Just a few years ago, apocalyptic fiction was flying off the shelves like there was no tomorrow and dystopian novels were all the rage. Hunger Games. Maze Runner. 1984. The Giver. We just couldn’t get enough of it! After the quarantine hit, sweet romance, and “wholesome” stories saw a huge rise in popularity. Why? I think we all needed a healthy dose of positive escapism in our lives. Especially as wild science fiction turned into science fact. (Raise your hand if you’ve put down a book recently because it hit a little too close to home… Yeah, me too.)
Fiction has always been a great tool to help us process and experience the world in a safe environment. Unfortunately, the world isn’t always fluffy and bright and “wholesome”--we still have to deal with hard things. So, where is the happy medium between genres? How can we show the world realistically without watching depressed heros hit rock bottom as they fight dismal odds alone.
This is where hopepunk comes in.
Hopepunk is a genre that explores diverse characters banding together and fighting for radical positive change by using weaponized optimism. Hopepunk shows us a better way to come out victorious: with compassion and unity. Doesn’t that sound AWESOME!? I feel like not enough people know about hopepunk. So, I’m here to introduce you to what might be your next favorite genre!
I’m Rachel Huffmire and I’ve published 5 hopepunk novels in the last three years. I’m going to dive into what hopepunk is all about, what makes it so awesome, and why you should 100% start reading these stories right now.
The Origin of Hopepunk.
The word punk itself denotes an identity rooted in rebellion. “Steampunk” quickly became the biggest of the “punk” genres in literature, but there are dozens of splinter “punk” genres. But in 2017, an author named Alexandra Rowland introduced hopepunk in a tumblr post that went viral. The definition of hopepunk is “a mood of gentleness or softness and a sense of self-awareness of weaponized optimism, with a worldview that fighting for positive social systems is a worthwhile fight.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hopepunk)
Hopepunk is about coming together to disrupt a divided world, to defy pessimism, and create a brighter future. It’s not about one person trying to do it alone, it’s about a whole team adopting the same “good fight”, especially if they come from different backgrounds. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I heard about this amazing new genre, it sounded like exactly what I wanted to read. I wanted to see characters showing me this compassionate way through the crazy world we live in.
Why is Hopepunk Awesome?
You have probably heard of Grimdark fiction: the idea that no one is wholly good, that pessimistic realism is best, and the strongest individual prevails.
Well, hopepunk is the opposite.
If Grimdark shows that the strongest individual will win, hopepunk shows that the most united group will come out victorious. Where Grimdark is full of flawed and self-motivated anti-heros, hopepunk is full of optimistic and generous heros. Here are just a few of my favorite tropes from hopepunk stories: (Read them and tell me you don’t want to read a story like this…)
Found family: This trop is about groups of friends who come to love each other like family even though they all come from different backgrounds and aren’t genetically related.
Diversity: The best kind of unity is when individuals from different groups and backgrounds come together and work in harmony. And believe me, I would LOVE to see a lot more of that in the world.
Showing compassion: I believe that true compassion takes courage. It’s not only feeling sympathy for others, but using that sympathy to spur us into action. And if everyone could truly learn compassion, what could the world become?
Heroine’s journey: Now I could do another whole thing on this, and I probably will, but the heroine’s journey is a plot arc with life and death consequences for a protagonist. And just because it’s called a heroine’s journey doesn’t mean it needs to be a female. One of the biggest elements of this arc is that the protagonist needs to strengthen their relationships with others in order to succeed.
Representation: Because diversity is such a critical element to these stories, we need to see characters from different backgrounds. You won’t find whitewashed casts in these books.
Inner strengths: Everyone has strengths inside of them, but sometimes cultural views can make us believe our strengths are anything but. Compassion, Meekness, and Patience can be viewed as weaknesses, but in hopepunk, they might be the secret ingredient that enables our heroes to save the day.
Examples of Hopepunk.
While hopepunk has only been around as an official genre since 2017, there are lots of examples of hopepunk in literature. Here are a few of my favorite hopepunks:
Mistborn: Kelsier, Vin, and Elend.
The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Cress, Thorne, Winter.
Lord of the Rings: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin.
The Fault in Our Stars: Hazel Grace and Augustus
The Night Circus: Celia, Marko, Chandresh, Tsukiko, Bailey, Poppet.
Can you think of any more? Drop them in the comments! I’d love to go explore their stories. But don’t drop the Avengers. Why not? Because they’re a group of alpha’s who despite sometimes working together toward the same goal, internally, they are are incredibly fragmented. We often see them fight each other just as much as the villain. The only close call hopepunk character in the Avengers is Black Widow.
In my own writing, I made sure I built the ultimate hopepunk team. In the not too distant future, a hacker has hijacked top-secret time travel tech and uses it to save unfortunate souls in the past because he wants to see the world become a better place. He assembles a team from all over the world and history, until he has a full cast of valiant hero’s working together to save the day from a dystopian-level threat.
If you want to read more about the story, you can check it out here. And as always, if you have any questions, drop them in the comments and I’d love to chat with you!
Till next time!