SDCC12: Hungry for Dystopia Panel

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San Diego Comic Con 2012 has a great spread of interesting and exciting panels, and one of the biggest was Hungry for Dystopia. Dystopian worlds are one of the most popular genres in fantasy lit (particularly YA) at the moment, thanks to books like The Hunger Games. On the Hungry for Dystopia panel seven awesome authors discussed why this genre is just so damn appealing, despite—or perhaps because—of its darker nature.

This was a stellar panel with some kick-butt novelists all set to discuss doom and gloom: Anna North (America Pacifica) led the discussion with panelists Neal Shusterman (Unwind trilogy), Lissa Price (Starters), Paolo Bacigalupi (The Drowned Cities, Ship Breaker, and The Windup Girl), Michael Grant (The Gone series, BZRK), Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse and Amped), Gennifer Albin (Crewel), and Marie Lu (Legend trilogy). A few I haven’t read, but all I have heard of and have a lot of respect for their work and subsequent successes. They made up a great dystopian panel in the breadth of types of themes (environmental issues, political issues, technology issues, etc).

There were only a few questions, but that really allowed for the writers to go to town, talking about their various stories within the themes of the things asked. The first one asked what modern anxieties helped inspire their books. The answers were nanotechnology, age-prejudice vaccination, abortion, brain-altering chips, environmental destruction, and gender issues. Holy crap, it was amazing the variety of stories presented under this umbrella theme. A few times I found myself shaking my head with the awesomeness of the creativity that was present.

The next big question was about the importance of place in dystopian worlds and the role it plays. Bacigalupi loves to take familiar places and amp them up in his books. Grant confines himself to a setting map and sees what he can play with within that. Price and Lu both commented on the presence of LA, with Lu adding that it’s practically already dystopia. And universally it seemed like everyone enjoyed inflicting pain in their home town.

The final big question before the Q & A was about why bad futures seem to always involve young people. The panelists had a lot to say about this one, and the answers seemed to stick to a similar theme. Children are more flexible and adaptable than adults. Their lives are already controlled, and yet at the end of teenage years you go from being controlled and having no power to having all the power because you essentially inherit the world. It was great getting glimpses into their heads about why they do what they do with characters and setting, and the universal themes were dissected and discussed.

Dystopian is huge, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere any time soon. Hearing from those in the midst of this was great, and the authors’ personalities shone through their intelligent and often silly answers.  I was actually so moved by some of their descriptions of their books that I dropped almost a hundred bucks on books to get autographed, because I just have to read them. All in all, a successful, thought-provoking panel that I thoroughly enjoyed with a stellar lineup of amazing authors.

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