Dystopian stories might sell, but do they change the world?

12 September 2022

Can dystopian stories bring about positive change, or do they dull readers into accepting the grim inevitable? Climate change will destroy the world. Governments will soon control our every thought. And so on. British novelist and critic Olivia Laing suggests stories that are more positive, may bring about — you know — positive outcomes.

We become accustomed to what we once found shocking. The bad future lives inside people’s heads, gathering its own momentum. It seems to me we’ve put too much faith in the inoculatory power of terrifying simulations, rather than realising that for certain viewers they might suggest appetising possibilities, while for others they confirm dread, magnifying the emotions that contribute to paralysis and foreclosing on any more liberating or enlivening alternatives.

This doesn’t mean the world needs more stories with conflict-free plots, rather outcomes that might inspire readers instead of disheartening them.


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