Writing a book is only half the battle—or half the joy. Let’s keep it positive. We are talking about hopepunk here.
When I finished writing Seeds of Change, I knew it wasn’t going to easily fit into a genre box—or any box for that matter. It has become very important to shoehorn one’s creative words into a particular genre so that the book can be shelved with other books of its kind or promoted with other books of its kind. This is a marketing problem and a marketing solution. It doesn’t have much to do with creativity or originality.
I knew my book fit loosely into the science fiction genre because the setting takes place on a spaceship and an exoplanet. Beyond that, it doesn’t fulfill some of the expected sci fi tropes.
I stumbled upon an article on the online news and opinion website, Vox about a genre labeled hopepunk. It all started with Alexandra Rowland.
From the Vox article: “The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk,” declared Alexandra Rowland, a Massachusetts writer, in a two-sentence Tumblr post in July 2017. “Pass it on.” This post began a movement of sorts.
It started for me with a similar gut reaction to the grim, dark, dysfunctional stories that I was passing over endlessly in my own search for something to watch, something to read. Having had some grim, dark and dysfunctional moments in my own life, I had not one iota of interest in reading or watching stories that were completely devoid of hope—stories that featured a cast of characters who didn’t even make a feeble attempt at integrity. I didn’t want to fill my psyche with the idea that the entire world, and for that matter, the entire universe was conspiring against me.
The stories that capture me are about the grey areas of life, and about what people do to lift themselves out of dysfunction and despair. I have seen people rise up out of the depths and those are the heroes in my life. They are not perfect people, they are flawed and human, but they continue to fight for every inch of growth.
From the Vox article: “Now, picture that swath of comfy ideas, not as a brightly optimistic state of being, but as an active political choice, made with full self-awareness that things might be bleak or even frankly hopeless, but you’re going to keep hoping, loving, being kind nonetheless.
Through this framing, the idea of choosing hope becomes both an existential act that affirms your humanity, and a form of resistance against cynical worldviews that dismiss hope as a powerful force for change.”
An author friend, Cathleen Townsend, who writes stories in a similar genre labeled Noblebright, commented that “it amuses me that we need a name for what was basically classic fantasy and SF.” She has a point, that perhaps we have fallen so deeply into the trend of pessimism that we now need a name for work that dares to be optimistic. Even though optimism may be a Hopepunk attribute, it is anything but pollyanna. It fully acknowledges the darkness but refuses to stop fighting for the light.
As much as I don't like putting books and people in boxes, I think Seeds of Change fits the hopepunk box well enough, and all its odd angles have found a genre home.
If you would like to read more about hopepunk, here are a couple of articles to get you started.