Grimdark has always been a concept of humanity living in the worst environment as possible, and there is not even a single joy can be found in an utterly grimdark world. 1984 is an example of such a world. It is a novel by George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair, but he didn't use it on his books because reasons) published in 1949, primarily about what would happen if the government has complete control over everyone, where you will be watched everyday and being forced to believe whatever lies the government tell that week, or else you'll be tortured and mind-raped to absolute despair.
Orwell began work on 1984 eight months after reading (and being directly inspired by) We, one of the earliest known dystopian novels and arguably the first thoroughly detailed totalitarian society in science fiction. Written in 1921, the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin was in turn inspired by his translations of H. G. Wells (though We wouldn't be published in his home country until 1988, mostly due to coming down with a serious case of "banned by the Soviet Union publishing committee"). Orwell's work was conceived as a cultural translation of the book, and it (and by extension We) served as the inspiration for many a grimdark totalitarian dictatorship, particularly Paranoia and Warhammer 40k.
The scariest parts are the fact that the book is merely a chronicle of the evils humanity is capable of: no dangerous aliens or demons, just us, not to mention the fact that Eurasia was inspired by a real-life nation; Soviet Russia (Stalin's regime). In fact, in the books Big Brother is mentioend near the end as having a mustache just like said tyrannical dictator. However, it should be noted the book is a condemnation of tyranny and dictatorships in general, due to how similar all the three nations involved in some eternal war are. This ends up giving the work a lot of applicability, in that you could switch around their names with entities like Nazi Germany and Kim-Il-Sung's North Korea (he claimed to be inspired by Stalin) and not be able tell the difference.
Orwell himself was a notable anti-fascist, having fought in the Spanish Civil War on the communist side; ironically enough, he would in fact sell out friends to the British government by ratting them out if they were gay (which in that era was considered a crime punishable by death at worst). This makes him the third biggest dick amongst non-/tg/ related authors on /tg/, just barely beaten by his competition.
As such an influential work, expect comparisons to and mentions of 1984 to be thrown around carelessly and frequently by someone who probably read it once and think they're instant experts on recognizing totalitarianism. One may optionally bring up the irony of his aforementioned government snitching for added hilarity.
In Airstrip One, Oceania, a middle-aged member of the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith, isn't happy about his life. He's sick of doing the same thing every day; helping the government spread their propaganda, being exhausted at work, his home life dominated by his telescreen (pretty much "IN SOVIET RUSSIA, TV WATCHES YOU!", and woe betide anyone who breaks or turns theirs off), never getting laid (except for a far back encounter with an elderly prostitute; P.S prostitution is illegal here) and not having enough to eat. But his life changes when he meets his co-worker, twenty-something brunette Julia. Despite coming across as a model citizen, even being a member of the anti-sex league, Julia gives him a secret message which says "I love you." After meeting her outside their work, they talk and Julia and Winston decide to give each other what they want, which is something the party considers unacceptable. Winston has a fun time fucking Julia, learning about the past, eating the real food the upper class gets and writing in his notebook about how much he hates The Party. During this time, Winston's co-worker O'Brien introduces himself as a member of the secret anti-government Brotherhood and recruits Winston and Julia.
They receive a book on the Brotherhood's ideals and are instructed to continue with their affairs until called on by them. They do, making the inn where they had their first tryst their secret love nest. After a sex session, they start reading up on the Brotherhood (which can be summed up as idealist English Socialism). During a later tryst, they are found out and arrested by the Thought Police, who had been spying on their room through a telescreen hidden behind a painting (the innkeeper is revealed to be an undercover Thought Police commander). They are beaten and taken to the Ministry of Love to be brainwashed. There, Winston is reunited with O'Brien, and finds out that O'Brien is actually a top-level government agent; his "recruitment" of Winston and Julia, and maybe even the Brotherhood itself, was part of a sting operation. O'Brien tortures Winston to the brink of death and insanity, then when Winston starts to succumb to the brainwashing O'Brien nurses him back to health. After he monitors Winston in his sleep and finds out that Winston still loves Julia and hates Big Brother, O'Brien sends him to the dreaded Room 101 to meet his worst fear.
Interesting thing about this room is that it is where the party torture their victims with their worst fear, and naturally their fear was recorded from childhood, meaning the party may have already had Winston as well as everyone in their grip: "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past". In Winston's case, his greatest fear is rats, because he had found his house full of rats after his mother and sister's disappearance and assumed the rats ate them (note that back in the day of London (also known as the place airstrip one focused in the book), rat problem were seriously bad that civilians would die from either the disease it spread or just straight up eaten by its swarm). Using this fear, O'Brien put a metal cage like device with rats inside (see picture on the right), threatened him that he would let the rats eat his face and ultimately mind broke the poor Winston.
Months after being successfully brainwashed by the party Winston meets Julia again, who is also brainwashed, and both are uncertain about their futures and no longer love each other. In the end Winston despairs so much he cannot even commit suicide, believes that 2+2=5, and loves the Party's figurehead leader, Big Brother.
And that's when he is finally shot, or not. You see, all that torture the party has done to Winston only killed his "self", meaning he no longer exists as a thinking individual. He exists only as a puppet of the Party, forever selfless, forever loving Big Brother. While the party threatens to murder Winston with a single shot from a gun, they never did.
Winston's self is the part that makes him human and unique — it essentially is Winston. And now that it is dead, he waits only for his soulless shell of a body to die as well.
The World of 1984
Because of how much the Party of Ingsoc controls the perception of reality, the state of international relations as a whole should be taken with a humongous grain of salt. For all we know, Oceania actually encompass the entire planet and just intentionally bombs their people to keep the hysteria and illusion of war possible. On the other hand, Oceania just consists of Airstrip One and is actually a third-rate joke of a country pretending to be a superpower like North Korea. Nevertheless, according to the Party, the world of 1984 is split into three spheres of influence, each under the control of the respective super-states.
The main super-state and the one that 1984 is centered in. Oceania is a supernational entity that was formed after the revolutions in the 1950s and 1960s following the atomic wars during that time period. Basically, it led to the United States absorbing (AKA annexing) the weakened and collapsing British Empire along with its dominions, conquering South America and portions of South Africa. Following this, there was a civil war within the newly formed Oceania fought between the newly established English Socialists against the established Capitalists and other ideological parties. What happened during that period is unknown, as Oceania had already altered the realities of history and thus, the past. What is known is that the English Socialists (now shortened to Ingsoc) won and become the ONLY political entity. It was not known who was formed first, Oceania or Eurasia; either way, such petty differences was of minute importance in 1984.
As one of the three world superpowers, Oceania obviously commands a immense military industrial complex, a large military and a sufficiently strong enough economy to support a never ending war. Whilst Oceania may not be as geographically as large as Eurasia nor as populated as Eastasia, Oceania could rest easily knowing that it is defended by two great oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific. The presence of these oceans means that Oceania has a immense navy and is possibly Oceania's key advantage over the other three super-states. Furthermore, these oceans makes Oceania impenetrable from any potential land invasions, as to cross these vast oceans would meet sufficient resistance from Oceanian floating fortresses.
Oceania's governmental structure is left intentionally vague, although hints and snippets from Goldstien's book (which, might we add, may actually be fabricated by Big Brother himself as a trap to lure potential dissidents) suggests that Oceania runs on some form of oligarchical aristocracy. But it is not an aristocracy in the traditional sense, for a traditional Aristocracy must have a group of nobles ruling a state and propagated though usual hereditary means; Oceania is not designed to be hereditary, so it could be said that the aristocratic Inner Party is aristocratic only in terms of being 'noble' through loyalty and Party affiliations. In this case, it is also an Oligarchy as only 2-3% of Oceania's population are from the Inner Party. Likewise, Oceania also showcases both examples of capitalism and socialism in its economic framework: capitalistic in the sense of the Party's "need" to overproduce products for the sake of being wastefully consumed through warfare, and socialistic in the sense private property no longer exists and a planned economy seem to be in the works (multiple telescreen announcements proclaim a victory of the battle of production through a three year plan).
Nevertheless, Oceania's foreign policy, like its adversaries, are constantly in a state of flux - they declare war or ally with either Eurasia or Eastasia, whichever suits the national interests of the three governments, thus staying in power through perpetual war.
The second super-state that is frequently mentioned. Eurasia is constantly seen as the main antagonistic entity that Oceania is fighting against (at the very least in the first half). Like Oceania, Eurasia was formed from the atomic wars in the 1950s. It is not known which super-state was formed first, Oceania or Eurasia. Whilst Oceania formed from the absorption of the British Empire into the United States, Eurasia was formed from the Soviet Union annexing Europe, the Middle-East and Northern Africa above Sub-Sahara at the maximum. Eurasia, being a blatant expy of the USSR, followed an ideology called Neo-Bolshevism which is almost ideologically similiar to the other super-state's ideologies.
As you may already know, Eurasia is possibly the largest of the super-states in terms of geographical size. Unlike Oceania, which is protected by the two large oceans of the Pacific and Atlantic, Eurasia does not have that much access to the waterways. Indeed, Eurasia most likely have very limited presence in the heavily dominated Oceanian Atlantic Ocean, and have some modest presence in the Indian Ocean. The Arctic ice sheets are the primary reason why the Eurasian navy never matured. Nevertheless, Eurasia's sheer land mass makes Eurasia itself unconquerable as the large varied landscapes of Eurasia, not to mention areas such as the Ural Mountains, the Swiss Alps, the Sahara and the Gobi Desert is an absolute logistical nightmare for any Oceanian forces willing to invade the heartland of Eurasia. Furthermore, Eurasia seems advance towards rocket technology as rocket-bombs constantly hit Airstrip One on a daily basis. Eurasia's mechanical divisions seems to be the most powerful of the super-states and its armies are vast and extreme. Near the end of 1984, the Eurasian army was big enough to invade and almost conquer the whole of Africa before Oceanian tactical genius attacked the Eurasian army from behind through the Horn of Africa and broke apart the invasion force. Likewise, Eurasia's most vulnerable area seems to be its borders with Eastasia, whose territory from Mongolia, Manchuria and Tibet are constantly in flux, although these territorial changes aren't that significant to the two powers.
It is unknown what governmental structure Eurasia has; considering that Eurasia is just an "evolution" of the Soviet Union, one could estimate and guess that Eurasia's governmental structure resembles a socialist oligarchy, in which close Eurasian Party members stay in perpetual power from the larger masses. There would probably be no middle-class unlike in Oceania, where the Outer Party constitutes the middle. Economically, Eurasia's Neo-Bolshevism may imply that it is still largely a communist-run economy with planned economies even stronger than Oceania's.
Like the three super-states, Eurasia's foreign policy is constantly changing, with Eurasia constantly allying and betraying either Oceania or Eastasia in order to keep the illusion of perpetual war and stay in power.
The third super-state and the least known of the superpowers. Unlike Oceania and Eurasia, we actually do know when Eastasia was created. Eastasia is the youngest of the super-states as it was formed a decade after Oceania and Eurasia due to a period of 'confused fighting' (So somewhere in the 1960s). Of course Eastasia also posses the oldest continuous civilization of the three super-states. Due to the time period that Orwell had published 1984, the Chinese civil war was still ongoing at that time (The book was published in 1949, a few months before the communists beat the nationalists and proclaimed the PRC) and Orwell speculated that the war would continue longer than he expected. Anyways, Eastasia is overtly referenced to be formed by Mao's China annexing the Korean Peninsula, Japan, Northern India and some countries south of China such as parts of Indochina, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Mongolia isn't one of the countries absorbed by China because at that time period, China still retained the territories of the former Qing Dynasty and Mongolia was already part of China at that time. The main ideology of Eastasia is loosely translated into Death-Worship, although the full translation is called Obliteration of the Self.
Currently, Eastasia is geographically the smallest of the three superpowers, but its small size does not mean that Eastasia is the weakest. If anything, a long war of attrition favors Eastasia above all. Whilst Eurasia is unconquerable due to its landmass and Oceania is protected by two oceans, Eastasia is safeguarded by sheer population size. Indeed, Eastasia is the most populous of the three super-states and their citizens are as industrialized as their Eurasian and Oceanian counterparts. With its large population and relatively smaller geography, Eastasia finds it easier for it to defend its territories from the other two rival super-states and unlike Eurasia which is large but demographically stretched thin, Eastasia does not need to worry of any unpopulated and thus, undefended territories. Eastasia possibly posses the largest standing army out of any of the superpowers due to its population and posses an equally strong navy to contest territorial disputes in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, Eastasia's geography makes it extremely difficult to invade as Eastasia controls the Himalayan Mountain Range, parts of the Gobi Desert and Eurasia acting as a buffer state in the north.
In terms of governmental structure, we have even less information on Eastasia. Of course it wouldn't be surprising if Eastasia shares the same Oligarchical system as Oceania or Eurasia. Eastasia's Death-Worship ideology do suggests or hint that Eastasia follows a form of ancestral worship and immortalization akin to North Korea's eternal president Kim Il-Sung. No information is known on the economic aspects of Eastasia however; but the collectivist culture stemming from Chinese Confucianism and Maoist China do make Eastasia head to a direction in which its government resembles a council of Elders akin to a Gerontocracy, with a heavily centralized economy with some of Mao's schlick of constant revolution to revive the revolutionary spirit.
Eastasia like the other two superpowers, are constantly at war and at peace with either Oceania and Eurasia in order to ensure that its populace stay forever loyal the state from fear of being conquered.
Anyone of anything that is not part of either of the three superpowers are forced to live a life in perpetual misery, suffering and slavery. These poor bastards from the Equatorial Front, which stretches from Sub-Saharan Africa to the Gulf States and into South-East Asia, are constantly at the mercy of being unceremoniously killed by Eurasian, Eastasian or Oceanian forces or enslaved by their masters to work in labor camps. The territories of the Equatorial Front is constantly in flux as the three superpowers continuously gain and lose territory, all in the guise of perpetuating the war and waste resource to ensure a healthy dose of fear, hatred and xenophobia to their enemies.
Another front of endless fighting also occurs in the north called the Polar Front, in which Oceania and primarily Eurasia contest and compete on who holds claim to the Arctic Ice Sheets. Not much known on Antarctica however, as no one seems to lay claim to it. It could be due to Antarctica's status as being permanently terra nihilus that no one wants to step foot on it. That or Antarctica is such a miserable and useless place even for the standards of 1984 that none of the superpowers could find any strategic interests in annexing an area with no known resources or mcguffin to fight over.
Warhammer 40k's grimdark elements inspired from 1984
- The Big Brother: Big Brother is the omnipotent figurehead created by the ruling Party for those poor bastards to worship (while Big Brother may or may not exist in 1984, the God-Emperor of the Imperium in 40k does exist), and like with real-world religious fundamentalists sex is even considered evil because it takes away veneration from the God-figure. However, despite the totalitarian fanaticism, the society that did inspire 1984 (the Soviet Union) was militantly atheistic regularly partaking in the execution of clergymen, destroying places of worship and publishing defamatory anti-religious propaganda. The veneration of certain figures being a Cult of Personality, and even then it was only for Party members; most of Russia's proles remained Eastern Orthodox but only kept it to themselves for fear of Blam by the government (again, North Korea under the Kim Dynasty is a better analogy).
- Constant Surveillance: In 1984, there are these shitty TV networks that were created to stalk you and troll you everyday call the "telescreens" and you cannot turn them off. If you somehow manage to turn one off, you will be captured by the thought police and have your ass beaten. There are other surveillance devices such as helicopters (for tall apartment buildings), thought polices, and even your own children (whom were part of the party's child spies program that keeps an eye on their parents, and they would turned their parents without a blink of an eye just because they would be labelled as a hero by the public if they do so, the shitty brat). The only people who are free from this nightmare are the underclass Proles, and that's because they're so dumb the Party considers them animals who do not give a fuck about politics, doing nothing but work, drink and wank to porn. Yes, you yourself are one such filthy dumbass Prole, using this Telescreen for hentai instead of actually doing something. In Warhammer 40k, there are the secret police of the Inquisition which have psykers reading people's minds everyday, and Adeptus Arbites who serve fair justice to common proletarians everyday. Also noted that in the Age of Apostasy, Goge Vandire had Cherubim installed everywhere to act as his own telescreens for whatever the fuck he had his minds on.
- In The Grim Darkness Of The Far Future There Is only War: In 1984, eternal war is the best way for Oceania (which is composed of the Americas, the British Isles (called "Airstrip One" in the novel), Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa below the River Congo... according to Oceania) to have their lonely excuse for fun; they wage unnecessary wars with
friendlycountries that are almost exactly the same as they are, using the lands of unaligned countries as the battlefield, the inhabitants of those areas being forced to live in constant slavery under whichever power controls them at that time. All of this is so they can justify their brutal totalitarian rule, which is in place to preserve the status quo. This involves spending most of their money on building more flying metal boxes or floating fortress, a massive waste of force labors that locks up people to build useless cargo ships. The party never giving benefits to their own people who are cramped into 1000 meters-high city prisons for your grandmother to live in. Oceania's neighbors (assuming they even exist) are Eurasia(Europe, Soviet Union and Middle-East) and Eastasia(all of Northern India and East Asia except for Russia), who are just as much of a shithole like Oceania and they are constantly changing sides because they know the war is mutually beneficial. Once they are done buttsecks with each others for resources, they would backstab their allies and making their old enemy a new ally. Again, they three countries (assuming they are three separate countries, and not just a world-spanning Oceania faking a war with itself, or even just a tiny rogue state spewing all this BS) let their ex-ally backstab them on purpose, just to make sure the war never ends, just to make sure the benefits are always funneling into the national treasury.
- The Ministry of (love, truth, peace, plenty): In 1984, the Oceania had their own departments of powers to control their filthy peasants. Despite their organization have names like truth and love, it is actually the opposite. The Ministry of Truth is basically Administratum, where all the history records and documents were "true" and they are certainly not destroyed or rewritten to provide false propaganda. You dispute this? Ha! Where's your proof? Oh please, memories are faulty things. The Ministry of Love is where all the heretics are cared with "love" and the staff members will definitely not treat them with unorthodox methods of torture or mind rape, or both. The Ministry of Peace is the army because only true peace can be found through oppression with bullets, cold steels and flame. An act of war is actually an act of peace, where we enforce the foreign barbarian with "liberty"! The Ministry of Plenty is the food distribution to provide "plenty" for all and certainly not feed the upper class while keeping everyone else in a famine, also the chocolate rations have been increased to 10 grams - they have never been 15 grams and were certainly not decreased to 10 grams. Noted how this 4 ministries is comparable to the four chaos gods. Tzeentch is truth (deceive people with lies), Khorne is peace (eternal war), Slaanesh is love (sadistically fun) and Nurgle is plenty (health through illness and famine)