systems, and little-to-no freedom.
Most people think The Hunger Games when the dystopian genre is brought up, but this genre has been around long before we fell in love with Katniss.
The Giver by Lois Lowry was a big hit, published in 1993. 1984 by George Orwell was published in 1950, and just recently became the number one bestseller on Amazon when Trump was elected into office. Dozens of other dystopian books were written long before The Hunger Games, and you can find a list of some of them here.
However, we must pay Suzanne Collins her due. The Hunger Games brought the dystopian genre back with a bang, using a lot of influences from history. (Mainly, Ancient Rome.) Divergent by Veronica Roth was released shortly after, solidifying dystopia as a worthy genre. Other authors followed behind, all with their own creative ideas of what the future could potentially look like based on our current priorities as a society.
So where does my own dystopian series, Black Tiger, fit into all this?
A lot of people have likened Black Tiger to Divergent and The Hunger Games, and rightly so. But while I did borrow the idea of a mega city from Divergent, the oppressive government similar to The Hunger Games, and while I was heavily influenced by Tehereh Mafi’s writing style in Shatter Me, Black Tiger has certainly taken on a form of its own.
The Community Garden is a fictional place close to my heart, mirroring the lifestyle I grew up with, while Frankfort mirrors the big city I moved to when I was in high school. Ember deals with the same fears, claustrophobia, and introductions to the new culture of city life that I did. I feel like I’ve taken my teenaged self and placed her in the Black Tiger world. Though I was never nearly as outspoken or stubborn as Ember, I certainly was hesitant to step into the spotlight like her.
A large influence on Black Tiger from our own society was the politicians. I remember learning about the ungodly amount politicians get paid while they're in office—and keep getting paid long after they’re out of office—while others in this country are breaking their backs for minimum wage. This in itself is a form of dystopia to me, so I took it and magnified it. Hence, Black Tiger was born.
Unlike the action packed stories with strong heroine leads that a lot of dystopian books encompass, Black Tiger focuses more on character development, relationships, and a main lead who would rather remain under the radar than perform any risky heroic deeds. (Much to many reader’s dismay. Sorry!)
Many bestselling dystopian books don’t talk about religion much, other than a brief mention of God. (Though there are more out there than you think.) While I don't see Black Tiger as overtly religious, I do approach God in an organic, natural way, using my own experiences with the Divine. To some this is a turn off, and understandably so. To others it’s what made them pick up the book. To me, I feel like we’ve all questioned God in one form or another at some point in our lives—whether we came to believe in something or not—and this was Ember’s journey.
So those are my thoughts on the evolution of the dystopian genre. What about you? What thoughts would you add or disagree with?