"Matched" author Ally Condie closes out our celebration of all things fierce and futuristic with something a bit more fuzzy—her Guide to a Dystopian Holiday. Ally's latest novel, "Crossed," is out now.
It’s the season—decorations are up, festive music is in the air and people are pepper-spraying each other on Black Friday at Wal-Mart. (I still can’t believe that happened!) This perfect storm of holiday-ness and just plain craziness made me think: What if we had a dystopian holiday celebration? Here are some suggestions for getting in the proper mood:
Listen to this: “Machine” by Regina Spektor. One of my favorite things about Spektor is that I’m never entirely sure what her songs are about—they are full of layers and nuance. I like writing that is open to interpretation, and Spektor has that in spades (plus the music itself is gorgeous, of course). This song just has a dystopian feel. I’ve been listening to it over and over as I’ve worked on the final book in the "Matched" series.
Eat this: You know those tinfoil trays that some places give you when you get takeout? The circular ones? Obtain one of those. Then go home and make something bland but nutritional. Put it in the tinfoil tray and eat it. You’ll feel like you’re living the dystopian life with your regimented, tasteless food! (Then break the rules and eat some dessert. Because you don’t really live in a dystopian world, and it is the holiday season after all.)
Wear this: I keep seeing, in catalogs and online, etc., that the jumpsuit is BACK. I will never, ever, wear a jumpsuit, but they’re perfect for dystopian novels. Whenever I read a dystopia, I assume that everyone is wearing a jumpsuit until the author tells me otherwise. This kind of clothing is flattering to no one! Not even really Charlize Theron, who wore an orange jumpsuit just this week in NYC!
Watch this: "Gattaca," "The Mission" or "Edward Scissorhands." Of these three movies, "Gattaca" is the only one that is really a movie about a controlling future society. (It’s staged so well—costuming, set, casting, etc.) But "The Mission" (an older movie starring Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro) has an excellent, heartbreaking story about a small group of people trying to retain their culture and freedom in the face of a much larger entity. And "Edward Scissorhands"’ perfect, creepy suburbia was the inspiration for the setting of my novel "Matched." It’s just so lovely and terrible at the same time.
Read this: “There Will Come Soft Rains.” This is the title of a poem by Sara Teasdale, and of a short story by Ray Bradbury (the full title of his story is “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains"). Read both. I promise your world will be rocked. Bradbury is the master of short stories, sci-fi and awesome writing in general.
The beauty of dystopia is that it lets us vicariously experience future worlds—but we still have the power to change our own. Think about how close the year 2026 actually is. Think about what you want to do to help the world be better in that year, instead of worse. And then go out into our own current, imperfect, wonderful world and do something. It doesn’t have to be huge. Something small and wonderful, like reading a book to a kid or sending a note to a friend or finding a charity you love, can make all the difference to you and to the world.