Monday, April 7, 2014

Hunger Games is over for sparkly vampires ...

Here's a piece I wrote for The Sunday Telegraph, Australia's biggest-selling paper, where I explain why I hope dystopia will drive a stake through the heart of those sparkly vampire stories!

MY daughter thinks that society is rotten, governments corrupt, television a way of brainwashing the masses and authority not to be trusted.
I couldn’t be happier.
She’s not talking about Australia, of course, rather she’s hooked on dystopian novels. The good news is, dystopia is the hot subject for teenagers these days, having replaced the stupid sparkly vampires and the impossibly buff werewolves.
Dystopia is the opposite of utopia — a vision of an unpleasant future. But that’s fantastic. Because, instead of heroines who swoon about helplessly, waiting for their Undead saviour, dystopia features heroines who get out there and take charge themselves, who save not just themselves and their families but their whole world.
It’s big now but it’s about to get even bigger.
This year we have four huge dystopian films hitting the big screen, kicking off with Divergent this Thursday, based on the bestseller by Veronica Roth. Behind that will come The Maze Runner (book by James Dashner), The Giver (book by Lois Lowry, film to star Meryl Streep and Katie Holmes) and then part one of Mockingjay, the finish to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.
They feature heroines like Katniss and Tris, who are everything you want a teenage girl’s role model to be: courageous, idealistic, resourceful and above all a little flawed.
After seeing teenage girls devouring vampire and werewolf stories, with heroines who just wanted to find a man who treated them badly, it is fantastic that the swing is on to dystopian novels. My daughter never read Twilight — I made her watch the spoof movie Vampires Suck instead, so she never took the genre seriously, instead devouring dystopia.
It’s great to see the movies but, of course, the books are far better.
And there are stacks more dysto-pian novels out there that haven’t been turned into movies yet.
Perhaps there could be an ­amnesty. For every ridiculous vampire story handed in, you get half-price off a dystopian novel.
Then we could ceremonially drive a stake through the bloody things. Forget about being turned into vampires or werewolves with a bite — those books are more likely to infect teenagers with the idea that women are helpless and need to be rescued.
Much better to have them think they can change things if they stand up and fight for them. That they can make a better world with their courage and insight.
So come on, fight the vampires. Not with garlic and holy water but books about gutsy heroines willing to stand up and fight for a better society. You never know, one day we might need them …
Duncan Lay is a fantasy author with HarperCollins. His latest book, Wall Of Spears, is out now.

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