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Dystopian fiction keeps growing in popularity. According to Goodreads.com, the share of dystopian books in 2012 was the highest for more than 50 years.
The boom seems to have begun after the terrorist attacks on the US on 22 September 2001. After the Hunger Games novels (2008-10) about a totalitarian society, the share of dystopian stories skyrocketed.
It seems unlikely that fiction can be capable of influencing people's real-world outlooks. However, a growing body of research shows people subconsciously incorporate lessons from fictional stories into their beliefs, attitudes, and value judgments.
Dystopian fiction is likely to be very powerful because it is inherently political.
The totalitarian-dystopian genre portrays a disturbing alternative world where powerful entities act to oppress and control citizens, violating fundamental values as part of the rule.
The dystopian narratives affect those who watch it in a profound way by changing their moral values. Studies show that those who watch dystopian stories are more likely to say that radical acts such as violent protests and armed rebellion could be justifiable. They agree that violence is sometimes necessary to achieve justice.
Research shows that people are more willing to draw 'political life lessons' from a narrative about an imaginary political world than from fact-based reporting about the real world.
These narratives may have a positive effect on nourishing society's 'watchdog' role in a variety of contexts, ranging from climate change and artificial intelligence to authoritarian resurgences worldwide. However, the narratives may also encourage radical perspectives that oversimplify complex sources of political disagreement.
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