There have been a few largely successful profiles of dystopia in modern time: Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver. Even if you didn’t personally like them, they make up a forefront of the dystopia genre, highlighting certain aspects of a perverse and twisted society, usually focussed on the idea of organized control.
What I wanted to do with City of Immortal Shadows was write a dystopia that wasn’t so perfectly categorized, with clear outlines in the sand of what was good and what was evil. For me, I wanted to highlight one of the most dangerous aspects of our current society, which is, in my opinion, a heedless compliancy. Things are bad, but they are not quite bad enough for us to get angry about them. We work to the bone, we are constantly at risk of falling behind into debt, we are only half a footstep away from being homeless or starving. These are all very real and very present risks, but because we consider ourselves comfortable- enough- we allow it to continue.
This concept has always been fascinating to me. As a Western society, we have simply accepted that this is how life is, how the world is conducted and it makes sense to work most of your life away and support corporations that exploit marginalized groups for their own gain, all while they actively take ownership of our information in order to learn how to manipulate us into better consumers and duller citizens. These factors are usually utilized in dystopia profiles (see: 1984) but rarely in the same subtle, sneaky way that our current government and corporations do. Because of this high contrast, people in active denial of corruption in our political and economic systems are able to justify that it is, in itself, not intrinsically a poisonous society.
Setting City of Immortal Shadows in a very near and very real future, should we not get climate control underfoot, was a deliberate choice in order to highlight how giving citizens just enough to live, but not enough to have a life, was a very intentional allegory that I think is a different take on this genre.
Some people think that Dystopian literature is a dead genre, since we “already got the big blockbusters” and “every dystopia story is the same”, but there is a massive place for Dystopia when it is able to highlight things we consider normal in a different light, and disturb our equilibrium of what we think is ‘acceptable’ and ‘normal’.
In my opinion, there is no better time to be writing a dystopia than during one, because there are way too many people who don’t even realize we are in one.
People with socioeconomic and systemic privilege may never fully understand the depth of how the system has failed us, because they're the ones who reap the few rewards of the broken system. Dystopian fiction is important, because not only does it offer a perspective and access to a world people may never see or experience, but it also gives people hope.
It shows people that they, too, deserve better- that this is not all there is. That can be more.
We can always be more.