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Dystopian Science Fiction

What is Dystopian Science Fiction?

Dystopian Science Fiction can be summed up as the opposite of Utopia—imperfect societies in the near-future. In actuality, Dystopian Sci Fi stories often include Utopian elements like deep social control. These measures of control are taken to the extreme in Dystopian Sci Fi. Often, Dystopian stories deal with political issues like police states and repression. The value of Dystopian Sci Fi is not that it predicts what will happen, but what we fear will happen and investigates whether these fears are valid or destructive in of themselves.

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You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Dystopian books list and vote and/submit entries to it.

Also take a look at our Top 25 Best Dystopian Book list ever.

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Other Features of Dystopian Science Fiction

  • Level of Real Science

    Low. Dystopian stories often feature advanced technology because they take place in a speculative future. However, the focus is rarely on these technologies and more on the social and political aspects of the dystopian society.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. This sub-genre is a way for authors to explore their fears, or current fears in their society, about society, politics, environmentalism, religion, psychology, or technology. As a result, social and political commentary abound.

  • Level of Characterization

    High. Dystopian Sci Fi is often told through the perspective of a single protagonist who questions or acts against the social or political order. As the reader experiences the dystopia through the protagonists' point of view the reader gets to know the protagonist and so the character has to be pretty flushed out. Main characters are often complex because they are combating grand ideas and going against the social and political order.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Sometimes unfulfilling. Plot is key to Dystopian stories: the protagonist, sometimes a group, rebel against the dystopia and this conflict can make for a complex and interesting plot. However, in much the same way Dystopian Sci Fi deals with the imperfect, the acts of protagonists often fail—it is a narrative arc of hopelessness.

  • Level of Violence

    Moderate to High. Plots of Dystopian Sci Fi necessitate high conflict because rebelling against the system is a big deal. Frequently, but not always, these conflicts result in violence. In addition, violence is often present in the dystopian society, as in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange where youth gangs are descriptively violent.

Related Science Fiction subgenres




    Utopian Science Fiction is the most obvious relation because Utopia and Dystopia are opposites and yet are also defined against each other.

  • Social Sci Fi is another obvious relation because Dystopian Sci Fi is very much concerned with what is happening in the future society.

  • Post-Apocalyptic Sci Fi is also connected with Dystopian Sci Fi. Many Dystopian stories are set in a future that has survived some kind of apocalyptic event and the dystopia is one way society has coped with the event.

Dystopian Science Fiction isn't for you if...

You like stories with happy endings and re-assert the status quo. Dystopian Sci Fi is a literature about questioning and challenging what has become the norm in its world and it is a literature that will make the reader re-evaluate their own lives.

Popular Dystopian books
  • 1 The Iron Heel

    By Jack London. Considered by some to be the earliest modern Dystopian literature as well as soft science fiction because its emphasis is on future social and political changes rather than technological.

  • 2 Fahrenheit 451

    By Ray Bradbury. Another iconic science fiction story that embodies the Dystopia themes of rising up and fighting against the system. A unique story in that its protagonist does have succeed in fleeing the dystopian society.

  • 3 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    By Philip K. Dick. The inspiration for the hit Sci Fi film Blade Runner. Showcases a constant and oppressive threat to life and explores the significance of life—both organic and android.

  • 4 Eight Against Utopia

    By Douglas R. Mason. A great example of a protagonist who fights to be free from a so-called Utopia and its constraints.

  • 5 A Clockwork Orange

    By Anthony Burgess. Another famous Sci Fi novel made into a popular movie. A take on a future Britain in which behaviour modification is taken to an extreme in the quest for social order. Unique because the dystopia is still forming and is seen through the eyes of an adolescent protagonist.

  • 6 1984

    By George Orwell. Quite possibly the most famous example of Dystopian Sci Fi and focuses around a totalitarian super state and the big brother theme.

  • 7 Brave New World

    By Aldous Huxley Written by Huxley as a parody of other Utopian stories' hopeful visions of the future. Unique in Dystopian literature because the protagonist is an outsider.

  • 8 Logan's Run

    By William F. Nolan and George Clayton. Embodies the utopia idea of a life of pleasure and youth; the dystopia is introduced in the population control measures because no one is allowed to live past age 21.

  • 9 The Marching Morons

    By Cyril Kornbluth. An example of Utopian elements in Dystopian Sci Fi—a society filled with pampered workers who are not exactly intelligent.

  • 10 The Hunger Games

    By Suzanne Collins. A trilogy geared toward young adult readers and has been made into movies. Noteworthy because of its status in popular culture.