Many writers see the future as a bleak place, full of death, destruction, inhumanity, and apocalypse. Dystopian literature is a particular genre that focuses on a negative future, and has recently proven to be quite popular, particularly in novels written for adolescents. The Hunger Games, The Giver, and the Divergent series are all examples of dystopian literature. However, the genre has a far greater appeal than just to adolescents.
One of the most famous dystopian novels of all time is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell imagined a future where all of society was controlled by a totalitarian government, governing even thought. Orwell took many of the themes of his day, the late 1940s and specifically the situation in Stalin’s Soviet Union, to project the worst of his present into the future.
Many scholars hold that Jonathan Swift’s 1726 satire Gulliver’s Travels is the first dystopian novel, at least in parts. The various regions that Gulliver encounters become increasingly malignant. The Brobdingnagians, for example, enjoy public executions.
The upheavals of the 20th century, when the atomic age introduced the idea of mass destruction, seems to have accelerated the popularity of dystopian literature. Writers such as Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), Philip K. Dick (A Scanner Darkly) and Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) all envisioned a future far worse than the present.