The Dystopia

As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd what happens in a world without children's voices. I was there at the end.
~ Miriam describing the dystopian planet Earth in the year 2027 A.D. since it was ravaged by 18 years of global human infertility.

A Dystopia refers to a fictional or theoretical world in which the standard of living has become so bad that it is often nightmarish - it is the exact opposite of a Utopia and has been used in numerous works of fiction with media such as "Big Brother" and "Animal Farm" being amongst the most well-known.

A Dystopia may resemble a Utopia at first (known as a "False Utopia") or may show little or no sign of hiding its true nature - in fantasy it is common for Dark Lords to proudly display their kingdom or empire as a dark and horrific realm, while other dictators try to disguise their cruelty with the use of grand statues or seemingly benevolent acts that hide the true horrors at hand.

Dystopias are most often seen as dictatorships but they can also be anarchies in which gangs and whatnot rule supreme (as popularized in Mad Max).

Variants of Dystopia can even have non-human antagonists (such as Planet of the Apes) though this may overlap somewhat with the Alien Invasion scenario.

It might be noted that the term "dystopia", according to a strict definition, implies a fictional setting and precludes any possibility of real life examples. This is not, however, to suggest there is not a certain amount of truth in television to compare with fictional examples- for example, North Korea is sometimes compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four, which in itself was based on the various Real Life totalitarian regimes that were around at the time of writing.


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  • Though several earlier usages are known, dystopia was deployed as an antonym for Utopia by J. S. Mill in one of his Parliamentary Speeches 1868 (Hansard Commons) by adding the prefix "dys" (Ancient Greek: δυσ- "bad"), reinterpreting the initial U as the prefix "eu" (Ancient Greek: ευ- "good") instead of "ou" (Ancient Greek: οὐ "not"). It was used to denounce the government's Irish land policy: "It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favor is too bad to be practicable." Decades before the first documented use of the word "dystopia" was "cacotopia" (using Ancient Greek: κακόs, "bad, wicked") originally proposed in 1818 by Jeremy Bentham: "As a match for utopia (or the imagined seat of the best government) suppose a cacotopia (or the imagined seat of the worst government) discovered and described."[10] Though dystopia became the most popular term, cacotopia finds occasional use, for example by Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, who said it was a better fit for Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four because "it sounds worse than dystopia". Some scholars, such as Gregory Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent, make certain distinctions between typical synonyms of dystopias. For example, Claeys and Sargent define literary dystopias as societies imagined as substantially worse than the contemporaneous society in which the author writes, whereas anti-utopias function as criticisms of attempts to implement various concepts of utopia.

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