Cultural Gutter: A Relative Dystopia

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Over on The Cultural Gutter, I’m writing about Nalo Hopkinson’s dystopian science fiction novel Brown Girl in the Ring. A Relative Dystopia is a look at how our culture, upbringing, and personal experiences can shape what we define as a dystopian future, and how people of a different race can look at the exact same thing at the exact same time and take away very different impressions.

It was only a couple of chapters into Nalo Hopkinson’s dystopian science fiction novel Brown Girl in the Ring that I realized that the story is, for me, an exploration of what exactly constitutes a “dystopia” and how our surrounding culture, our upbringing, our personal tastes, and our gender and race can heavily influence our sketches of what constitutes a grim future. For example, many people point to Blade Runner as a dystopian film, but when I watch Blade Runner, I see a future full of awesome cities, flying cars, punk rockers, and people sitting around listening to old Ink Spots records. That doesn’t seem very dystopian to me (remembering that all the stuff about a plague exists only in Philip K. Dick’s source material, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and is never mentioned in the movie). Similarly, I always thought the future in William Gibson’s Neuromancer seemed pretty cool. I mean, a space station full of Rastafarians? How is that not an all right future?

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