And the awesomeness continues! Today we have a great author on the blog to talk a little bit about the dystopian genre!
What's in a name?
(or, When is a dystopian not a dystopian?)
Genre labels are funny things. In theory, they exist so that people who like certain types of books can find more of that kind of book. Like GRACELING? Read some other fantasy. Love TWILIGHT? Grab more paranormal romances. But because few genres have a widely agreed-upon definition, and those definitions are often shifting based on trends and reader enthusiasm, sometimes they just make the reading experience more confusing.
I'd say I'm reasonably qualified to talk about this, because my upcoming novel, THE WAY WE FALL, has been most frequently labeled as a dystopian, though that's not how I think of it at all.
A dystopia is usually defined as a future society which is set up in a way that at least some of the inhabitants consider to be ideal, but which is actually terribly flawed. A classic example of this is Lois Lowry's THE GIVER, and recent novels that fit the definition include Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES and Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT. Often these books also include characters realizing how flawed their society is and attempting to change it.
As the dystopian genre surged in popularity with the publication of THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, the publishing definition of the term has expanded. A lot of the books selling as "dystopians" focus not on some brand new society, but on the ruins of our current one. A horrible catastrophe has destroyed normal life, and the characters are struggling just to stay alive and maybe pick up the pieces, as in Ilsa J. Bick's ASHES and the GONE series by Michael Grant. These sort of books I'd usually call "post-apocalyptic." There are certainly some dystopians that take place after an apocalypse of sorts, and both genres involve unpleasant futures, so I understand the cross-labeling. But not all dystopians follow a disaster, and not all stories about the after effects of a disaster involve a dystopia.
And occasionally stories that aren't quite either of these things are being considered dystopian as well. Take THE WAY WE FALL. When I was submitting it to agents, I referred to it as a "survival story." The deal announcement calls it as a "contemporary dystopian," which was intended to convey that it includes elements common in many dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, but is set in the present day. If I was going to get really specific about it, I'd say technically the best term would be straight out "apocalyptic." There is no ideal society, and it's not post any apocalypse--its the chronicling of the disaster itself, rather than the aftermath. (In the sequels the lines get a little more blurry, I'll admit.)
The fact that so many novels skim over the apocalypse and focus on what happens when it's over is part of what inspired me to write THE WAY WE FALL in the first place. I wanted to explore that fascinating in-between time, when everything is changing and the characters have no idea when or how it'll end. To be honest, though, I don't worry much about how my or other books are labeled, as long as the general sense is right. If readers want a clearer idea of what the story's about, that's what the book descriptions are for. Mainly I just hope people will enjoy the story I wanted to tell, regardless of what genre they call it!
How is that for a guest post? I'd love how they call The Way We Fall... a 'contemporary dystopian', because the book certainly feels that way. It's a perfect term to capture what the book is really about.
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Add The Way We Fall to your Goodreads list!
It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.
And then you're dead.
When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.
Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.
Because how will she go on if there isn't?
The Way We Fall comes out January 24, 2012, released by Disney Hyperion. Buy your copy at Amazon!
GIVEAWAY TIME! WIN A FINISHED COPY OF THE WAY WE FALL BY MEGAN CREWE!
Yep, we are giving away a finished copy! And yes, this is OPEN INTERNATIONALLY! Make sure to answer the question below or your entries will not count!
The Question: Put yourself into Kaelyn's position. At what lengths are you willing to go to in order to survive in a quarantined island?
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