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Utopias and Dystopias

March 7, 2011


I’ve been thinking for some time now about Utopias, having just finished my book for adults, Scapegoat, on how disabled people are viewed and how this has made so  many disabled people targets of horrendous crimes. One of the reasons for this, strangely, is the continuing influence of Greek Utopias, particularly those of Diodoros of Siculus and Plato. They both envisioned Paradise as being a place where disabled people either didn’t exist, or from which they were expelled. More recently, of course, in Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, which I re-read last weekend, children with impairments (birth marks, myopia, obesity, mental illness), were the first to be targeted. So I thought perhaps it would be interesting to write about a new and up to date Dystopia, in which disabled people were frowned upon and expelled. I wondered whether there was a way of writing about Dystopia that appealed to a general audience, perhaps through the medium of cosmetic surgery, and all children having to go under the knife before they were allowed to join adult society. And….I found out that I was too late. The wonderful writer, Scott Westerfield, has already written a trilogy (plus one) on the subject – and has a movie coming out soon as well. In his book, Uglies, he writes about children being forced to undergo cosmetic surgery so that they become part of the body beautiful cult – and, of course, some resist. So it’s back to the drawing board for me, though I think there’s room for writing something that is more focussed on disability and Utopia. However, my warning to myself is this: the story’s the thing, and not the message. So I need to find the story that works, before I work on the message. That’s the hardest part to get right, but it’s important not to be too didactic, otherwise the story will disappear under the message. So it’s back to the drawing board for me…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Children's Author permalink
    April 1, 2011 8:55 pm

    How many times have Romeo and Juliet been done?? Thousands. Yet when it comes to an archetypal story, even plot, the human psyche hungers to hear it again. Like a favourite bedtime story for a three-year-old, “Read it again”. Is it our Goldfish memories? It doesn’t matter. It’s fine to use the same theme. Your story would be written completely differently from his. I reckon go for it. Put your own spin on it, your own heart, your own pain, and when it’s published in three years time, people will say “what a brilliant, original idea”.
    Nikki B.

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