Stephanie Harvie is an active comic book enthusiast and fan-fiction writer from Brawley, California. Currently, she spends her time reading, writing, and attending Comic Festivals in her resident San Diego.
.Interview by Stephanie D’Adamo
How long have you been a writer? Have you worked in the comic industry? If so, where? Anything fun we should know about you/those jobs?
How long have I been a writer? Forever. Since I can remember? I think I started writing fanfiction around 2000. But I’ve always journaled, written short stories, poems…I’m just that type of person, I guess.
I worked at Galactic Comics and Video for a few months…[and overall] it was a fun job. [Our customers] ran the gambit from the guy looking to buy a specific comic over 50 years old, to kids asking for my opinion on new releases.
I bet both your personal and professional work gave you a lot of exposure to genre-fiction of all kinds. Specifically, how would you define “dystopia”? Do you think it differs from other major themes? How so?
Well, if you want to get specific, Wikipedia defines it as the opposite of utopia. In which society or the community has in some important way become undesirable or frightening. “Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society.” Because this definition is so broad, dystopian works can also encompass other genres in itself. So everything from zombies, aliens, and robots to strict government rule, and toxic pollution could be included in the dystopian genre. The way in which dystopian worlds are best categorized is by examining how it is the society as whole is effected by these cataclysmic events, whatever form that may take.
What are some works you feel best highlight “cataclysmic events”? How do they do this?
The two most popular comics on the shelves now–The Walking Dead and Watchmen–are both considered dystopian. The Walking Dead can also be put into the zombie genre, but it is fundamentally dystopic in nature. In films, you can run the spectrum from Terminator to District 9 to The Matrix. Books are equally varied, from classics like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 to the more recent release of The Hunger Games. So different from each other and yet all fall under the dystopian header.
Do you think this is why dystopia has rather quickly become prevalent in so many comics, books, movies, et al?
I think it has become so prevalent because it is so transmutable. Not only is it speculative fiction, which can incorporate science fiction, but create an ill for society, any type of ill, carry it to its extreme, and you’ve got your dystopia. I also think people gravitate towards dystopia works without realizing it. On the surface, Warm Bodies is a zombie movie, or Falling Skies is just an alien invasion tv show. The dystopian message is there but in the subtext. I think it’s also become so popular because it gives people a way to feel better about the society around them. Finish the book, movie, or tv show and you realize you don’t have it as bad as those people did. You might have bills, but at least you aren’t being eaten by a zombie.
What is your favorite new release that emphasizes this “sister-theme” or “subdivision” of economic and militaristic struggle? Why?
Pacific Rim is the latest movie to come out that exists in an [economically-focused] dystopian world. In this movie it is giant alien creatures from another dimension that have invaded. Before humanity can build giant machines to beat them, they have no choice but to use nuclear weapons to take them down. Sometimes right over huge cities like San Francisco and Sydney killing millions of people and leaving huge swathes of coastline uninhabitable. The rich move inland and the poor struggle to live. While the movie deals more with the giant robots and the military that has sprung up to fight these monsters, it never lets you forget what they are fighting for. The people that so desperately need them to stop the invaders so that they can live and try to rebuild.