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Dystopian Fiction-Class Systems

For an introduction to this topic, check out my previous post, The Dystopia- My Favorite Social Issue Addressed in Fiction.

Class Systems:

One of the most common elements in Dystopian fiction is the presence of extreme classism. The rich elites rule the lowly working classes, and they typically live apart from the lower classes in some kind of hyper developed inner circle, because rich people deserve rich things! Lower classes are usually stripped of freedom and privacy in order for the elites to soundly rule over them. This caste system is reinforced by state propaganda and “educational” efforts used to brainwash the common people into accepting the overruling regime. Social classes appear to be uniform, marking individuality as a crime against the system in charge–hipsters beware. All of these elements are pushed to the extreme in Dystopian fiction in order to emphasis how terrible the world has become (which as covered in my last post, is used to highlight social issue in real life that is a growing concern–in this instance, caste systems).

1984 Class System:

In 1984, Winston Smith, the main protagonist, is part of the Outer Party. Protagonists in Dystopian fiction are usually of a higher standing in the class systems, although they choose to find something inherently wrong with the world around them. 1984‘s class system is divided into three distinct sections: the Inner Party, Outer Party, and Proles. The Proles lie far outside the city, away from civilized man. The Inner Party does not even waste the time spying on them like they do with the Outer Party, which incidentally makes them freer than the Outer Party. Proles are drowned in “Prolefeed,” which is basically anything used to distract them such as Pornography and Alcohol (it’s not all bad in the slums, huh?). The Outer Party isn’t living much better than the Proles. Outer Party members are to abstain from sex, use rations to the point of starvation, and blindly follow the commands of the superior class. Below is an info graph of the class system.

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Read more on 1984’s class distinction here

Brave New World:

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World has a lot more futuristic elements than 1984. In a world of genetic engineering and happiness drugs, the class system is artificially created by those in power. The lowest classes are mass produced in order to operate the mundane chores needed to make the world function (talk about a fun and rewarding job). The lowest three classes, there are five altogether, perform the most repetitive tasks. Epsilons, the lowest class, don’t even have the ability to read or write–they do the Mike Rowe jobs unsuitable for Alphas or Betas. Epsilons and Deltas are mass produced and, therefore, lack any distinct personality. They’ll be happy as long as they get their soma! Soma is a drug used by the government to keep the masses in-line. Bernard, our protagonist, is of the highest social standing, but he is ostracized for his inferior physical size and odd opinion on sex/dating. Here’s an informative picture I found online of the class system:

2945982_origAnimal Farm:

Animal-Farm-HierarchyIn George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Napoleon leads the entire hierarchy as a supreme commander. He represents the king of our little animal play. The pigs beneath him are his right hand and represent the ministry class. Dogs are the army of Napoleon and represent the police state, while all of the other animals represent common man and the working class. Just as with most real-life societies, the working man is ruled over by inferior numbers and is unaware of its own potential/strength. They are blindly obedient to the pigs, whom they believe are representing the animal’s best interest because the pigs are smarter. Read more here.

Implications:

Class systems (or divisions of power) are inherent in Dystopian writing. As most Dystopian fiction utilizing the totalitarian government trope, caste systems come hand-in-hand. If power was distributed evenly among everyone it wouldn’t be much of a Dystopia (well I suppose it could be a sort of anarchic society that has broken down, as is the case in what Adam Sternburgh refers to as Dystopias in disorder). Dystopias in order–those run by totalitarian governments with strict class stratification–represent societal concerns with oppression and over controlling governments. They’ve become extremely popular over the last century, due to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but they also symbolize current concerns as well. With the ongoing issue of privacy, pressed by the NSA and public surveillance, American citizens are facing a real world Dystopian scenario. In fact, Senator Rand Paul publicly declared the NSA’s abuse of privacy to be that of a Dystopian government. Read about it here. These novels are not only alluding to past errors, they also serve to discourage repeat behaviors in the future. Perhaps we need another novel written that reflects the NSA’s intrusions. For another current example, check out this article on Sochi, regarding the recent Olympics.

 

Will these real life “Dystopian realities” affect the trend of YA literature and the Dystopian fad that readers have been swept up in?

One of the reasons people choose to read  Dystopian fiction is for the escape from real life. If our real life becomes similar to these Dystopian themes, they won’t be an escape, just a reminder of how screwed up the world has become. For the people living that world, these novels would likely be avoided. As Maloney states in his Sochi article, ” And that’s the problem — Entertainment is meant to be an escape, fantasy and science-fiction in particular; movies about poverty don’t do well during a recession because no one in the midst of turmoil likes seeing their suffering splashed onto the silver screen.”

So what do you think? Will the concurrent Dystopian conditions in real life adversely affect Dystopian literature sales, or will it create a new breed of Dystopian fiction meant to highlight the current tragedies the world is facing?

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The Dystopia- Favorite Social Issue Addressed in Fiction

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Dystopian fiction has always been one of my favorite concepts in literature. Ever since reading Orwells’s 1984 in high school, followed by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New WorldI developed a slight, SLIGHT, obsession. A dystopia, for those of you who don’t know, is basically the opposite of a utopia. It’s an idea proposed to challenge the concepts used to achieve a utopia. For instance, Judge Dredd (super-future-cold-hearted-etc cop) does a hell of a job enforcing the law and minimizing crime rates, but does so at the cost of impoverished citizenship with leaps and bounds of social prejudice. For the rich this might seem like a utopia, but even from that perspective, I doubt you could argue against the derelict living conditions of 90% of the population. Some other fun dystopian universes I enjoy (Yay!):

  • The Matrix
  • Equilibrium
  • Clockwork Orange
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Blade Runner
  • Animal Farm
  • I, Robot
  • Hunger Games (Not a favorite but there may be consequences if it goes unnoticed!)

Anyway, these fictional representations were created to convey the important alternative to over controlling attempts toward utopian conditions. The term was coined by John Stuart Mill in 1868,  but took off in the fictional world in the 20th century, fortunately for us. The underlying theme is built upon current/future political and cultural concerns. George Orwell wrote 1984 shortly after World War II in response to the rise to totalitarian governments such as Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. They are usually directed at current social, political, and economical trends that are exaggerated to create satirical alternate universes.

Here’s an excellent slideshow explanation by Arik Durfee on Prezi

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So why do we enjoy this genre?

Powerlessness. The world is constantly changing around us, environmentally, politically, socially, and we often have no control over these changes, leaving us feeling powerless. Much like the heroes and heroines in dytopian stories, we feel oppressed, monitored, and controlled. Dystopian stories offer a surreal escape from the numbing world we live in. So why don’t people look toward optimistic stories of love and happiness for their escape? An article by Lauren Sarner of the New York Daily News states it well:

Dystopian realities tend to come with incredibly high stakes. Government oppression and corruption is a common trope, as well as wars, forced conformity, religious fanaticism, and heroes facing odds that are incredible to the point of hopelessness. Most of all, they feature heroes fighting against those odds. Dystopian heroes typically suffer more than ordinary heroes, and not all of them make it out alive, but they all put up a fight.

Read more: Dystopian Fiction and its Appeal

I think people reflect themselves in the story. They want to be the character who has the courage to stand up against an overpowering force. Stand up for what’s right, and persevere against the immense hardships they endure. So, why do you think people, YA and adult, are so interested in dystopian settings?


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Eric’s Current Affairs Round-up

20130530054212!Spartacus_season_3_posterIf you’ve ever started this series, nothing else need be said. But, if you’re of the unfortunate souls yet to discover it, take heed and begin the journey. I’ve long awaited this final season, and just now finally got around to watching it. It is likely one of my favorite series… EVER! Having just finished watching Breaking Bad, that’s saying something. The show itself revolves around Spartacus. For those of you unaware of the tale, Spartacus was a slave who led a three year rebellion during the roman empire. Stanley Kubrick actually had a movie titled Spartacus as well. As far as action goes, this show is unparallelled. I will give a mild disclaimer: there is basically soft-core porn and heavy gore in the show. It definitely captures the roman era, though, and I never found it to be distasteful.  I give it 5 stars! Watch it!

670px-0,800,0,449-Kill-la-kill_wp_pc_1920x1080_aAnother show I recently started watching, Kill La Kill. This high intensity anime is equal parts action, velocity, bizarre, and fun. The show never seems to take itself too seriously, and even in the most dire encounters, the protagonist will fall victim to co-star, Mako’s, humorous side-tracks. Ryuko, the main character, searches for her father’s killer and finds herself on the steps of a totalitarian high school run by who she suspects to be the culprit. Students vie for power through school uniforms that range from one to three star goku uniforms (more stars=more power). The fights are action packed and stretch the bounds of reality. The overtly sexualized uniforms for some characters does take a little getting used to, but anyone familiar with anime would understand. I haven’t yet finished the series, so keep the comments quiet! If you are a fan of anime, I’d definitely give it a go. Episode one sets the pace pretty quickly.

babyJust another day down the road to the wild wacky world of Japan (in the best way)! Probably not a lot of people aware of them yet, but the young girls featured above are part of a growing sensation in Japan known as Baby Metal. Mixing the instrumentals of death metal with the vocalizations of Japanese Pop, the girls have created a strange, but remarkable, genre. They’ve been around for a few years, (Yes, even though they are already so young!). I discovered them on YouTube with one of their hit songs, Gimme Chocolate. I’d strongly advise checking out that link with your speakers turned to maximum. Definitely not a band for everyone, but the catchy lyrics and dominating guitar shreds/drum solos get me pumped up. I’ve been using them for my workouts lately. Very effective.

 


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Literary DeathMatch BSU

LiteraryDeathMatch

Last Friday, March 21st, I went to an event called literary deathmatch, a showdown between creative writers where they display a few pieces and then move on via audience voting. Ball State has broken up their preliminaries into three Fridays for fifteen students to weigh their works against one another. On March 21st, the even took place at Village Green Records. I’d never been there before, and wow, was it just a little bit cramp. Aside from that, the five presenters were great.

1-Kendra Roberts

2- Ethan Rivers

3-Brittany Means (A fellow Lit Citizen and classmate) See her blog here

4-Matt Ryan

5-Orion Joll

Since then, the winners and advancing writers have been announced! Brittany Means and Orion Joll will be moving on! Though the polls were anonymous, I have no problem admitting that my front-running candidate was Brittany. I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes the competition.

The next events are as follows-

Friday 3/28 – 6PM @ The Cup

Jeff Owens- (Another Literary Citizen) See his blog here!

Brianna Pierce

Brandy Banister- (Yet Another LitCit) Blog here!

Cooper Cox

Ben Rogers

 

Friday 4/04 – 6PM @ Bracken Library 104

Paul Enzmann

Sarah Hollowell

Kaiti Crittenden

Camille Isis Germain

Blake Mellencamp

 

For more information on the contest, you can read about it on the dedicated Facebook page, here.


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Interviewing for Your Dream Job (Or Just Pretending To)

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My practice interview didn’t go exactly like that… but getting to know your interviewer is a strong step in the right direction, maybe just not so (ahem) intimately.

Thanks to the Ball State Career Center, I was able to hone my interviewing skills with a knowledgeable and friendly mentor. I know what you’re thinking, “why practice for an interview, Eric?” Well, I’ll tell you why! Just like with a speech or a presentation, you want to deliver your message calmly and confidently (it makes you look smart, trust me). Practicing is the easiest way to build that confidence needed to kill the actual interview.

So get out there and start practicing. Or, delay that order and check out some quick advice I have for you.

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Here’s a picture of my interview attire, upper body only–sorry pants fans. While it might not be the classiest get-up, it qualifies for business casual. BUT, remember to dress better than the position you are applying to, within reason. You don’t wanna show up for an interview with pizza king in a suit, it’s off putting. Try to get a feel for the company’s culture and mirror that look for the interview.

QUICK TIPS AND HINTS:

I took note of some of the questions he asked me. They may help you prepare for a practice interview of your own.

1.) Tell me about yourself. – This one is most likely always going to be asked. Try to keep it brief and professional. Only list things that you have completed our achieved. Leave your personal life out of it.

2.) Why are you a good fit for the position? – This is where you need to list your attributes that relate to the position you’re applying to. In my case, I informed Eric on how I have intermediate Japanese proficiency and am currently enrolled in a TEFL program. Both of which bolster my credibility.

3.) What is your desired salary for this position? – This was one that caught me up. I had researched the position before-hand, and being the well-informed candidate I assumed I was, I quickly answered $2500-3000 monthly. Apparently, you should never be the first to suggest a salary or wage rate in an interview. Always attempt to have the interviewer give a range. If the given range is acceptable, leave negotiations for later, but if the range is too low for you, negotiations may take place right then and there.

4.) Have you ever had a supervisor you’ve had disagreements with or problems with? – This is where you show how well you can handle disagreements with the chain of command. Don’t make the supervisor out to be a bad-guy or poor worker unless it’s absolutely black and white. I stammered through this section because I haven’t had much experience with upper management conflicts.

5.) Have you ever had any group conflict and how did you resolve it? – Much like the supervisor question, try not to place blame on other members or make them out to be the bad guys. In my example, I told a story about group members not pulling their weight in an academic setting. I was able to conquer this problem in later classes by setting strict deadlines that everyone had to adhere by.

For more questions, check out this helpful link. For a sample interview, you can check out this video.

The practice interview was definitely a helpful experience, and I’d really recommend it to those of you who are nervous about such a situation. Take advantage of the resources available to you; more preparation is always a good thing.

If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other class-mates’ experiences. They all participated in the same program I did, and you can positively learn from our collective embarrassment.

Brittany MeansAndy WelkKrissy MccrackenRiane HallHaley Morgan


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New Horizons

I think when I first started my creative writing career, or hobby, I had a wider canvas of topics that I wrote about. As I’ve sped through my classes, my subject matter diversity has almost ceased to exist. I said it in class, but for those of you who don’t know yet, I prefer to write/read horror. On top of that I’d add a supernatural element. I guess it’s okay to narrow your field when it comes to writing, but I definitely need to expand when it comes to reading. I was trying to select books to read on Net Galley, spending a few hours looking over books that seemed interesting to me, but oddly enough, I’ve found it hard to take a blind leap of faith on a book. I typically look at reviews before-hand! A real catch-22 when it comes to selecting a book to review. I ended up selecting a few that best suited my interests such as horror, mystery, and thriller genres, but it left me feeling as if I have narrowed my interests a little too much. I’m sure I could enjoy a story in most genres, as I do with movies, but it ultimately comes down to the books themselves and how they’re written.

A great blog post on a similar subject by Liz Loves Books made a few suggestions on how to expand your preferences. Firstly, it all begins with a small first step. An easy first step is simply listening to the suggestions your friends might make. Try to make it something that is outside of your usually subject preferences. I can’t say that I’ve taken many suggestions from my friends and family, though. The only other avid reader I know in person is my mom, and she prefers to read widely different genres than I do. As much as I’d like to expand my horizons, I don’t think Josh Grisam is going to do it. Liz also made a rather radical suggestion, depending on how you look at it. Next time you find yourself at a local book store, a cheap one preferably, try to pick a random book, outside of your genre or preferred section, and choose something solely on the cover of the book. Interesting advice since most people advise you not to “judge a book by its cover.”

What do you think of these covers? Without any other information, summary, acclaims, awards, or otherwise, would you take a chance on one of them? Liz suggests doing just that. Take a chance. If you hate it, hate it. But what if you love it? It might not be worth the time or the money for some people, but I think it sounds like a fun experiment. I’ve got to admit, I’ve done it a few times before, but I at least read the book’s plot background on the back.

Lesson: attempt to read books you might not typically read! I have a few on my shelf that are far outside my standard choices, but I keep putting them off in favor of the books I’m more inclined to. Once I finally sit down and get a chance to try them out, I’ll tell you all how it went!

On a side note, I was finally approved by Net Galley to review a book. Doing Cathy Day proud! The book, if you’re interested is The Butcher, by Jennifer Hillier.


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My Ticket to Citizenship

Funnily enough, or stupidly depending on your perspective, I actually had no idea what this course was about when I enrolled in it. Using only the course title, “Special Topics in Creative Writing,” as all the information I needed, I ignorantly assumed the class to be another workshop with ordained topics or settings that had to be used. Possibly demanding I write a short story about an alien invasion taking place in Barcelona or other extraordinary pitches. Suffice to say, I was a little shocked to discover a central focus on “networking” devices, as I’ve grown accustomed to seeing them as in the business field (Sorry)! I’ve always shied from social networks, largely due to my reclusive nature, but I suppose this will be a worthwhile endeavor for my career as a writer and my other career fields. Twitter and Facebook are still far from winning me over, but the idea of keeping a blog and participating in an online community seems alluring.

Having never considered this element of the literary world, I found the articles this week to be quite enlightening. Immediately, I was drawn to the article, Why Authors Tweet, in hopes of uncovering an explanation as to why. It seemed much the same as what was mentioned in class, in regards to high-profile authors do not bother tweeting but the new entrants and middle tiered authors do. The active authors seem to genuinely enjoy tweeting their followers: playfully masquerading in character voices, bonding with shared viewpoints, and artfully constructing literary works within Twitter’s confining 140 character maximum. This was what I found surprising because that is precisely my struggle with social networking, having meaningful interactions with people I’ve never met in person. Hopefully something this class may alleviate.

Betsy Lerner’s book, The Forest for the Trees, held much of the same advice we’ve received through Ball State. It’s always humorous hearing about how well “professional” writers take criticism. As she stated in her book, the ultimate reason an author fails to become a recognized name is themselves. Meaning, when the author gives up, that’s the final straw. Us as students need to realize that even a harsh rejection can be seen as constructive criticism. Granted, and even Betsy mentioned, some agents are overly critical on some people and may in fact be “dumping” on those authors. That said, I still think a few harsh words shouldn’t be enough to discredit someone’s dream. If you can’t persevere, perhaps you weren’t meant to be a writer.

Sambuchino’s article on fundamentals for platform writing contained a hefty dose déjà vu. Like much of what we have read so far and what we have learned, many of the fundamentals mentioned by Sambuchino nearly mirror the networking advice we receive in the Miller College. What I have learned in my business classes seems to be transferable to building a foundation in the literary community. At least in this class, however, we will actually be putting these lessons into action. Fantastic!