The Crossroads of the Aether
I have two very specific rules for steampunk that allow for a broad generalization for the subgenre category
That is all. Others may disagree or create their own definition, but this will be exactly how I define steampunk.
And no, there is no poll option.
My view is that it depends on the literary work in question.
But dystopia is always more interesting, from a literary point of view, that is. There's more opportunity for conflict, without which there is no story.
I think it's almost impossible to write a utopian story. If everything is perfect there's no story. Almost all utopian literature has a huge philosophical axe to grind, and precious little story, which is why there isn't much of it.
But that's a spectrum of extremes.
A nihilist story might be "The rats fought to the death over the last crust of bread, before the ship sank beneath the waves."
In an agathist story, the hero/ine saves the day, makes the world just a bit better, achieves a small victory against the darkness, etc.
But I sense a blog post in there somewhere!
A utopia is a united (u) society, and dystopia is a society at odds (dys)
At odds is rather broad, and can refer to any non-utopian society.
I suppose you could say that in the original Star Trek TV show, Earth is a utopia. Anyone can have pretty much anything they want due to matter replicators. There isn't much in the way of politics. Most of the conflict occurs while interacting with other cultures. It makes me wonder why anyone takes up the challenge of sweeping the floors or being a redshirt. We don't see robots doing those tasks either (though they would have pushed the show over budget.)
I think that fpr "dystopia" to be a meaningful term, things have to be much, much worse than "normal".
Very interesting thoughts... Without conflict can there be sufficient novelty in a world so that there is a sense of progress?