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Do Dystopian Settings Inspire Their Creation?

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Have you ever heard of a place called the Kowloon Walled City? This city allowed residences to live in 40 square feet of space. Each structure loomed 14 stories high and packed people in like sardines. The crazy thing is, this city actually existed, filled with real residents. Police were nonexistent, and occupants ruled themselves. It sounds like some futuristic science-fiction dystopian society.

You wouldn’t be too far off with that thought.

With advances in technology and science, it’s not too shocking to see the visions of the past beginning to take shape. Worlds once thought unimaginable in reality are becoming more and more believable and viable each day. The role science-fiction has played in the creation of these types of societies is hard to miss.

 Sci-Fi Is Coming Full Circle

As a genre, science-fiction is one of wonder and magnificence. Specifically, technology plays a huge role in sci-fi stories. With a typical science-fiction story, a significant advance or change in technology prevails, or an enormous change occurs in cultural norms. Most of the time, the science-fiction story will be a combination of the two. However, these stories may not be as farfetched in principle as they may seem at first glance. In fact, many science-fiction stories are based out of real-world strife.

Sci-fi stories such as George Orwell’s “1984” imagines a world of constantly monitored people. Even your thoughts aren’t safe. This idea of control stems from current events going on at the time Orwell was writing. Orwell wrote “1984” just after the end of World War II. With so much going on in the world, strict control and a military presence were at the forefront of the cultural eye.


Science-Fiction Models Reality

Even though Orwell’s story contained technology not available during the ‘50s, the ideas they represented were very real. Jump forward 60 years, and his vision isn’t that far off from today’s society. With the advent of smartphones, drones, and computers, tracking nearly every moment of the day isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Orwell’s “1984” is just one example of how science-fiction and reality share a reciprocal relationship. Technology in today’s world also mimics ideas presented in sci-fi.

Another fantastic example of science-fiction technology becoming reality hails from a classic TV series, “Star Trek.” The series from the ‘60s inspired such technological advances as the Skype Translator and portable computers. It’s easy to see how vivid imaginations in sci-fi drive science in the real world. Not only do sci-fi stories mimic society, but they also serve as caricatures of our culture.

Caricatures of Society

Caricatures are similar to mimicking, but instead, focus on either simplified or exaggerated features instead of pulling straight from the subject. Often, the stories in the sci-fi genre display these themes. Following along with George Orwell’s “1984,” the ideas of control are readily visible. People can’t take one step without Big Brother – the overbearing form of government – tracking their moves. These steps are taken to an extreme level in the story, however.

In “1984,”  people’s movements aren’t the only thing tracked. Rather, the government monitors both their physical movements and thoughts. While a gripping feel of control has come to fruition, in reality, reading minds is still a fantastical idea. Orwell uses the mind reading and Thought Police as a caricature of modern society. Most sci-fi stories do this, and it mainly stems from advances in technology.


Where It’s All Leading

With the wealth of sci-fi and dystopian stories in the world today, you have to wonder how they will influence the future. You’ve seen how George Orwell’s vision of the world is already semi-occurring, and “Star Trek’s” influence is undeniable. Virtual reality is fact instead of fiction and continues evolving at a rapid pace. In 30 years, perhaps the world will seem an incredibly different place. Hopefully, it will be for the better.

Do Dystopian Settings Inspire Their Creation?
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Category: In Fiction


Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.