I probably should have written this post earlier, but I was still thinking about it. I’ve been calling Crossing Bedlam a Rated-R post-apocalyptic action comedy thing or some combination of that for a while. Once or twice I’ve thought of it as a dystopia, which might not be a real word according to all spellcheckers. This is the opposite of a utopia in that it’s a fictional world that is a terrible place to live. I think Hunger Games, Mad Max, and Maze Runner count for this.
And that’s what I was thinking about really. It seems that one of the standards of this genre is that humanity sucks and falls back on primal urges once society collapses. Probably true for reality, but it never seems to recover even after years of things circling the drain. You rarely see a post-apocalyptic world where things are recovering or something new has appeared. Sure, you get a handful of protagonists who remain somewhat innocent and are trying to revive the human spirit. Maybe even free people from an oppressive dictator or whatever it is they’re doing in Maze Runner. Cure a disease through torture and death?
In Crossing Bedlam, I definitely had some of this in there, but I think I went a little too nice on humanity. Previous posts have mentioned that are groups who tried to keep some pieces of society going. Also, I thought that after ten years, some level of stability would be appearing in various regions. Don’t forget the fact that this is a world where post-apocalyptic fiction existed before the collapse. So people fell back on those sources to figure out what to do or what not to do. I think me retaining this genre’s existence within the world changed everything. It isn’t like a horror movie or a zombie show where those things never existed to give people an idea of what might happen. At least with fantasy, the internal stories about dragons and magic are current events instead of fiction.
This was actually one of the more difficult things about writing this book. Deciding how far into the crapper I sent the country would determine the dangers and help that the heroes would run into. If nothing recovered then there would be very few allies, especially those that would willing help. Too much recovery and it basically be a casual drive through abandoned ruins with a bored serial killer riding shotgun. Lloyd probably wouldn’t be bored for long. For the purpose of the story and my desire to have a lot of silly fun, I tried to find a decent middle ground. Some places are worse than others and not all background humans fall into either oppressed rabble or power-hungry dictator.
Now, I did try to think about why this genre seems to always be so bleak. Probably because that gives characters only one way to go if they survive and the audience will wonder if they could do the same. Yet, I do think it goes a little too far at times and touches on a sense of cynicism. Might not be the author exactly, but a feeling that the majority of mankind would crumble into anarchy and only a handful of people would keep their wits. Kind of wonder if it would be the opposite where those currently in power would freak out since their purpose no longer exists and the average person will find a way to survive anyway. Though recent history does show that humans suffer from a very big herd mentality when emotions run high. That’s why I have Cassidy mention the first year or two were a nightmare due to non-stop riots. Again, you don’t always see what happens when mankind regains their sanity and try to recover.
So, what are your thoughts on the dystopia genre and how humanity tends to be portrayed?