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Building a list of "HopePunk" storytelling

The Unshaven

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Hi folks, I ran into a fantastic discussion where Alexandra Rowland argued that the opposite of "grimdark" is "hopepunk," and it really clicked as a kind of storytelling I've been looking for and delighting in for a while.

Here are the two key elements of the definition for me:

Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion.
Hopepunk isn’t about moral perfection. It’s not about being as pure and innocent as the new-fallen snow. You get grubby when you fight. You make mistakes. You’re sometimes a little bit of an asshole. Maybe you’re as much as 50% an asshole. But the glass is half full, not half empty. You get up, and you keep fighting, and caring, and trying to make the world a little better for the people around you. You get to make mistakes. It’s a process. You get to ask for and earn forgiveness. And you love, and love, and love.
The more I think about it, the more examples I can think of.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a good example: it's about fucked up, damaged people taking great risks - emotional and physical - to work together to make their fucked up ruined world less terrible for each other.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison puts more emphasis on the first part, given how dangerous it is within the political framework that Maia finds himself within NOT to be a shit, because it will be understood as weakness.

The videogames Night in the Woods and Undertale both posit very different scenarios that are bleak as fuck, and then show how big their hearts are within and against that bleakness. (Even Undertale's villainous scenario takes pains to show how edgy and rebellious they AREN'T, compared to being kind.)

Anime-wise, My Hero Academia touches on this, because it shows a scenario that the students are clearly expected to treat as a largely zero-sum game... ...and then we watch as they actively band together and learn from each other, stronger together as a community.

Steven Universe is hopepunk as hell, write down to its bones and the soul underneath.

Now that I think about it, the hopepunk elements of Killjoys are one of the reasons I enjoy it so much: despite the bleakness of the setting, our core characters are there for each other, and all of the opportunities the creators have had to harvest cheap drama by turning them against each other are either brief, or actively NOT TAKEN.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik is another good example: no matter how horrific the world and its history, forward progress comes from understanding and empathy.

What else can people think of along these lines?

- The Unshaven
 
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Democritus

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I have nothing to contribute but I am very curious about all these things you mentioned now :D

I adore Fury Road and Steven Universe, so maybe I have to check out some of those things.
 

The Unshaven

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I have nothing to contribute but I am very curious about all these things you mentioned now :D

I adore Fury Road and Steven Universe, so maybe I have to check out some of those things.
Yay, I'm glad it's useful! They come with big recommendations from me. Hell, I want to write a book or two about Undertale and Night in the Woods.

Other examples:

Gurren Lagann is a big one: no matter how terrible everything is, you can break the universe with the power of friendship.

My favourite dynamic across the show is how people relate to Viral, and his place in this framework.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: the universe is bleaker than people can normally comprehend, but even knowing that, you can change everything by choosing to look after other people.

Cuckoo's Egg by CJ Cherryh only becomes clear as HopePunk once completed, but is holy shit powerful when it becomes clear what's going on.

Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls from Lois McMaster Bujold might work too: no matter how broken people are, and how wounded they are by their experiences, they get back up and make a difference for those around them.

A lot of Ursula Vernon's work fits here too: Digger, Jackalope Wives, Pocosin, potentially the Black Dogs series though I have not read it yet... the ones I have read are about the strength and power of kindness, despite or because of the unkindness of the universe.

This is going to stick in my brain now. There's other obvious examples I've forgotten...

- The Unshaven
 
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Somebloke

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The Expanse, the Novels especially.

A group of idealists, reformed criminals and tamed sociopaths go up against the combined stupidity, greed and ruthlessness inherent in human nature...and, more often than not, win.
 

The Unshaven

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The Expanse, the Novels especially.

A group of idealists, reformed criminals and tamed sociopaths go up against the combined stupidity, greed and ruthlessness inherent in human nature...and, more often than not, win.
Interesting! I'd not thought of it that way, but it potentially fits?

More stuff that occurs to me:

The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway: the world is over, but there is nothing more powerful for building what comes next than what we are willing to do for other human beings, no matter how messed up we may individually or collectively be.

SuperGiant Games do a lot of these:

Bastion: the world has ended, so what we do now is defined by what we'll do for each other - the good, and the bad.

Pyre looks like it's chasing the same theme, but I've not played it yet.

Glasshouse by Charles Stross is all about (beware significant spoilers)
Spoiler: Show
a group of future transhuman people trapped in a terrible 1950s panopticon for sinister reasons. It turns out that although there are villains to defeat, everybody in there is there because the original purpose of the thing they're stuck in - before it was corrupted - was to give damaged, wounded and DANGEROUS people a place to heal after a war. And we can see people deciding to fix the place they're trapped in and heal together, rather than escape.


I suppose for roleplaying games, Day After Ragnarok invites this kind of play without forcing it: it sets up a situation where the world is over, and asks what we want to do now.

The Kerberos Club, thinking about it, is WELL hopepunk: it reveals the majesty, inequality and horror of victorian britain and says "You see this with modern eyes: what are you going to do about it?"

- The Unshaven
 
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Boris

I am invincible?
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Orphan Black has a dark setting, but ultimately celebrates sisterhood, family and empathy.

Edit: it also has the rebellion thing in spades.
 
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Arizona

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Now that I think about it, Twin Peaks hovers on the periphery of hopepunk. It says repeatedly that basic decency, determined awareness, kindness, and generosity (and all the other virtues ultimately summed up in the words "faith, hope, and charity") are the ultimate tools of good against evil -- but it refuses to ever sugarcoat the message by even suggesting that goodness comes easy or without a price, or that victory is guaranteed.

EDIT: In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it leaves open the question of whether victory is possible... but that just gets you into the old Norse theory of courage: Yeah, Ragnarök is coming and our side might lose, but that doesn't make it the wrong side.
 
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The Unshaven

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Orphan Black has a dark setting, but ultimately celebrates sisterhood, family and empathy.
Now that I think about it, Twin Peaks hovers on the periphery of hopepunk. It says repeatedly that basic decency, determined awareness, kindness, and generosity (and all the other virtues ultimately summed up in the words "faith, hope, and charity") are the ultimate tools of good against evil -- but it refuses to ever sugarcoat the message by even suggesting that goodness comes easy or without a price, or that victory is guaranteed.
Good choices!

A lot of stuff from Pratchett qualifies too - particularly Small Gods and the first three Tiffany Aching books, Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith - but so much else alongside. So, so much.

Domesday Book by Connie Willis has this written all over it, too: all about what happens when a student's time-travel practical exam places her somewhere unexpected, and what she does for the people around her while she's there.

- The Unshaven
 
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Tiran

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Trigun? The series gets dark in the second half but you have a pacifist hero who literally preaches love and peace
 

darkgloomie

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I'm not sure that Madoka would really qualify. The only thing hopeful is the ending, but along the serie every good feeling is exploited and tred upon, repeatedly.

And that's not counting Rebellion
 
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