Are You Ready For The Apocalypse?!
…in fiction, that is. According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end on December 21, 2012. The end-date idea has been pretty much debunked. One debunking theory says that since the Mayan calendar did not contain Leap Years, which add one day to our calendar every four years to account for the fact that our trip around the sun actually takes 365.25 days, the end-date that they predicted has already passed. And we didn’t even notice!
But it’s interesting to imagine what our world could be after it stops being the world we currently know, and plenty of YA writers do just that! The genre called “Apocalyptic Fiction” has become super popular these days. Books in this genre are also sometimes called “post-apocalyptic” and/or “dystopian.” Now you’re wondering, is there a difference between apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, or are these all the same thing? If you’re looking for a new book that is like something else you’ve loved, it kind of helps to know what genre you really like. How are you supposed to know when all these great books are so confusingly classified within several different genres at once, all of which have confusing names?! Here’s a look:
Books in this genre encompass a lot of different story lines, like zombie apocalypse or a disease outbreak or a huge war. In apocalyptic fiction, we generally witness the actual apocalyptic event unfolding, and then follow our characters as they deal with the aftermath. But plenty of books that show us just the aftermath – technically the post-apocalyptic world – are also just called apocalyptic fiction. Sigh, it’s so confusing!
In dystopian fiction, there has sometimes been an apocalyptic event which lead to the re-creation of the world as a utopia. However, sometimes there has not been an apocalypse at all, the world has just changed completely in an imagined future. Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 are two very famous examples of dystopian fiction. In dystopian fiction, the author imagines a world that is designed to be perfect – a utopia – but is actually far from it. Dystopian books differ quite a bit from apocalyptic books, even if there was an apocalyptic event that spurred the creation of the “utopia” in which they are set, because they focus on how problematic the so-called utopia is. Think of books like Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series which imagines a new world governed by logic, and therefore supposedly perfect because that troublesome emotion of “love” is eradicated.
Books that fall into this category, like The Hunger Games, are trickier to define because they sometimes have elements of dystopia about them as well. But unlike what we call dystopian fiction they are not focused on the idea that the world in which the characters live is supposed to be perfect. Instead, the world is just barely hanging on after a serious event caused it to fall apart. We know that the Districts in The Hunger Games are badly planned out, and that the Capital is totally corrupt – they were not set up to be utopian, but to be repressive. The citizens are not supposed to feel lucky and special as they are in a utopia. Other examples of this genre include M.T. Anderson’s Feed, in which the world has all-but ended due to serious environmental collapse.
Come check out all the apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction you can before the end-date arrives! (Or, you know, just to keep you occupied during the long days of winter break which is very quickly approaching…)