Dystopian Futures in "young adult" fiction

Jul 10, 2007
So, I'd thought I'd see if we could maybe get a discussion up and running here about the presentation of dystopian futures in (as i said in the title) young adult fiction. Or any fiction, really. Though this would be pertinent as, oi believes, Julie will be taking part in a duscussion about "Apocalyptic Scotland" in the Edinburgh Book fest along with Catherine Forde and James Jauncey.

Thoughts, anyone?? The first thing I think of is that we are moving swiftly away from the shiny shiny, neon-light, lycra jump-suit future that used to be favoured into a far more disturbing and "gritty" future, for a ridiculously large number of reasons. This is really beginning to show in fiction, but no one seems to be noticing...
Jul 29, 2007
Well I think its good idea to write about dystopian futures in young adult fiction because it acts as sort of an early warning. It certainly made me think twice before I switched on the tv.

Right, I suppose people will notice it soon enough though because authors in need of ideas (coz they can't think of any of their own) steal ideas from good books ,aka exodus and zenith , and there will be plenty of books afterwards- not saying they'll be as good as the original but still .................

OR maybe if the books are made into a film then the message will be made international ! Fwa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa.:eek:

I hope my reply was of use or at least help fill this empty thread a smidgin'!


Butterfly gal
Jun 30, 2007
I quite liked Obernewtyn...and still like it as an adult.

I think dystopian future scenarios just reflect that the world has gone wrong: global warming, sea levels rising, bird flu epidemics....putting these things into fiction where things are overcome somehow makes facing the future less scarey.

Kids can influence decisions but are still regulated and limited as to what they can do about these problems. Try arguing with your parents about paying for a water tank that isn't in the budget.

While an adult will look at global warming as a scientific theory with some scientists as advocates and some who are not and find a level at which they can make choices and decisions that give them some level of empowerment: kids are far more vunerable to fears for the future.

I remember when the French released the nuclear explosion on some island, there were dust storms around the school and this boy started bawling...he really thought the nuclear holocaust had come for him. I imagine that the kids of today will be creeped out over an extreme low tide: tsunami footage.

Disassociation and rationalisation are adult coping strategies...

How many kids refused to eat beef with mad cow disease? How many adults decided not to eat jelly that was made in the U.K? The ability to select implications and actions that fit problems that are appropriate to the level of concern... is less developed in YA.

Probably because they haven't undergone the multiple crisis that adults have: AIDS, Halleys Comet scenarios, Gulf War, Y2K bug...we've been overloaded. Toad invasion...seems the native animals have discovered ways of eating the little buggers. Disaster looms all of the time. Some man-made, some natural. Some politically, market and media generated but non-existent. Heck we'd stop eating and breathing if we listened to everything we heard.

The short term and immediate problems of the adult world involve mortgages, work place reform, job loss and divorce, to getting a dinner on the table that the family will eat...the long term problems are there...reducing water useage and electricity useage, buying local produce and so on...simple choices for catastrophic problems...these don't really meet the fear that kids have to cope with.

When the media says a comet is about to hit the Earth..we understand the distances involved...kids don't. When they say in 70 years time Sydney will be uninhabitable due to lack of water, we know there are deserts people live in and that drinking recycled waste water is an option, even mining water from air and that there's an ocean next to us and desalinating water can help. We understand that when the news reports communities upset about the govt piping water away that it is linked to trying to solve the water problem. Kids can't cross reference all the information around them.

The economics of just banning petrol overnight, kids say great/adults say social infrastructure collapse.....yep change is slow...lots of silly rabbit-proof fence solutions are on their way. We see the building blocks ....light solutions increasing to harder ones...bucket watering to no watering gardens at all. We see the change as quick. They see the change as slow and useless.

No wonder kids panic.

Kids need these books.
Aug 11, 2007
OR maybe if the books are made into a film then the message will be made international ! Fwa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa.:eek:
I totally agree!!! not only do i think that exodus and zenith would be absolutely fantastic movies, but they would also help promote awareness of what could potetnially happen to this planet!
Jul 29, 2007
Hooray! I've been quoted! Thanks Wooleywrld from texas!

Yeah but only if the movie is shown solar paneled picture houses, if there are any, ok maybe just the regular ones instead.

Anyway, if it does manage to get the message across to the public, I bet it'll have quite a dramatic effect on carbon emissions. Unlike in zenith when M. and F. find out no-one reduced their CO2 footprint in the past or now or whatever.

Then we wouldn't have to worry about a dystopian future! And as I previously said-fwa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaa! ok bye.
Ps The Dork Lady, just wanted to let you know I am taking this seriously:p
May 25, 2007
Thanks for the plug, Dork lady!

We mean to do a storming event at the Book Festival, debating fictional visions of the future. Apocalypses, dystopias: we have it all! How does a writer create a believable fictional world of the future? What impact does SF, speculative fiction, whatever you wantt to call it, have on the way you think about your own future, the future you are walking into - the future you are creating?

We should have some political people there so it's a good chance to let them hear what you think - doesn't matter if you are Scottish or not, it's your world. So if anyone is around Edinburgh and fancies a debate on the biggest issue of our time, here are the programme details:


Sun 26/08/2007 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Teens & adults

Join some of teen fiction's strongest voices on a journey to a new Scotland. Each has written distinctly different dystopian futures for the nation. In an age of uncertainty, political upheaval and environmental catastrophe, they look to the future to explore who we are and who we may yet become. A truly outstanding collaboration not to be missed.


Sep 24, 2011
If I understood your question correctly, you were asking why authors like to write dystopian futures. I as a reader find a true utopia far less interesting than a dystopia. Just as nobody likes a Mary Sue, nobody likes a real utopia. There is no such thing as a true utopia for humans. In the book, "A Wrinkle in Time", the characters go to this planet that has achieved "perfection" by crushing the individuality and freedom of the people. Those who don't conform to the system are brutally punished, causing their "utopia" to be built on cruelty and brutality just as Caledon's dream world was. I don't know how to get across what I'm saying so I just hope you know what I'm talking about.

nerd literature

Well-Known Member
Jan 1, 2013
I think that dystopias from the reader and writer's point of view is that they are more fun to write and have a better opportunity for drama. As for there being not many Utopias, I think it is a matter of opinion. There are those that would believe the world of Big Brother and Clockwork Orange were Utopias. It is a matter of where does Utopias become to sterile. One of the more interesting things for me in regards to dystopias is how the world became the world that the author writes. How did the world become like it is depicted in 1984. Bradbury is prophetic in his novel of Fahrenheit 451. That's what I think draws me to dystopias.

As for young adult novels I think that teens these days are getting more sophisticated faster and there is a need to make entertainment that will not bore them. This is not for all the teen agers, they still watch Jersey Shore and there are those that buy Twilight. But, there are those that want to read about more adult topics in a format that appeals to them and I think this is why young adult novels for the most part outsell adult novels and you cannot find a more adult topic than dystopias or what their futures may look like.

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