A dystopia is an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. Like the one in The Road (2006), by Cormac McCarthy or V for Vendetta (1982-1989) by Alan Moore. And we might be already living in it. You don’t need to accidentally stumble upon a secret government laboratory to start thinking that way too. Reading the news will suffice.

People on social media have been sharing stories that the media publishes as ‘feel good’ but sound like dystopian nightmares instead. Continue scrolling to check them out and let us know what you think about them in the comments.

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Similar thoughts have been bugging people for a few years now. As reported in 2017, Penguin Random House has seen a 9,500 percent sales increase for George Orwell’s 1984 after Donald Trump’s inauguration. That was enough to push the book to the top spot on Amazon’s bestseller list. The publisher also saw enough demand for It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’1935 satirical novel about an authoritarian president, to reissue a paperback edition in December 2016—and then double down with a robust second print run a month later.

At the same time, Ben Rybeck, the general manager of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Texas, said copies of 1984 and other similar titles were “flying” off the shelves. Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio, sales manager Glen Welch had also seen unprecedented demand. “All of a sudden, these books started taking off,” Welch, who describes the store’s customers as an even split between liberal and conservative, told WIRED. “I haven’t seen this before, in my 10 years here.”+

Part of the appeal of such books is simple escapism. Like writer Charley Locke pointed out, dystopian fiction enables readers to taste a darker timeline, albeit one that a protagonist invariably triumphs over. The world could be a lot worse, they think while turning one page after the other. But there’s more to it. A dystopian worldview, whether derived from fiction or real-world events, can have therapeutic value—no matter which side of the aisle your politics belong on.

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Dystopian literature has long given authors a way of making sense of the world around them. For example, Orwell conceived of 1984 under the looming threat of the Soviet Union, and Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale after the elections of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

“We can work our way through problems by telling stories better, at times, than by writing philosophical treatises,” Chris Robichaud, an ethicist at Harvard who teaches a course on utopia and dystopia in fiction and philosophy, explained. “You look to fiction to see how people are wrestling with serious problems.”

That’s valuable for readers as well, especially when the current political climate is so divided. “We can’t look at dystopias as merely some bad slippery slope argument,” Robichaud said. “Rather, they challenge us: What are the values in this dystopia, and what do they say about our values right now?”

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Here’s what people have to say about all of this

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