Dystopia, Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalypse: What’s the Difference?

Dystopia, Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalypse: What’s the Difference?
For many readers, of fiction such as The Hunger Games and the Divergent series, the distinction between dystopia, apocalypse and post-apocalyptic fiction can be confusing. And, to be honest, the lines can be blurred between the three genres as well as sometimes having them able to exist together within the same novel! So what are the distinct differences? Let’s break it down:


This is the opposite to the term utopia which means a perfect place, or the assumption of a perfect existence. It is usually also assumed to be an imagined or idealistic state and not a physical place. The term was first used in the novel called Uptopia, written by Sir Thomas Moore and published in 1516.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsIf utopia is quite literally paradise, then dystopia can be thought to be a place that is hell on earth. While this definition can be true, dystopia as a genre is quite often used to describe a place that appears perfect on the surface but is bad underneath. Sometimes this corrupt existence is known but suppressed (The Capitol in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is a perfect example of this). In other instances, the world appears to all intents to be perfect, but it is discovered as otherwise, quite often by the main character in the story.

As of late I have heard a lot of people referring to AMC’s The Walking Dead as dystopia for adults. This TV series is set in a post-apocalyptic world that is indeed filled with horrors that, by nature, are the very opposite of a Utopian world, however, I would not consider it true dystopian. Without the appearance of an organised ruling body that seems perfect on the outside, this TV series falls neatly into the post-apocalyptic genre. While there are small factions of seemingly Uptopian communities (Woodbury, Terminus, etc), the ruling body needs to be more global than that to classify as true dystopia. If the TV series were set entirely within one of those communities, then, yes, the show would be considered dystopia, but these communities act as catalysts for story lines and plot development rather than the complete direction of the series.


The Stand by Stephen KingMany novels you see in the genre of post-apocalyptic are actually apocalypse novels. The Stand by Stephen King is an example of this, his more recent novel, Under the Dome, also falls into the apocalyptic genre. For this category, you need a world that is in the midst of crumbling. There can be many reasons for this: famine, disease, medical mayhem, earthquakes & other natural disasters  the Mayan calendar, religion & the end times, zombies, aliens, and so the list goes on. The main thing to be aware of is the fact that life as we currently know it is disappearing and the survivors have to cope with this as well as plan for the future ahead.

Post Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalypse

The Passage by Justin CroninThis genre is similar to the apocalyptic one, and sometimes it can even overlap. The Passage by Justin Cronin does this. His book starts as a post-apocalyptic adventure, but in parts we are taken back to the time of the apocalypse.

In the post-apocalyptic world, the life-changing event has occurred and human existence as we currently know it has drastically changed. This genre, however, is not interested in how people react to the cataclysmic events as they occur, but how people change and evolve as time goes on.

The Walking Dead comic series by  Robert KirkmanSometimes the post-apocalyptic world will be many years and generations into the future and this is quite often where the line between post-apocalyptic and dystopia blur. When this is the case, the world that we currently live in is quite often (but not always) seen by the post-apocalyptic characters as an utopian world. In other instances, the post-apocalyptic world will be newer and many of the characters in the story remember what life was like before the big change. They have memories of lost loved ones and things that they once had but no longer can have (ie. TV, McDonalds, the internet, etc). The Walking Dead comic series by Robert Kirkman is an excellent example of a newly post-apocalyptic world.

Are They All Considered Horror?

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Genre: Dystopia)The short answer is: No. However, many of these books do indeed fall into the broader genre of horror. The Stand by Stephen King would certainly be considered a horror novel, where as a lot of the YA (young adult) dystopia would not be considered horror. The Giver by Lois Lowry is an example where it certainly isn’t horror. And it is probably thanks to the massive amounts of YA dystopia literature available at the moment that this genre has really come into its own. Twenty years ago, you would just go to the horror shelves and look there for these types of books.

So, there you have it, the difference between the genres dystopia, apocalypse and post-apocalypse! Let me know if you think I got them right (or wrong) 😉

Sections of this post originally featured on Racheltsoumbakos.wordpress.com

What’s your utopia? A thought experiment

Lit windows at nightI’ve been spending a lot of time writing fantasy over the last few months but I have always had a soft spot for science-fiction. The types of stories I really prefer are those that explore utopia and dystopia. What kind of world can we imagine that would be better than this one, or would be better than this one but we as a species manage to royally muck up? With this in mind, I decided to create my own utopia for fun.

In a world where no one suffers hunger and everyone has a place to sleep, how could this be possible? Everyone needs motivation and if you don’t have to worry about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs what will make you get up in the morning and contribute to society?

In my dream world, everyone would have a basic flat, access to internet and entertainment and some food so they wouldn’t starve. To get more, people would have to work. The most disgusting jobs like working in sewers etc, jobs where you need training and art which finds popularity would be rewarded the most.

Every time someone achieved something, then they would receive a reward. There would be no money, just credits which would be infinite. You can give infinite credits, one per item used or purchased for electronic media or access to venues but received credits would have to be earned.

In this way, entertainment (e-books, music, movies) would be free but every time someone would consume an entertainment product the artist and anyone working on it would receive credits. You would need to spend credits earned for manufactured items like better computers, bigger TVs etc.

business woman uid 1097420There would be communal Google type self-drive cars where you could call for one and it would take you where you need to go. No need to buy transport, unless you want a bicycle.

If you have a job you would get a bigger house, if you created a piece of art that would be popular with everyone then, the skies would be the limit and you could end up with a hilltop mansion. The theory is if you contribute to society then you get rewarded.

Here’s how it might work:

Sales person 10,000 credits
Office worker Admin 10,000 credits
Waitress 12,000 credits (lots of standing around)
Barista 12,000 (Skill required)
Gardener 15,000 credits (Skill and creativity required)
Cleaner 20,000 credits (Not a pleasant job)
Cook in cafe/restaurant 22,000 credits (Skill and creativity required)
Job where a university degree or higher training is required: 25,000 credits
Health care workers 30,000 credits (Compassion, patience, skill, training required)
Doctor/Dentist etc 55,000 credits (combined Health care workers and further training credits)
Artist/Writer/Musician/Actor/Inventor 1 credit for every person that views/obtains work (could be millions or nothing!)

Compassionate and creative jobs would be rewarded the most, then all the jobs that no one wants to do. The easier the job is after that, the fewer credits are applied.

What you gain from your hard work would be yours and your partners for your lifetime. After all in this utopia everyone has the basics so you do not need to inherit anything. The next generation has the ability to compete by working for the prizes of better lives.

There could be a lot of problems with this scenario and it is definitely a work in progress (what writers call a vomit draft) but it does solve the problems of motivation and hoarding. I think this might be a fun theory to explore in a sci-fi story! What do you think?

Metanoia | Zombies or Conspiracy Theories?

Metanoia by Rachel TsoumbakosMETANOIA
Definition: n. a spiritual conversion or awakening; a fundamental change of character
Etymology: Greek ‘change one’s mind, repent’

Marli Anderson has just one task: assassinate Oscar La Monde, the man she once loved.

As assassin for hire for the prestigious Merrick’s Inc., she is sent back to her home town to kill the man she now loathes beyond all others—her husband. Considering they are on opposing sides of the uprising, Marli anticipates an easy task; ‘closure’ they call it. The fact that she can exact her revenge for his past discretions is just the icing on the cake.

When she arrives, the town has changed. The man she hated is unexpectedly welcoming. And the town’s folk—well, they’re just… different. Someone or something has transformed them all into a bunch of zombies. They appear to be harmless – but are they?

As she begins to uncover details of who may be behind the townsfolk’s’ metamorphosis, Marli is left fighting for the truth. Will she and Oscar be able to unravel the web of deception before it’s too late?

Should she trust her heart or her head? Which is less likely to get her killed?

Either way, METANOIA is a heart-stopping zombie apocalypse adventure that will keep you guessing at every twist and turn until the very end.