We feel like almost every imaginative world of misrule could benefit from these thoughts, though this piece uses, for its medium, the now-rare genre of Cyberpunk.
In the late 1980s, visionary scifi/fantasy authors looked around them and extrapolated a terrifying future–“cyber” because it dealt with computers and tech, “punk” because it was dark and nihilistic, yet full of a fierce intensity.
Fortunately, of course, such a world could never come to pass.
But as a public service, we’ve put together some ways you–sorry! We mean your characters–might be living in a gritty Cyberpunk dystopia.
1. Beware distraction devices issued by private corporations! In a traditional dystopia, in general, the government controls the masses. But in most cyberpunk dystopias, governments sometimes seem to just provide a framework, stretched over a series of corporate interests.
If the government issued everyone with mandatory devices which tracked their location, ruined their sleep, and kept them in a constant state of overstimulation, people would very rightly rebel.
If Individual corporations created communication toys, each with more computing power than possessed by anyone in history, and those companies competed to find the most popular ways to convince people to spend more time at those devices, even making the devices central to one’s life, it might basically start controlling how we live.
Let’s be glad our characters don’t live in that world, eh?
2. Politics and media go mad. This is always a controversial subject, but just remember the basics:
While many dystopias dealing with government repression are simply heavily censored, Cyberpunk worlds have so much access to information that even the forces which might otherwise aim to repress info will instead join in the general insanity. The news in dystopian worlds grows ever more insane, more unbelievable, and more shocking every day.
Since these things are works of fiction, the world news goes from disaster to disaster, with brief glimpses of hope in between. That creates deep dramatic tension.
This should be a red alert for your characters, since news in the real world would, of course, never do this.
3. Fortunately, a small group of plucky heroes can save us. Fictional dystopias are brought down by plucky groups of heroes. This ragtag group of gifted misfits, against all odds, can identify and defeat an evil villain who is making things go awry.
In real life, you can’t beat a dystopia that way.
Want to know how real-life dystopias go down?
So do we. If you figure it out, please let us know?