Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dystopian as Science Fiction: Help Me Understand

After reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer a few months ago, I have been inspired to model my classroom around hers and have students choose their own books but give them guidelines by making them read specific genres.

So at the beginning of the summer, I took all the books from my classroom library and labeled them by genre. Here's my frustration though: I need to understand why all dystopian fiction is considered science fiction. There are books where the science fiction label is obvious (Feed, Brave New World) but I look at books like The Hunger Games, and the classic 1984, which are clearly more political than scientific and wonder what it has to do with science (political SCIENCE? I don't consider that pure science. Should I?). I'm assuming because it fits within the "speculative fiction" label rather than the science label and those two descriptions get used interchangeably for this genre. Or maybe just because it deals with the FUTURE?

I guess the reason I'm having such frustration about this is because I have books in my library like The Hunger Games that I'm torn as whether to label them science fiction. Yes, they are clearly dystopian, but science? I'm not so sure.

What say you?


  1. This is the definition of science fiction according to Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster: "a genre of fiction, usually set in the future, dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology."

    Dystopian novels are almost always set in the future and they usually include futuristic technology... I agree that there is a lot of politics to it, but in cases like Brave New World and The Hunger Games, science and technology play critical parts in the shaping of the dystopian society.

  2. Maybe I'm just stuck on the idea that just because something is in the future doesn't necessarily means that the main themes of the book have anything to do with science. When I think of The Hunger Games, the first thing that comes to my mind is "corrupt government" not "science".

    I think speculative fiction is a better label for it.

  3. I struggle with genres and labelling books for my library, too. It can get kind of crazy and, honestly, things overlap a lot anyway. How do you label Twilight? I consider it science fiction because of the vampires and the werewolves...but couldn't it also be romance? I would put dystopian fiction into science fiction and then clarify for students why exactly you put them in the science fiction category. If you have high school students then maybe you could have a dystopian section but for middle grades I wouldn't get so specific. I would put the Uglies series into science fiction because that definitely does deal with science and technology but I would also consider it dystopian...I think that's also part of why i wouldn't mind putting anything futuristic into science fiction.