Try reading a book catalog or publishing website without running across a novel described as 'dystopian'. Does this strike anyone as being sort of new? I know the concept isn't (described as an imaginary place inhabited by fearful, oppressed lives and suffering from disease, overpopulation, and political strife), but it seems like the word is everywhere.
I read alot, and while I've read many of the titles that are considered classics of the genre, I don't remember them being called dystopian at the time. Maybe it just went over my head, but it seems that only the last two years have specifically branded that word into a genre.
Classic titles described as dystopian are: 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, Farhenheit 451, and Lord of the Flies. An article from http://science.jrank.org/pages/7637/Dystopia.html#ixzz0xJPk9s3S
describes the trend:
As dystopian fiction has become more widespread and popular since the end of World War II, critics have grown comfortable in classifying dystopias based on their own generic qualities, rather than explicitly by contrasting them against utopias. The term dystopia has also grown more familiar and is commonly used to refer to any dark or unpleasant future. Finally, by the end of the twentieth century, critics seemed to have abandoned the effort to segregate dystopia from science fiction, the larger literary genre to which dystopia belongs.
This makes sense, as Merriam-Webster seems to link the use of the word to the 1950's. Obviously, it's the opposite of More's Utopia, which I thought was a pretty awful place when I read portions of it this last semester. It actually seemed just as constrained and limited as 1984. I found references to dystopian fiction in literary journals as far back as 1983, but it wasn't commonly used to describe actual novels.
So, what were they called before they became "dystopian"?