Margaret, To take just two of your Dystopian worlds--that of The Handmaid's Tale and that of the MaddAddam trilogy--each holds a place of exile, whether it's the Pleeblands or the Colonies. Do you think this (perhaps post-colonialist) trait is necessary for Dystopian fiction? What other traits are? A caste-system, surely, but what are less obvious elements that you think make up a Dystopian society?
Hello Danny: In "In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination," I propose "Ustopia" -- the idea that each dystopia contains within it a little utopia, and vice versa. There are also places of exclusion and/or punishment (like the pleeblands and the Colonies) and, if an author is feeling kind towards the characters, a way of escape (flee to Canada via the Underground Frailroad) or a refuge (God's Gardeners Ararats); sometimes the escape or refuge is situated in a Future-future in which the bad regime is now history. Dystopian societies are (in general) places of maximum unfreedom; strangely, utopian societies are often strangely similar. As human beings, we are always torn between individual freedom and the ability of choose our actions, and the need for at least enough social structure so that anarchy, chaos, and warlordery -- or the war of all against all -- can be avoided.