Name: The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
Written in: 1985
Set in: At a guess, probably right about now. I'm kind of pushing it - 2015 might be a safer date - but what the heck. Definitely the coup should have happened already.
Why it's a dystopia: Extreme - extreme - gender repression, coupled with all the rigorously accurate and scientific depiction of ecological/nuclear disaster that we've come to expect from liberal arts majors. A good deal of racism, also (including a soupcon of the usual petulance from the Left that modern Evangelical Christianity has found good, sound, Biblical reasons to avoid anti-Semitism like the plague). Oh, and there's like, heavy infertility and so forth (note the previous sneer about liberal arts majors*).
Why it's significant: It is widely rumored that (at least during the latter 80s/early 90s) proof of possession of this book be demonstrated by any individual seeking a bachelor's degree or higher in Women's Studies. It also got turned into a movie, which was also apparently required watching. And, to be fair, on a technical level it's fairly well-written.
What happened? Well, two things, essentially:
- Margaret Atwood, while a decent writer, has an untreated case of Canadian's Disease: which is to say, she thinks that she perfectly understands the motivations and drives of every facet of every demographic of every sub-culture found inside the United States of America. This is normally not much of a problem, per se, except when...
- ...a sufferer of Canadian's Disease happens to hate one particular sub-culture anyway. In this case, popular evangelical Christianity, which is why apparently we were all supposed to have come under the grips by now of a totalitarian group of fanatical Old-Testament social conservative misogynists with a nigh-literal lust for power. Meanwhile, out in the real world, white evangelical groups instead went off funding AIDS prevention programs in Africa, assisting Christian Chinese against widespread religious-based persecution, and winning elections that unaccountably did not result in theocratic terrorist regimes.
More to the point: every social conservative I know is far too terrified that his wife will figure out that she's far too good for him for him to even think about going for this kind of patriarchy gig. Seriously. Once you drill down the damn Religious Right is practically a functional matriarchy**.
Hey. Look around. Remember, the point of this site is that this is stuff that was confidently and plausibly (to some people, at least) expected to have happened by now. And no, it didn't happen because Margaret Atwood or anybody else wrote a book, either. Margaret Atwood had and has virtually no influence over Evangelical Christianity; its members decided to refrain from a theocratic coup all on their own.
*I am one, yes. Which means that I know what I'm talking about then, huh?
**I exaggerate, but then: so did Margaret Atwood.