Unfortunately for you, I’ve spent far too much time thinking about utopias and dystopias. Sorry, people…you’re pretty much screwed. If you’re not a utopia nerd, you might want to move along.
The term “dystopia” is used a little fast and loose within science fiction and fantasy. Here’s how I see it: A dystopia is specifically concerned with what is dysfunctional about the society overall, on a broad basis. Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid’s Tale are science fiction dystopias. Darkness at Noon is a non-science-fiction dystopia. A dystopia is created by an author who intends to voice specific political and social criticisms, not one who wants a cool setting for an essentially unrelated plot that could basically have been set in a non-dystopic society. A dystopia or dystopian novel, to me, is a very specific thing. It’s a criticism of current society by presenting a more dysfunctional society that represents the worst possibilities in today’s world.