A term coined to describe the converse of a Utopia, showing a society considered by the author to be undesirable, for any of a number of reasons.
The term was coined 'in the late 18th century' (source: NODE) (by who?) by regarding the name "Utopia" (actually meaning "nowhere") as being derived from "eu-topia", for a place where everything is as it should be, hence the converse "dys-topia" for a place where this is certainly not the case. Often, the difference between a Utopia and a Dystopia is in the author's point of view.
Dystopias are frequently written as warnings, or as satires, showing current trends carried on to their conclusion. In this, they frequently differ from utopias; utopias have no roots in todays's society, being in some other place or time, or after some major discontinuity in history (e.g. see H.G. Wells' utopias, such as The World Set Free). A dystopia is all too closely connected to current-day society. A considerable number of near-future science fiction stories of the type described as `cyberpunk' use dystopian settings of a high-technology corporate dominated world where national governments are becoming steadily more irrelevant.
Some famous dystopias are:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Anthem by Ayn Rand
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- The Shockwave Rider and The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
- We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
- The Running Man by Richard Bachman, a penname for Stephen King.
- Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
- Neuromancer (and other cyberpunk novels) by William Gibson. (Indeed almost everything in the cyberpunk genre.)