Dealing in dystopia

June 25 marks the 111th birthday of novelist George Orwell, best known for his dystopian masterpiece 1984. Dystopian books such as Orwell’s explore social and political structures within an often dehumanized, doomed society. We asked three fiction writers for the key elements of a good dystopian story.
Published: May 15, 2014


“Figure out how your story is relevant. Sure, premise, plot and character are all important in dystopian fiction, but the key is to understand how your story will shine a new light on our world today, and use that understanding to guide your writing.”
—J. Gabriel Gates, Blood Zero Sky

 “It’s important to keep in mind that the dystopian elements of a story are merely a framework for your world and characters. When you focus on the struggle of people to love, to progress and to evolve within these at times outlandish constructs, you create a story that’s vivid while remaining relatable to readers.”
—Gennifer Albin, Crewel World trilogy

“For me, a good dystopian story, no matter how fantastical the setting, should be shaded with reality. It should dissect, defamiliarize and interrogate the world.”
—Samantha Shannon, The Bone Season