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Love in a dystopian setting

Love in a dystopian setting

Love in a dystopian setting

I take a great interest in trends in publishing, especially within the romance genre, and it has struck me how much popular fiction in the past two to three years is set in a futuristic dystopia. Books like The Hunger Games and Divergent are bestsellers, spawning films and TV series like The 100. Many of these popular books that are classified as science fiction and as young or new adult are, realistically, love stories whose publishers and author quite deliberately seek an adult female audience – they are, at their heart, romance stories.

I write romance, and one of the trademarks of a Hannah Fielding novel is the vivid setting. I choose to situate my stories in inspirational, fascinating, historic settings that are exotic for many readers – Mombasa and its environs for Burning Embers, Venice and Tuscany for The Echoes of Love, and for my new series, Andalucía, Spain. I research these settings carefully, and include plenty of detail to ensure I really transport my readers there. I see the settings as integral to the stories – their beauty and colour in turn beautifies and colours the love story.

The dystopian novel’s setting, in fact, has the same effect.The world in which itis set is so dark, violent and bleakthat against this backdrop the love stories stand out as the one beautiful, innocent thing for which to fight. It makes for a powerful love story, but the element of escape in the reading is different. In my kind of love story, the escape is in the reading – you sit in an armchair and I lift you up on a hot-air balloon ride over the savannah, to watch wild animals roam free in the rays of the rising sun. In the dystopian love story, the escape is in returning to reality. The worlds are unsettling, full of ugliness, often; distressing at times. In putting the book down, you come back to reality with a sigh of relief – the good feeling created by the love story remains, but you do your best to cast off the shadow of a dark and damaged future world.

I wonder at this drift into dystopia. I wonder why the trend is occurring right now. Is it a reflection of political situations worldwide? Is it the case that readers identify closely with the dystopia, because they feel that their own world is so far from a utopia? Do all readers recognize just how dystopian these books are? Is there a sense that escapism to a happy place is no longer desirable, deserved? Is dystopia becoming more real, more believable somehow to readers than pure, happy-ever-after romance? If so, that saddens me – the need to believe in love, to have hope; these are the echoes in our every heartbeat.

What do you think? Have you read dystopian romance or watched it on the big screen? What do you enjoy or not enjoy about it? Which would you choose, a love story set in a dark fantasy world or one set in reality? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Laura Fabiani - Italy Book Tours

This is an interesting take on dystopian novels. I’ve read several of them and they become addictive. So true what you said about romance novels offering escape in the reading whereas dystopian novels offer escape in returning to reality. I realized as I read your post that I enjoy romance set in a world unlike my own, which is why I prefer historical romance. BTW, I sent you a reply to your request. I hope you’ve received it. It seems that my other replies to you did not make it into your inbox. So sorry about that. Looking forward to… Read more »