Featured Guest Post: “Contemporary Dystopian Novels Worth the Read” by Maria Ramos

dystopiaGood afternoon folks! Today, I have the honor of featuring a guest writer, something that I have never done before. Her name is Mario Ramos, a fellow writer that has been following storiesbywilliams and asked to add her thoughts about this contemporary dystopian literature craze. Take it away, Ramos!

*               *               *

The teenage wastelands of The Hunger Games and Divergent have made their way to the big screen and people can’t seem to get enough of it. However, many others seem to think science fiction isn’t what it used to be. Despite the glut of novels and films catering to young adults today, there is still plenty of well-written dystopian novels (without teenaged love triangles). Although they do not fall into the same particular category of classics such as Brave New World, there are still worthy examples written in the past few years. Check out some of them below:

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood:

Christian fundamentalists stage a terrorist attack in America, allowing them to suspend the Constitution and install a patriarchal theocracy. This story follows Offred, a concubine for the elite class who undergoes a sexual awakening and joins a resistance movement against the fundamentalists. This critique of repressive religious fundamentalism has taken on added significance since the 9/11 attacks, showing us how a crisis can lead to authoritarianism. Because it speaks to these important issues, the novel remains relevant today. The book was adapted into a film in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson and Robert Duvall.

The Children of Men (1992) by P.D. James:

A global disease has made all men infertile, leaving the human race unable to reproduce. Without any hope for the future, English society collapses and falls under the control of a ruthless dictator. Criminals are dumped into prisons to kill or be killed and the elderly are compulsorily euthanized. This book is an admonition against the cynicism of our times. If we lose hope, we accept all kinds of callousness and oppression and lose sight of the human life’s value. In 2006, a film adaptation starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen was released.

The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy:

A man and his son brave an ashy lifeless landscape populated by cannibals in the hopes of escaping the harsh black winter. Through their actions and words, the man and the boy constantly emphasize love’s power. No matter how bleak things get, the father always looks out for his son and encourages him to maintain hope no matter what. This powerful message resonates with many families, making this novel a contemporary classic. The 2009 film adaptation received critical acclaim with Viggo Mortensen’s excellent portrayal of The Man.

 The Windup Girl (2009) by Paulo Bacigalupi:

In 23rd century Thailand, a genetically engineered humanoid organism, an economic hitman and representative of a biotech mega-corporation, a crooked Chinese refugee, and a leader of an armed environmental enforcement agency cross paths in The Windup Girl. This novel tells a tale of intrigue that critiques environmental exploitation, reckless genetic engineering, the international sex trade, unfettered capitalism, and globalization. The Windup Girl combines a compelling story with dense thematic material, making it a quality science fiction read on par with the classics.

Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline:

In 2044, people spend most of their free time in Oasis — a globally networked virtual reality that transports users to any world they can imagine — as a way of escaping a scrappy existence on an impoverished and depleted planet. The story follows Wade Watts, a high school student that embarks on a digital Easter egg hunt designed by the deceased creator of Oasis in order to inherit his vast estate. Ready Player One shows a world in which people alienate themselves through video games, instead of trying to solve the world’s problems.

*               *               *

Despite recent films focusing on romance and teenaged angst, there are still many novels that generate conversation over our concerns about the world today. This subgenre of science fiction showcases our anxieties about the future and has raised questions surrounding the concepts of totalitarian governments, environmental catastrophes, and technological overreach. Many have become aware of these concerns and have been trying to positively change the way we impact our Earth. From companies making direct energy more accessible to NASA using advanced technology to help the environment, these dystopian fictions are helping save the world — one novel at a time.dystopian list

Honest Trailer: Divergent

https://i1.wp.com/i.ytimg.com/vi/qPUZo3dQSEM/maxresdefault.jpgI’ve been waiting for the good folks over at Comedy Junkies to mock the release of this movie. No disrespect to the fans of the series, but is this not the exact same concept as The Hunger Games? And was that not the exact same concept as Battle Royale? And is this latest adaptation not just a completely transparent attempt to keep cashing in on the current wave of YA dystopian fandom?

Well… sure! But what were expecting? Original ideas and adaptations based on the strength of the stories alone? Where’s the money in that? Enjoy the trailer:

WordPress Tag!

wordpress_cloudMy thanks to Rami for tagging me in the latest round of WordPress Tag! This means I have to answer the following questions and then send some tags out of my own. So lets get this party started…

What are you currently working on?
Having finished with my second zombie book (Papa Zulu), I’m now working full-tilt to finish my anthology of science fiction short stories. It’s called Flash Forward, and contains short pieces of fiction that deal with subjects ranging from climate change, militarized borders, drone warfare, neural downloads, cybernetic augmentation, space travel, and cosmic evolution.

How does your work differ from other authors in the genre?
These days, most authors I know are writing in the dystopian sci-fi genre. Somehow, with the growth of the YA market and the popularity of books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the whole dark future theme seems to be making a big comeback. But I want to deal with future scenarios that are in keeping with current trends, addressing the impending Technological Singularity, Climate Change, and how the interaction of these two forces will shape the coming decades and centuries.

Why do you write what you do?
Because I have this obsession with recreating the kind of things that inspire me. The books that have done the best job of that in the past were always works that captured the zeitgeist of the age, making predictions about the future in order to tell a story about the here and now. It’s been my hope for almost two decades now that I could create something that would do the same thing for others.

How does your writing process work?
My mind is constantly dreaming of things that inspire me and looking for new ideas. I try to feed it as best I can with research and the latest in science, tech, history and geopolitics, until such time as a breakthrough comes and I begin to plot it all out. Then, once I have a framework in place, I start field testing it out by writing the first few chapters and seeing if it has traction. Once that’s done, the story begins to evolve and take on a life of its own. Some don’t make it to fruition, but others do.

And now I tag three writers:
I nominate the following three people for the next round:

Goran Zidar

Emily Guido

Deirdra Alexander

Good luck!

New Movie Trailer: Divergent

DivergentCame across this trailer recently, for the upcoming movie adaptation of the 2011 novel Divergent. And while the trailer does look like impressive, this does seem like a really predictable move on Hollywood’s part. With the recent adaptation of the Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, it was only a matter of time before producers began looking farther afield to find more examples of YA dystopian literature.

In fact, that’s been a subject which I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately. In terms of sci-fi trends, the past decade has seen a revival of dystopian literature, and the majority of it seems to be aimed at young readers. Not surprising really, seeing as how issues like the “war on terror”, domestic surveillance and NSA data mining have led to a resurgence of fears that humanity could still be living in Big Brother state in the near future.

divergent-iron-on-patches-summit-boothAnd with the rise in publications that appeal to young adult readers – with everything from Twilight to Harry Potter – writer’s began to see just how accessible dystopian tales would be to young readers. And Divergent is certainly no exception to this rule. And just like the Hunger Games, a dystopian society is used as a metaphor to address the issues of teen angst and the struggle to belong.

Basically, the story takes place in a Chicago of the future, where live in a society that is divided into castes and membership is determined when people turn 16. Enter into this Beatrice “Pris” Prior, a young woman with a special mind who undergoes the test designed to determine what caste she belongs to, only to find out that the test failed and she has been declared “Divergent”.

divergent-movie-set-reportThe rest of the movie, as is made clear from the trailer, consists of her joining the resistance – a group composed of “casteless” people (aka. other Divergents) – and waging war against the state. So, a society where people are forced into specialized roles, where those who are different must live in secret or face persecution, and a heroine who rises up to bring down the system… sound like the teenage experience to you?

Yeah, me too. And while some criticize Divergent for being a Hunger Games ripoff, people who actually know their dystopian lit are quick to point out that that book was probably a ripoff of Battle Royale. And in reality, all these books are eating crumbs off the table of Zamyatin, Huxley and Orwell, and the YA angle with all its wish fulfillment is nothing that hasn’t been seen a hundred times before.

Anyhoo, the movie is set for release on March 21st, 2014. Enjoy the trailer!