A few days ago, as I was watching the critically acclaimed show, The Walking Dead, I had a thought. Just as Andrea was about to stab a screwdriver into a zombie's eye socket, I wondered what exactly was wrong with me. Just an hour before I was listening to Justin Cronin's The Twelve, an equally brutal look at possible human annihilation by vampires. Prior to that I was on the treadmill reading Fuse, Julianna Baggot's masterpiece about survivors of an atomic blast that left them fused to the objects, animals or people they were touching when it detonated. Looking back on my day, I realized there might be something really psychologically wrong with me. Why would I spend copious amounts of time amerced in human destruction? Why would I be drawn to stories which build on the basis that everything we love and value has been destroyed? Conclusion: I need a good therapist.
Yet, I am not alone. If you have picked up my book The Breeders and liked it, you might be a little sick in the head too. The third season finale of The Walking Dead pulled in a whopping 12.8 million viewers. Hunger Games books were on the New York Times Best Seller list for over 100 consecutive weeks. That's a lot of us crazies walking around. I muse that humanity is fascinated with its own demise. But why? Folks, I have a theory.
In general many of us read for entertainment and escape, but those of us who read dystopian also read for a third purpose, to prepare. Do we all think we'll die soon by a North Korean missile and build bomb shelters in our basements? No. But, many of us might wonder, late at night, how we would act if society suddenly came to a halt. Would we be those that took up arms, marched to the aid of others, and rallied those left to a new America? Or would we be zombie food? (Mmm. Tastes like Chicken) We read to ponder the multitude of ways it could go down. We read to quantify those qualities it takes to overcome. And if that bomb drops, we'll be the first to roll out our super secret Zombie survival plan. (Mine includes a visit to my local Outdoor World and a lot of rice.)
There's one more reason I believe people read dystopian. There's something so magical about basic human survival. When all this commercial garbage is stripped bare, the human soul and its capacity to overcome is astounding. We know that about our race, that we never go down without a fight. There's a scene in episode two of season two of The Walking Dead where Hershel, the veterinarian turned surgeon, is speaking to Rick. Rick is distraught, wondering what's the point? Why go on in such a broken world? Hershel turns to him and says (I'm paraphrasing here, so don't get mad at me Walking Dead fans). "This is just a bump in the road. It's just nature's way of resetting itself. That's the beauty of humanity, we always overcome." Well said, Hershel.
So, my lovely dystopian readers, if you need some recommendations travel on over to our Who we are page. There's lots of speculative fiction to keep you busy in your bomb shelters for years.