Sometimes finding inspiration to write yet another future world is difficult. Science fiction gives you creative freedom but the readers expect certain tropes. So many movies and books have enticed audiences, many of them with breathtaking views of famous cities which lie in ruin. Some writers trust what’s been written before. Why invent the wheel again? In addition to the setting, a writer must invent fashion, food, customs and decide how women and androids are treated in front of the law (among a thousand other details which make the world in question believable and rich).
Dystopia in popular culture
Some common visions rule our imagination about the not-so-distant future: the dusty wastelands of Mad Max and the uni-clothed people walking along the clean streets of cities (The Giver, 2014 and Equals, 2015). Popular culture might seem pulp, but sometimes a book or motion picture makes a lasting impression on our joint subconsciousness. Blade Runner’s (1982) dark & wet Asian metropolis is iconic. No one can dispute a setting like that. Ghost in the Shell (original 1995, and a beautiful remake with Scarlett Johansen playing the main role, 2017) recycled the technocratic nightmare city with heavenly imagery. The Matrix movies have warped our perception of reality since 1999 and inspired countless directors and writers.
Many creators believe that the future is a scrappy version of today’s world: take George Orwell’s 1984, or Snowpiercer (movie, 2014). There’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, reusing familiar items offers an author countless ways for novelty. What is precious in the future? Something the people of today discarded as worthless? Which vehicles create future mechanics because they are super easy to maintain?
How to dress for dystopia
If you write post-apocalyptic books like me, you’d empty the last hairspray bottle in the world to mold a gravity-defying punk hair-do and wrap your body into the leather (with plenty of spiked accessories). Every sensible nomadic scavenger wears sturdy boots and carries guns. On the other hand, every one of us recognizes the red hood from The Handmaid’s Tale. Wearing that is a feminist statement. Some future people value clean lines. Moviemakers love to dress evil into designer power suits.
- Dressing for dystopia, tips from costume designers: https://www.vulture.com/2017/08/dystopia-costume-designers-on-the-futures-looks.html
- Post-apocalyptic fashion: https://www.deliciousboutique.com/post-apocalyptic-styles.html
- A list of ten excellent dystopian books: https://godofsmallthing.com/best-dystopian-books/
- The 50 best dystopian movies of all time: https://www.pastemagazine.com/movies/dystopian-movies/best-dystopian-movies-of-all-time-1/