10 Great American DystopiasS

In a country whose ideal of success is often called "the American dream," there are plenty of nightmares too. The United States has its own particular brand of dystopia, full of religious thuggery, class warfare, and the spectre of slavery. Here are ten of the greatest dystopian stories ever created about America.

Image via Hunger Games Wiki.

1. Neuromancer

William Gibson's 1984 novel revolutionized science fiction and popularized the subgenre of cyberpunk. What truly blew readers away was Gibson's vision of a future where governments have crumbled and multinational corporations rule the Earth from orbital mansions. This same worldview was realized in visual form in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, based on a Philip K. Dick novel, which solidified in many audience's minds the idea that America's future would be a polluted, corporate-controlled urban sprawl.
Why is this an American dystopia?
In the United States, there are less government checks on corporate power than in many other developed nations. Many of our nightmares are fueled by the idea that there will be a runaway power grab by corporations.

2. Gamer

This cult film from the same team who brought you the Crank movies is a burning vision of an America where everybody has become a mind-controlled gaming addict. Everybody plays MMOs where they pay to control the bodies of other people, instead of avatars in a gameworld. The human avatars are forced to do everything from compete in war games to the death, to have sex with whomever their controller wants. Like The Matrix series, Gamer involves brain implants that turn humans into pawns in somebody else's game - but instead of AIs controlling us, in Gamer we get a more realistic picture of gaming corporations controlling our minds so we can have "more fun."
Why is this an American dystopia?
It's about America's sprawling entertainment-industrial complex worming its way into our minds and taking away our freewill.

3. Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents

These linked novels by Octavia Butler are about what happens after an economic apocalypse leaves the US government broke and powerless. Without a centralized government, various regions in the country fall to gangs. Meanwhile, religious militias set up "reeducation camps" for people who refuse to swear allegiance to Jesus. Our main characters, some of whom have been born with mysterious psychic powers, are rounded up and tortured before the country slowly comes back together again.
Why is this an American dystopia?
Set in various regions of California, it is strongly influenced by fears about recent American recessions (in the 1990s, when these books were published) as well as the rise of the religious right.

10 Great American DystopiasS

4. The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood's 1980s novel, which later became an excellent film, is about what would happen in the wake of two disasters: radiation accidents render most women sterile, and a religious, right-wing government takes over the population. As a result, women lose all their civil rights, and fertile women are given to infertile couples to bear the children of the household patriarchs.
Why is this an American dystopia?
It combines a fear of American right-wing religious groups with a fear of American nuclear power.

5. Julian Comstock: A Tale of 22nd Century America

Robert Charles Wilson's sprawling, incredible novel is about how North America slowly recovers from an economic and energy apocalypse that have left the regions that were once the US and Canada languishing in an early-nineteenth century level of technology. The country has also reinstituted slavery. After winning a civil war, a group of scrappy soldiers and Darwinians fight to reform the religious regime whose home base is in New York City.
Why is this an American dystopia?
Though many nations produce fantasies about how peak oil and economic collapse will destroy civilization, Wilson (a Canadian) gives a specifically American gloss to this dystopia by pulling in slavery and American religious politics.

6. Planet of the Apes

A group of all-American astronauts find themselves the victims of a space-time situation that leaves them stranded on Earth millions of years in the future. (See io9's timeline explaining how all the Planet movies and TV series fit together.) Apes have become the dominant intelligent species, and Homo sapiens are just dumb lab animals.
Why is this an American dystopia?
If the famous image of the destroyed Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes didn't give it away, maybe the other movies in the series will. Basically the original movie cycle, made during the late 1960s and early 70s, are a fantastical retelling of the U.S. Civil Rights movement (the new flick, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, also explores this idea), with the apes in the role of oppressed minority groups. Are these movies about how humans get what they deserve for enslaving animals? Or are they about how oppressed animals will destroy the world when they finally gain power? You decide.

7. Jericho
This TV series, about a series of nuclear attacks that leave the U.S. in a fragmented state of chaos, offer a realistic look at what post-atomic dystopia would really be like. Instead of zombie mutants running everywhere ala Walking Dead, we are treated to warring towns in Kansas, evil fragments of the remaining military infrastructure, and the horror of life without high technology.
Why is this an American dystopia?
Set in the American heartland, it's basically about what would happen if you had all the bad parts of American small town life, untempered by any kind of federal oversight. Plus, nukes.

8. Gattaca
This shiny, high-tech world is ruled by people whose genomes are deemed the most fit. Created by Andrew Niccol, who has written and directed some of the greatest American dystopian movies out there — from In Time to The Truman Show — this movie is about what happens when a biotechnocratic government controls our every move.
Why is this an American dystopia?
Filmed in various parts of California, the movie is about how Americans justify class division using science - a long tradition in this country, going back to eugenics advocates in the 1920s and 30s.

9. Wall-E
The Earth has become so polluted that nothing is left on its surface but vast garbage dumps — and the only creatures who live here are a garbage robot named Wall-E and his cockroach companion. Humans all live in pampered, consumerist luxury on space stations where they do nothing but play with computers and guzzle brownie shakes.
Why is this an American dystopia?
It combines draws a direct connection between American consumer culture and the demise of Earth from pollution and climate change.

10. The Hunger Games
This trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, soon to be a series of feature films, combine the most frightening aspects of Gamer and Julian Comstock. America has become an impoverished, resource-depleted country called Panem where most people starve on government rations and a few lucky elites live like royalty in the Capitol. Every year, a handful of young people are chosen to compete to the death in a televised ritual called The Hunger Games.
Why is this an American dystopia?
Set in what was once US territory, it is about our fears of economic collapse combined with a terror of how reality television can be used as a form of propaganda and torture.