Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

Now that we have the Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale) adaptations coming in, perhaps it’s time for Octavia E. Butler to come to television. Her most famous (and arguably best) novel, Parable of the Sower, touches upon issues of race and religion in ways few writers have ever tried.

18-year-old Lauren Olamina lives in a walled-off community in LA, one of the few middle class enclaves left. No one can leave without an armed escort. Police and firefighters only show up if you’ve got the cash to pay them.

The president promises to “make America great again” (Seriously; exact quote) and does so by giving corporations breaks and cutting the budget of the space program. Lauren has been born with a condition known as hyper-empathy that allows her to feel whatever kind of pain she inflicts on others. Being one of the few people in the world that actually has empathy, she starts making her very own religion and bringing new converts on board after her walled community is attacked and overrun. Like the best dystopias this one is so fascinating because it doesn’t feel so far off.

The Tripods Trilogy

The Tripods Trilogy

If The CW needed a show to follow up The 100, this is where they could head next. John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy shows what would happen if H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds Martians weren’t so lame and disease-prone and actually managed to take over the world. After decimating the cities from inside their massive metal tripods, the remains of humanity are “Capped” with metal mesh devices that get fused with their brains and prevent them from thinking about things too much. The story begins generations after civilization has been brought low and basically thrust into the dark ages. There’s no technology or even electricity to speak of, and the main character’s dad has a wristwatch that is the only one of its kind in the whole town. The story follows a couple of kids who escape their village a year before their capping ceremony (kids are capped at age 14, when their heads have mostly grown) and head off The White Mountains, a place where free people are said to live, to fight back against their captors.

Subsequent books (not including a prequel that details the invasion of the tripods and the start of the resistance) show what happens when our heroes find out what the alien invaders actually look like, and live inside their domed, gravity-controlled habitats as their slaves.

They’re young adult novels, but like the best ones, they touch on universal issues, all compounded under the hormones of a scared teenager. Most uniquely, the protagonist is somewhat of a sidekick to the real heroes that are his friends, as he tries to stay out of trouble and lay low while they get things done. It’s a rarity in YA stories that always seem to go with a “chosen one” type. Personally, this trilogy was my first introduction to the genre and one that’s always stuck with me, and could provide that same kind of introduction to dystopian TV.

It Can't Happen Here

It Can’t Happen Here

Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel was published during the rise of European fascism, when the title was something spoken by Americans. It’s a wake-up call, and one we still need to heed.

It Can’t Happen Here is about a populist politician that becomes President of the United States after running on a platform that promises to pay people cold hard cash and bring America back to the greatness it once was. Not even Lewis could have believed he’d be a game show host, though.

Things start to spiral out of control as the President rages against those that defied him, jailing them and eventually opening up concentration camps for his political enemies. The population goes along with each new minor atrocity, not realizing what they’re losing. Women and minority rights start getting stripped one by one, and congress is disbanded. Military judges rule over the land and send non-Americans to the camps at the slightest offense. Soon, it’s too late, and a resistance is formed to take back the country.

Fun fact: It Can’t Happen Here sold out on Amazon following the 2016 election.

Player Piano

Player Piano

In Kurt Vonnegut’s very first novel, the people that have ruined the world aren’t fascists, but engineers. The story begins ten years after WWIII. While most of the population was away fighting and dying in the war, the people left behind turned to automated machines to keep the effort going, and the veterans returned to a world with dwindling employment opportunities.

We follow a man named Paul who has managed to climb his way up the corporate ladder to become a factory manager, one of the few safe jobs in a place that’s descending into chaos due to unemployment.

Vonnegut drew upon his experience working at GE as a publicist to write this novel and he brutally tears apart the concept of climbing the corporate ladder. Paul eventually realizes that he belongs on the side of the working man and tries to help lead a revolt against the machines. As this is one of the few dystopia stories featuring a character who’s part of the elite class that decides to defect, it could be both hilariously dark and a vicious satire on where we’re going, especially considering the real and incoming threat of robots taking our jobs.

Continue Reading 10 Dystopian Fiction Stories That Should Come to TV >>

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