i09 takes a look at the fall of young adult historical fiction and the rise of YA dystopia, comparing the similarities between the two.
Anyone who has walked into a bookshop lately knows that YA fiction set in the dystopian future is flying off the shelves, while stories set in the past are fading away. It’s not just that dystopian fiction has caught the historical fiction’s market share — dystopian fiction now fills the same niche for young readers that historical fiction once did.
Science fiction and historical fiction share quite a few similarities. Both genres focus more on world-building than contemporary novels. They spend a lot of time introducing readers to unfamiliar technology, strange people with jobs that nobody has in today’s world, weird clothing, and complex nearly-unfathomable social systems. Words like “house” or “shirt” mean pretty much the same thing in all contemporary novels, while meaning any number of things in futuristic or historical fiction.
And the sub-genre of dystopian fiction is even more similar to historical fiction, in that almost all dystopian fiction takes place on Earth. It’s just as easy to map Panem from The Hunger Games or Orlean II from Ship Breaker onto our existing world as it is to map ancient Kush or the Roman Empire. Earth-bound dystopian novels and historical novels are both time-shifted versions of our current world.
While these similarities exist for all dystopian and historical fiction, the genres share an even greater overlap in the world of YA. Both genres allow — and often expect — teenagers and children to shoulder greater responsibilities, independence and even jobs, than contemporary YA fiction.
You can read the rest of the well thought out article here.
What do you think? Are the two genres really that similar? If so, what is it about dystopia that makes it so much more appealing to today’s audience than historical fiction? The article’s author concludes that it is because of the lack of relateable or interesting technology in historical fiction. Do you agree with that? Do you like historical fiction as well as The Hunger Games and other dystopias?