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October 8th, 2007

Dystopia

Over at the Inferior 4 (theinferior4), Lucius Shepard (lucius_t) was posting about dystopian films. A list had been sent to him of the supposed best fifty films, with a very Western feel.

Both of us agreed that most of the films on the list weren't dystopian.

It got me thinking, after that, about dystopian films and literature. I know, I know: a post about defining a genre. Well, yes, but in this case, it's kind of different. I'm not looking at it from the point of view of what is a dystopian work and what isn't, to somehow include one work, and remove another. I'm looking at it instead from the constraints that you would put on a piece of work, the limitations you would use to direct it thematically. Maybe it's the same thing, and as I look at that sentence I just typed, I'm willing to agree that it is, but it feels different in my head. Perhaps it is simply because it's not a saleable genre, a piece of literature ground to be found over for acceptance by the larger community (assuming you can get it, it's up for grabs, and that it matters to you, of course). The debates of what is science fiction and what isn't doesn't interest me overly, since at the end of the day, I don't much care. But a definition like dystopia is fun. It's about constructing a body of thought. Building a scaffolding in which you can form a point of view from, so you can analyse it, debate it, write it. It is in this mental mapping of what is dystopian, for example, that I would say Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novel, but where I would also say that Stanly Kubrick's film of the same title is not. See, to me, the novel is about youth violence, and the way that it is exaggerated and distorted by adults in positions of power. It is, specifically, the final chapter of Burgess' novel that brings this home, and makes the point of it. Kubrick's film, however, has done away with the final chapter, and is instead a conversation about violence, both within society, and within the institutions who wish to correct it--yet it is, I believe, one without a specific conversation in the real world, a specific reference point from which you jump, and then begin to show the distorted mirror image of the world you live in. The film is too general, too broad to be considered a dystopian.

There are a lot of people, I think, who would view a dystopia as something much simpler, as something that is defined by class divides, by constant surveillance, by darkness, and by paranoia, to list a few. To me, however, it's not enough. To me, that means nothing. That's the human condition, give or take various degrees of each.

No, for me, it's the bounce of our own culture, that's what makes something dystopian, what makes it work.

Also, it's what makes it fun.

The Black Sheep Flash Game

From Brendan Connell:

I mentioned here that I thought Ben Peek’s novel was getting popular in Switzerland.

The poster seems to have disappeared from my previous post, so here is a slightly different version, gleened from the UDC website (this one is different since it has a knife):



Well, the fun continues, on this websight, in which you can pretend you are a goat at the Swiss boarder. There is a German and a French version, choose whichever is easier to negotiate.

The object of the game is to kick out the bad black sheep, and let in the good whities.

To begin playing, you must first answer one of the quiz questions. For instance, when it asks about the percentage of crimes in Switzerland commited by foreigners, you have to answer 85.5%. Then you can play.


What Brendan fails to tell you is that you can kick out bus loads of evil black sheep. Also, you can shoot bags of money and blue, star spangled hats in another game. I have no idea what that's for, but I can only imagine it's some crazy, right wing, racist thing.

Because, you know, the rest of it is.

Link.