Dystopian December - Jennifer Bosworth!

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Guest post by Jennifer Bosworth!

Let the Right Fear In 

I’m a horror girl, constantly on the lookout for my next scare. I’m obsessed with fear. But I’m always surprised when I try to talk horror with people and they say, “Oh, I don’t watch horror movies. I’ve never read a Stephen King novel. I don’t like to be scared.”

You don’t like to be scared? But we’re all scared. Fear is the electricity that makes the engine of society run.

I hate to break it to all you phobophobics our there, but we live in a fear-based society. Fear is what we’re made of. It’s what moves us. It gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s what keeps us on the straight and narrow, and it’s what steers us into the darkness. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not actually saying that’s a good thing. It’s just the way we’re built. If we weren’t afraid (afraid of being alone, afraid of starving, afraid of losing everything, afraid for the people we love) we would become immobile.

Fear is not only a necessary ingredient for life, it is absolutely essential for creating great dystopian literature. Dystopian literature would not exist if it weren’t for fear, one brand of fear in particular . . . fear of the future. And really, is there anything scarier than the future? The great unknown that awaits all of us?

Here’s my recipe for dystopian lit:

•2 parts fear
•1 part paranoia
•1 part pessimism
•A dash of plausibility

Now mix well and serve.

Here’s what the recipe looks like in play:

•What happens if the government becomes so powerful and cruel that it can force children to battle to the death? The Hunger Games

Here you have fear of the government and fear of power in the hands of the few who run it. You have paranoia that the government serves itself, not you. And you have pessimism in regards to how reality television could be used against us.

The plausibility factor is usually based in what we already see going on around us. Plausibility is based in the present, and in human behavior. Turn on your TV and flip through the channels, and you won’t have a hard time finding reality TV competition shows that could evolve into something like the Hunger Games, which is not to say that they will. Just that they could.
The first dystopian story I fell in love with was a novella called “The Long Walk,” by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman. It’s about a group of people who enter a walking contest with a huge cash prize. All the contestants have to do is walk. The only thing is, they can’t stop. If they pause for more than sixty seconds, they’re gunned down. The winner is the last one standing . . . or walking.

I remember how thrilled and terrified I was when I read this story, because it seemed frighteningly possible that this contest could exist.

So for me, that’s the key to the inception of a great dystopian story: not just fear of the future, but fear of a future that’s actually plausible.

When created the world of “Struck,” I asked myself what I was afraid of. Living in L.A., I couldn’t help but be paranoid about what would happen if “the big one” finally hit, how it would change the city. How people would behave in the aftermath (and that’s where the pessimism comes in). One of the questions I’m asked most often about “Struck” is why I decided to destroy LA. The answer is because I love this city, and I’m terrified of what a huge natural disaster would do to it.

Another fear I drew on was my fear of cults and religious fanaticism, and more specifically of brainwashing. I think we’ve all seen firsthand how mindlessly some people follow the rules of whatever they’ve decided or been told to believe, whether it be religion or politics or some other ideology. When people make up their minds, they stop questioning and they start following, and that aspect of human behavior feeds my paranoia and my pessimism, which leads to fear.

Ironically, if there’s one subliminal message I want people to come away with after reading Struck, it’s to think for yourself, and to never let fear rule your life.

But when you start thinking about creating a dystopian world . . . let the fear in.

Author Links:

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Struck - 
Jennifer Bosworth
Released: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Synopsis: Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

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Claire Blennerhassett

Reader, Blogger

Twenty-something | book-blogger | tea-drinker | procrastinator | wannabe-writer | student


  1. Thanks so much for this opportunity! STRUCK was my absolute favorite book of the year! :D

  2. That was a really interesting guest post!

    I'm actually one of those people who doesn't watch horror movies...but I don't actually know why...I don't think it's because I'm scared of being scared...but I don't know...maybe I am...
    That's a very interesting point you brought up there, about fear, and its role in our lives.

    The Long Walk sounds like a great story, I really want to check it out now! :)

  3. Really a great thanks to give us a important suggestion. Thnaks for the reply.
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