The world is closing in on you. Gradually things have shifted about your environment and society until you wake up one morning and realize that the world as you know it has radically changed. In those first few moments of disorientation, you have to ask yourself…are you in a dystopian universe? As you go throughout your day, check for these five sure signs you’re in a dystopian novel.
You used to enjoy different seasons with spring and summer being full of beautiful flowers, green-leafed trees, and warm, sunny weather, but now the landscape seems permanently stuck in late fall/early winter. Trees are skeletal, shaking in a nuclear breeze, while the grass is gone and litter is scattered everywhere. You might be lucky to hear a songbird (a Mockingjay?) in the distance, but more likely you’ll see buzzards picking apart roadkill. It’s unbearably hot or insufferably cold. Animals are rarely spotted. Fuel has run out, so people scavenge for gas to sell on the black market. It’s bleaker than bleak. CLUE #1: It’s the dystopian universe landscape.
Newly awoken and disoriented, your memory eliminated, you try to find out what’s going on, but everyone is acting edgy and weird. You ask for normal things—Internet access, TV, electricity—and people close up and won’t say anything. You eventually get someone to crack under your questioning. You learn that people live in fear of speaking out against this totalitarian, dystopian regime. Everyone watches their backs and looks around the room suspiciously, as if Big Brother is listening in or there are cameras everywhere. CLUE #2: Sounds a lot like the paranoia rampant in a dystopian novel.
You never realized how much you loved your wardrobe options until now. You used to be able to wear anything you liked and play it up with accessories, but now it seems awkward when everyone else is kitted out in fully functional clothing. People are dressed for a dual purpose: first, for the weather and second, to be combat-ready. Realizing you have to fit in, you take a quiz about who your dystopian fashion twin is so you can ask her for advice. CLUE #3: Outfitting yourself for the new reality is a major wake-up call that you’re living in a dystopian universe.
It used to be that you never thought twice about your neighborhood or your city. That sense of community was natural. Now, though, you’ve been sorted into a caste or a social class, one that’s harsh and goes beyond natural property lines and digs deeper into who is on top and who is on bottom. Yet you feel fiercely loyal to people in your class, especially your family and any siblings you have. You worry that being with the person you have a romantic crush on is unlikely—close to impossible—now that there’s a class divide or, worse still, you’re in an arranged courtship. CLUE #4: The anxiety over where you belong and how oppressed you are as part of a class is an ominous sign that you’re living in a dystopian universe.
By now, things are adding up. Something has radically changed the geopolitical landscape. Everyone looks miserable, and rightly so. People are oppressed. There are few natural resources left, other than those that are sold on the black market. Everyone is hiding secrets and suspicious of each other. It seems like there’s no one you can trust … until someone very quietly starts to open your eyes to the underground resistance. This person—usually a wise and scrappy elder or a dashingly attractive young leader—sees the potential in you and tries to recruit you to clandestine meetings where people plan how to fight back against the powers that be. CLUE #5: If you are being invited to secret meetings or are asked to take part in resistance activities, chances are you’re in a dystopian novel!