Today we welcome Shel Calopa, Australian author of the recently released novel Letters From The Light, as she considers the dystopian genre in the context of what are for many already troubling times. Plus, thanks to her publisher Inspired Quill we have 2 ebook copies for giveaway – entries open worldwide.
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
by Letters from the Light author, Shel Calopa
Are we already living in a dystopia? Is dystopian fiction redundant?
An indigenous author put out a challenge at a writer’s conference last year – to consider whether we might already be living in a dystopia. She questioned whether dystopian fiction had therefore lost its edge. If it had been rendered redundant when real life is worse than fiction.
It seemed ridiculous at first. Australia is a free, multicultural land of opportunity. We are well-fed and in control of our own destinies – surely nothing like the totalitarian regime of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or the blood sports in Collin’s Hunger Games.
Dystopia for some, not all?
Then she reminded us of some pertinent facts. Australia’s first people face daily challenges. They have lower life spans than non-indigenous people; their employment rate is significantly lower, educational disadvantage means many doors are closed, and they are fifteen times more likely to be imprisoned.
But is our society dystopian? I have to admit there are scary signs that we are moving in that direction. Indigenous people are not the only ones suffering at the oppressive hands of the state.
Take a look at mass rallies in Hong Kong, where the government brought in anti-mask legislation to aid identification and prosecution of protestors. Or the state-sponsored cyber-attacks on democracy in Western nations including the US. In South Africa, it’s reported that half a million children with disabilities are not enrolled in school. And Belgium is moving ahead with a plan to reinstate family immigration detention by building a series of new detention centres – is it just me or does that sound alarmingly like Emma Thompson’s dystopian television series Years and Years?
It looked pretty bleak.
Then my homeland burned.
Image Source: The Australia Wildfires in Pictures – Matthew Abbott for The New York Times
Compassion in Dystopia
This month I have witnessed an outpouring of support and compassion from around the world as people mourn with us at the devastation of the Australian bushfires. Five million hectares of scorched earth is difficult to comprehend. The scale is heartbreaking but the kindness, expressed by strangers, fills me with hope and inspires me to keep writing.
Dystopian fiction is not redundant. I would argue it is more vital now than ever. Dystopian authors do more than thrill us with fantastical world-building and moustache-twirling villains, they pose the important question of “what if” to make us think about “what is” and “what could be”.
Huxley’s Brave New World warned of the beige, society dulling effects of genetic manipulation.
Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale cautioned against extreme religion and used a distorted version of our present to provoke us into taking a more active role in the future. It’s a war cry to mobilise the silent majority who sit by the sidelines while our neighbours face daily discrimination.
Aldermann’s The Power explored how sexual politics and gender discrimination might change if women were given a physical advantage over men.
Dystopian Fiction Forces Critical Thinking
I’m proud to count myself as a new dystopian author. My words will not immediately change the plight of our first nations people nor magically resolve the refugee crisis but if I can move one person to think critically about our society and take one action to make their local world a better place, then perhaps we can take a step back from dystopia and ensure it remains in the realm of fiction.
* * *
Imagine a world where light is a privilege
In a future Australia, where light is only for the powerful and the poor struggle in darkness, Sam grew up praying for a way out. Living as the only sighted boy in a town of blind workers was tough. Discovering it didn’t have to be that way was tougher.
Sam is just one of five desperate people, each from vastly different societies in a deeply divided land, who must survive prejudice, calamity, and each other, to unlock the secrets of their world, and ultimately help a fabled AI defeat an ancient foe.
Letters from the Light is a debut dystopian sci-fi novel by Australian author Shel Calopa. Join her and celebrate diversity, explore the corrupting influence of power, and ask whether it’s truly possible to break free of your upbringing.
(December 2019, Inspired Quill)
Get your copy of Letters From The Light from:
or direct (in all formats) from the publisher Inspired Quill.
About the Author, Shel Calopa
Living and working in Melbourne, the UNESCO City of Literature, Shel Calopa is surrounded by writing inspiration. She is a big fan of festivals. If you see her at The Emerging Writers Festival or Speculate please say hello or connect with her at Australian Speculative Fiction group where she is a regular contributor. You can also read her short fiction at www.shelcalopa.com.
Inspired Quill’s Diversity Pledge
The publishing industry at large does not currently reflect the society in which we live. It is therefore crucial to take a mindful, proactive approach to all areas of Inspired Quill (IQ) as a business, and the books we champion when it comes to representative diversity. Our diversity and inclusive publishing mission is simple:
To champion non-tokenistic diversity in all areas of our business and publications in order to more truly reflect the world in which we live and empower everyone – regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, physical and mental ability.
Worldwide eBook Giveaway
Thanks to Inspired Quill we have 2 ebooks to giveaway. Open worldwide, entries close midnight 25 January 2020. See entry form below.
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The lucky winner will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page.
SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – See winners announcement.Updated