H is for Harsh Environments
A lot of dystopias have harsh environments that make it hard to survive. A few non-dystopia have harsh environments, too. There are a lot of different types, too, but a few things repeat over and over. They repeat so much they have become a little bit predictable.
People have bombed all the life out of the planet or some disease ravaged all living things or the characters are on a planet that doesn’t quite support life or the climate destroyed everything.
Or it’s the culture that makes a dystopia: Brave New World is like that. The culture, far from providing a means to get plenty, takes it away from people. Maybe everyone but the top elite, maybe just women, but a lot of people.
The main character in The Hunger Games are in that situation because they lost a war years ago; Komorr in the Vor books by Lois Bujold is a planet where you have to wear air masks to go outside; parts of the main character in the Vor home is still radioactive from previous wars.
The Vor books are not dystopian, but they still have a fair number of harsh environments. (In fact, the whole culture is a harsh environment for the main character; he would have been killed for having been born with birth defects if he weren’t born to powerful parents.)
Catherine Asaro’s Undercity has a fairly harsh environment, too, full of tunnels and people who are not welcome above ground. Not in the schools and not in jobs, either, unless they sound like the people who live above ground. (Which is difficult without schooling.) I really like this one; it’s not usual sort filled with disease or sand or radioactivity or other war damage. The above ground do discriminate against everyone born in the tunnels, but I don’t think it was result of a long ago war.
So . . . I don’t know. I think I would like to see other types of harsh environments.