{DISCUSSION} Dystopian vs Scifi: Get it right, people!

Why do people think scifi and dystopian are the same genre?


Okay. Deep breaths. Don’t murderize anyone… today. 😈

Anyway, this is is a discussion I wanted to do a few weeks ago (but then my life went BOOM! You know, like it’s been doing for the past 8 months? 😂) Well, anyway, I totally forgot I’d wanted to do this until I saw a horrible, completely unfortunate, disdainful article someone posted in a Facebook writing group I’m part of. This article was regarding how “depressing scifi is” and how it’s all “dystopians nowadays” and “we’ve come up with this new, happy scifi genre called solarpunk” and “it’s gonna be great!”


So… that part about murderizing people…

Being the controversial person that I am, and being a devoted science fiction writer who is very well acquainted with the genre, I naturally had to read this garbage so that I could rip it into shreds, piece-by-completely-destroyed-piece. 😈 So here we go.

1. Science fiction and dystopia are NOT the same things.

*sigh* This… just amazes me. I understand that dystopians more often than not end up in the science fiction genre because they commonly have futuristic worlds with advanced tech. This world puts them in the scifi genre. The corrupt society (often seen at the beginning of the book as ‘good’), is what makes the story a dystopian.

However! While dystopians are most commonly found in the scifi genre, this is not the ONLY genre dystopians can be found in. More importantly, not all science fiction stories are dystopians! My god! Has no one read The Martian? That’s a perfect example of a scifi that is NOT dystopian. So don’t give me this crap that ALL scifi is depressing because you know what that tells me? That you are not actually reading scifi! So stop pretending like you know everything! 

2. The article made more references to sub-genres of scifi than to scifi itself as a whole.

This article that I read (and do not wish to give ANY page views to because it’s an abhorrent, purely false piece of trash), when explaining where it came up with the idea/name of ‘solarpunk’ made references to… SUB-GENRES of scifi! Not science fiction as a whole. Nooooo! It made references to steampunk and cyberpunk (neither of which are dystopians either, thank you very much!) So using scifi as the main antagonist of this article is completely inaccurate! There are DOZENS of other exciting, upbeat, happy science fiction sub-genres out there that the author completely ignored when writing this article.

3. The comps they used for ‘scifi’ were WHOLLY incorrect and the WORST representations they could have used for scifi.

Ooooo. I don’t even know how to go about attacking this one (and yes, I mean attacking because this made me the angriest of all my issues with this article.) There are TONS of dystopian-styled science fiction shows, movies, and books out there that would have been GREAT examples for how ‘depressing’ science fiction is… And they used none of them. No. You know what they used for their example title to show how depressing scifi is?

Are. You. Kidding. Me?!

I understand that Black Mirror has some futuristic tech in it and all the stories are super depressing, dark, and creepy, BUT I would NEVER label Black Mirror’s main genre as science fiction nor would I EVER say Black Mirror is a good representation of the genre. Good God! Black Mirror is a psychological thriller! Anyone who has seen the shown could easily see that if you’re familiar with genres (another reason to believe the author of the article had NO idea what they were talking about!)

4. Solarpunk, as a genre, sounds like the dumbest idea on the planet.

And now we finally get to the ‘amazing alternative to severely depressing, too realistic scifi.’ Solarpunk, according to the article, is framed around the concept of ‘green, renewable energy.’ It’s supposed to be a futuristic world where humans HAVEN’T fucked over society and the world and actually took serious steps to make it better. So in addition to saving the environment, there is no more prejudice or anything like that. Which is fantastic! It’s what most people on the planet are hoping for and working towards, but there is a HUGE flaw with this concept for a fictional story designed to entertain people:

Where is the plot? Where is the tension? What is the point of this story at all?

In case anyone didn’t see the big flags in that last paragraph, let me explain exactly what solarpunk is… a utopian. A society where everyone gets along and has a place and we’ve taken care of our home, is the ideal image of the future. It’s what we all hope for. It’s the ‘perfect system.’ Problem is, in a perfect world, there is nothing wrong. There is nothing bad. As such, there are no consequences for the characters and therefore, no plot.

While solarpunk may sound well and good, it has, in my opinion, no purpose in the realm of fiction. And PLEASE do not tell me: “Oh, well, it could just look like a perfect society and actually be flawed.” Why do I say don’t say that? BECAUSE THAT’S A DYSTOPIAN! And then it’s no longer solarpunk, but the exact thing solarpunk was trying so fruitlessly to get away from!

But what do you think?
Is scifi depressing?
Is solarpunk the new thing?
Leave your thoughts below!

And check out my discussion from last week:
Whiny A** Teens

41 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Dystopian vs Scifi: Get it right, people!”

  1. This is the first time I’ve heard about solarpunk! When I’m reading sci-fi, I always hold it up the the masters of the craft – Isaac Azimov, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke. Dystopian stories are in a category of their own!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Speaking as someone who really loves sci-fi and has for years and is currently working on a solarpunk novel, I’m a little disappointed that everyone in this discussion has been so quick to assume solarpunk is boring or silly.

    While solarpunk definitely removes a lot of traditional story conflicts, it has forced me to reflect more on internal and interpersonal conflicts. (Plus stuff like climate change, but that’s not just a solarpunk thing, of course.) My main plot revolves around a character attempting to transition into a more utopian solarpunk society that thrives on cooperation after living in another group that was more “every man for himself” and taught the character very different ways of surviving and handling conflict. The cooperative society completely freaks her out and she really struggles with learning the interpersonal skills that will allow her to adapt, because they think and act in a completely different way than she does.

    I don’t necessarily think solarpunk is an entirely new idea, aside from the name, which was just coined fairly recently. It combines elements of a lot of previously existing sci-fi, particularly the focus on how we can use technology and resources we have now to adapt to challenges like climate change or population growth or the scarcity of food or water. I don’t think it’s a genre everyone will find enjoyable to read, but I do think it has an important perspective that adds to the overall conversation within the larger sci-fi genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Serena, I thank you for offering your opinion on this topic as I have not yet run into any solarpunk authors. I definitely understand what you are saying. I think most people assume a story to be very world-interactive and it can be difficult for them to think about stories that are more internal struggles. I surely can’t think of one myself. That being said, I do worry many readers will have difficulty enjoying the genre if it is more internal as opposed to external and I wonder about just how many plot-lines could really exist in a utopia. It’s definitely not my cup of tea right off the bat, but I also lean heavily towards dystopian novels. That being said, I look forward to seeing what you do with it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with you on this, Dystopia needs a genre of it’s own. You can have a Dystopian scifi but they’re not one and the same. Star Trek for example if far from dytopian and in many ways can be too sickly sweet but that’s another thing. To me science fiction is built around one or more concepts around science that are fictional whereas dystopia is a corrupt or ruined society. Totally different. I actually think that many modern scifi’s are forgetting the concept model and are suffering for it, one example I hate to say are the new star wars movies, I think they’re failing for lack of new concepts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AHA! But Star Terk is in a sub-genre all its own! It’s called ‘space opera.’ :p So even that can’t be classified as just general scifi. Hahaha! is so nit-picky

      Exactly! Scifi has more to do with world building, while dystopian is society based. Some may think they are the same, and they can be, but they are not entirely overlapping.

      Oh! I’m curious about your take on lacking for new concepts. Care to elaborate? (p.s. star wars is also a space opera. :p )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ok, i get you here but when does space opera become Sci Fi and vice versa? I guess from the purist point of view you couldn’t put Star Trek and Star Wars in the same category as the Martian. In a lot of ways you could say Star Trek is closer to Scifi than Star Wars I agree.

        You read my mind, I was talking about the lack of new concepts in Star Wars. If you think about it, the original film the Death Star was the big concept and we were introduced to the Jedi and light sabres.
        Even the much hated prequels did pretty well at new concepts to introduce into the mix, but the latest films are sorely lacking. Whether they’re a space opera or not it still needs new concepts right?


        1. Space Opera is scifi. It’s a sub-genre of scifi so I consider to simply be a more specified title. Star Trek and Star Wars ARE scifi, but to be accurate in explaining them, they should be referred to as space opera. But that’s just my opinion. I like labels. Hee hee!

          And yeah, The Martian… I wouldn’t really call it a space opera because it’s on a planet. Not actively taking place in space. You know? Also, a lot of it is a stylistic thing, which I didn’t see in The Martin, but do see in Star Trek and Star Wars. Does that make sense?

          Oh yeah! The 7th movie was literally just like… repeats of old movies and I was like: “Well… this is super boring.” And everyone was like: “That’s the point! It’s mirrorism.” And I’m sitting here like: “Uh… no it’s lazy writing, but you know. Call it what you want.”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ok, I think I get it now. Either way the space opera needs a concept.

            The Martian is Scifi and I would possibly argue hard scifi becasue there’s a lot of fact to digest in it.

            The 7th Star Wars I kind of got, in a way it needed to link with the originals but maybe it went overboard. Han did not need to die and it was unnecessary. Although I liked the 8th at the time I left it feeling a bit let down too. Again Luke did NOT need to die and I’ve found out since that they deliberately did not give the audience what they wanted. 9 needs to deliver BIG TIME or it might kill off the franchise completely.
            But… Rogue One was amazing!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I definitely agree that the author of that article is really twisting and oversimplifying to fit their conclusion. As for this idealized future, isn’t that called Star Trek? Next Generation in particular really hammered ideas of equality and idealized society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Star Trek is a space opera. :p Just sayin’. I have not seen Next Gen in a LOOONG time, but I did watch Enterprise and there are definitely some utopian ideas to it. However, it highlighted that certain prejudices will continue to exist, perhaps not among humans, but among other species. Sadly, it’s inherent in human nature to judge (and fear) that which is not the same as ones self. Hopefully by Next Gen humans had managed to evolve beyond that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. SAY WHAT?!?!?!?! Whelp, I’m done. throws shit lights on fire pours gasoline on fire

      Fantasy and scifi are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FREAKIN’ THINGS! Yes, there could be a possibility of a story having advanced tech AND magic, but those are few and far between and don’t always end well. Even so, they are still two distinct genres. The elements that define them are EXTREMELY different. UGH!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooo okay I have thoughts! Lol
    I’m willing to let Dystopian Fiction be considered a sub-genre of Sci-Fi (but even then that doesn’t always quite fit, although I won’t argue against it…) but they are definitely NOT the same thing!
    And Black Mirror is definitely a psychological thriller, sorta like an even weirder and darker take on the Twilight Zone. I can see how it might be categorized as sci-fi but I don’t feel like that’s its true genre.
    HAHAHAHA And I’m sorry, “solarpunk”??? What the hell is that? Do we need even more subgenres? Blehh utopias are no fun to read about in fiction unless they’re crumbling apart (I swear I’m not a psycho haha) also I’m the negative nancy who believes human nature will forever keep utopias from ever truly succeeding soooooo no thanks. I’ll pass. Lol.

    Random, interesting, and entertaining discussion post as ever haha ✌️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahaha! You always have thoughts, Angela, and it’s great! 😀 It’s so awesome finding someone as animated as I am about my discussion topics. Hee hee!

      EXACTLY WHAT I SAID!!!! OH my god, when I was discussing Black Mirror with a friend, I basically called it Criminal Minds meets The Twilight Zone! Neither of those shows’ main genres are scifi! My goodness!

      I think dystopian can be a subgenre only in the manner that romance can be a sub-genre. It can be a standalone genre, but it often can also merge into other genres as well. Does that make sense??

      BAHAHAHA! No worries. I actually write dystopians (where lots of characters die) so I’m definitely a psycho. 😉

      ER MAH GRRR! Are you like… my mental doppelganger or something?! I totally don’t think that utopias can exist because of humanity! Hahahahaha! No wonder we get along so well, Angela! :p

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hahahaha YAS finding people on the internet who totally think the same!!

        Ugh but yeah the whole genres/categories/umbrellas/tiers/etc. is beyond confusing with the amount of crossover possible haha but yes I definitely agree that there’s a definite difference between dystopian and sci-fi. CASE CLOSED 😜

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is the first time I’ve heard of solarpunk, so I haven’t read any to make any comparisons. I read a little scifi, but I’m not great with lots of starship type battlegrounds. There is definitely quite a bit of dystopia on the market. As for depressing? I don’t think it all is at all, some may be very believable, but it depends what the writer does with the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are correct in that it is not all depressing, but it is the trend over the last few decades as dystopians gained a lot of popularity. It’s why so many people make the assumption that they are the same. But, as you said, starship stories are another form of scifi. They fit into the space opera sub-genre of scifi. And even that is still a small portion of scifi. It really is a diverse and expansive genre, but most of society is only exposed to a small fraction (usually through tv or movies) and makes assumptions on the rest of the genre. If you are looking for some good scifi novels that are not space opera and not dystopian, let me know! I have plenty of fun, engaging examples to offer! 😀


  7. Sounds like an epic-ly awful article! Funny, when you described solarpunk I was thinking, “wow, this actually sounds like a great start to a dystopia!” so I had to laugh when I reached the end and you said not to turn it into a dystopia…

    If there is no tension, shoot us all, we’re already dead.

    There is so much that goes on under the sci-fi umbrella! Not depressing in the least.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. Utopian stories almost ALWAYS run into a dystopian somewhere. A perfect example of this is actually Brave New World where the main character enters a supposed utopian society only to find it horribly corrupt and disgusting. That’s the biggest thing behind why utopias don’t work. So I don’t think this genre will gain much traction.

      YES! You have dystopian, but you also have steampunk, space opera, military scifi, time travel, etc etc. Tons of options are not depressing. People just have to be open to finding them.


  8. What really gets me about the label “solarpunk” is that the entire idea behind the “punk” label of steampunk and cyberpunk is that they explore darker themes. They should call it solarrainbows or something.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OH MY GOD YAS! I completely agree with you. I can’t even remember the number of times someone has misjudged scifi because they’ve never taken the time to really explore it. They just assume it’s a bunch of tech and nerds. Or dystopian plot lines (not that hollywood is really helping in that endeavor). I wish we could do more to show people how amazing scifi can be! And how diverse it truly is!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! Very good point, Katie! It really does not make sense to call it solarpunk given that it’s based on a utopia with a green society. There are no dark themes there that I can see and if there are, then how can they really call it a utopia?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. LOVE this discussion! I completely agree! I find it depressing how often people confuse dystopian and science-fiction novels! The two are clearly different genres, and while there are dystopian stories that can take place in a futuristic society, it doesn’t mean all these books are sci-fi! Many science-fiction novels revolve a society that isn’t corrupt and dominated by a totalitarian government. And I agree that solarpunk sounds ridiculous. As you said, in a perfect utopia, it’s by definition … a society where there’s no conflict. Why would that be interesting?!

    Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! I’m so happy you agree, Kelly! 😀 It’s so refreshing to find someone who completely understands my constant dilemma. Hee hee!

      And I have no idea about the utopian piece. I think my biggest problem with the whole utopia is that everyone’s utopia is different. Everyone has different values and morals and wants and desires, as such, no one’s utopia is a utopia for someone… else… wanders off into the world of plotting BAHAHAHA!

      And thank you! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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