Hopepunk: vision of a possible future
Our perception of the world is shaped by the stories we take in. News, fiction, non-fiction, books, television, movies, jokes, social media, etcetera are all the building blocks of how we as human beings see the world. With that in mind, it is important to think about what is out there story-wise and how it might be affecting us.
Literature is usually focused on a negative or neutral ending. There is a belief that in order to write a more accurate vision of the world it has to be filled with bad things, bad people, and bad endings. It relegates positive endings and such to genre works, saying that they don’t paint an accurate picture of reality. That narrative sense of what the world is has led to what is called grimdark stories, or cyberpunk fiction.
These are stories that focus on how bleak the world is, how bleak and uncaring people are, how things only end in sadness and tears. They talk of a world where corporations are running mad with power, oppressive police states, where people rarely take risks lest the boot comes down on them. Even positive endings are colored by the terrible state of the world with this story mindset so that no ending is ever really positive. Right now, that seems to be the world right outside our windows that we see every day.
It is hard to deal with that. It seems like there is no escape from this. But there is. If we write stories that reflect the world we want to see, the life we want to lead, then maybe we can shape people’s perceptions enough so that we all start to create a more positive world.
Hopepunk is a term coined in 2017 by Alexandra Rowland. Hopepunk is not a shiny happy world however, it is a response to the fixation of cyberpunk and grimdark on the negative. It is an approach of resistance, of striving for hope in times of trouble. It is very much the kind of stories we need right now to face the kinds of issues the world is filled with. As Rowland put it on Tumblr, “Hopepunk says that genuinely and sincerely caring about something, anything, requires bravery and strength. Hopepunk isn’t ever about submission or acceptance: It’s about standing up and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about standing up for other people. It’s about DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.
What is interesting is that the types of stories that fall into Hopepunk are not all new. In fact, many of them are stories we are familiar with. If Grimdark stories like the Christopher Nolan Batman films, or The Game of Thrones are one side, the other would be stories like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, where fighting against the forces of Darkness is the best and most heroic thing a person could do. They are about light in the dark, they are about hope rather than acceptance.
Things are bad in the world right now, with COVID, with riots, with the rise of oppressive regimes in many countries, with Climate Change. It feels hard to believe that there can be a way out of this mess, that there is a way to fill our hearts and minds with stories of realistically fighting back against such reckless hate and oppression. While we may feel like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings when he said, “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish that none of this had happened” we must also recall Gandalf’s response, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
If you want to do something different with your time, if you are interested in giving yourself a way to see that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train then maybe you should change the stories that you are taking in. Buddha said that our thoughts shape our world, so maybe more of us need to come out of the dark and fight for the light.
The link below has a partial list of Hopepunk books, movies, and music to get started with.