Science Fiction is a fantastic genre that is chock full of adventure, amazing technology, and well, science. It’s also been known to be a predicator for what our future will look like. An example of this can be seen in old episodes of Star Trek where the officers walk around typing into some sort of screen thing that now resembles our modern day smart tablets.
Science fiction has always been divided on how good our future is predicted to be. In some books we live in a wonderful future exploring the galaxy. In others, humanity is all but wiped out by robots or aliens. In grimdark, stories things are especially bad with no hope. Science Fiction is considered to be a largely depressing genre, especially due to the rise of the dystopian and apocalyptic sub-genres in the past 10 years.
But this is not entirely true. And a few sad sub-genres does not a doom and gloom genre make. There are tons of fun and happy genres like space westerns, space operas, and sci-fi comedy that lighten the atmosphere. These tend to be more about adventure, justice, and the silliness of space.
One of these happier sub-genres is also, of course, hopepunk. When I’m looking for good science fiction now I usually start by looking for books that fit into the hopepunk category. I can’t stop recommending hopepunk books to my friends.
What Are Hopepunk Books?
Coined by author Alexandra Rowland in 2017, the term hopepunk was created to be the anthesis of the grimdark genre. Instead of everything being sad and impossible, Alexandra was looking for books that were actually happy. By 2019 the phrase was canonized by the Collins English Dictionary, and has been used in publishing since. The hopepunk sub-genre exists in both the fantasy and science fiction genres, though today’s focus is sci-fi.
Hopepunk may have been created to be the opposite of grimdark, but that doesn’t mean it’s always happy. At its core, hopepunk is just about leaving the reader with hope for the future. Bad things can happen along the way, but they aren’t bad forever. Everything will turn out alright in the end!
The Best Hopepunk Books to Read
Since 2017, many books have been published that fit into the hopepunk category. Since it’s establishment, many previously published works have proven to fit into the hopepunk category as well. There’s a lot of great hopepunk books out there. Below is a just a few of the great options available.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
The first book in the Murderbot Diaries, this novella is told from the perspective of a murderbot. Murderbot has hacked into their own coding so they are fully sentient and can make their own choices — as long they pretend they are just your average, boring robot. However, when something goes wrong on one of their missions, they have to risk coming clean about who they are. What follows is a stunning story of humanity, resilience, and self-discovery. Plus, if you love this one, there’s a full series to read.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is the first of her people to go to school off planet. As she struggles to find her place in the world, her school’s ship is attacked by an alien race called the Meduse. Now caught in a war she has no part in, on a ship she has no allies on, Binti must rely on the teachings of her people to survive. But maybe in her struggle for survival she can find a way to put a stop to the war, and chart a way forward. This book is truly incredible.
A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland
It would be ridiculous to not include a book by the author who invented the sub-genre, and this sci-fi fantasy story is the perfect example. Set in a freezing north, a traveling storyteller is arrested for witchcraft. Now he must tell the most important story yet. One that will prove his innocence. As Chant works to tell his tale, he realizes that a story might just be all it takes to bring the corrupt kingdoms of the land to their knees. All he needs are the right words.
A Psalm For the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
Long ago the robots woke up and decided they were done working for humans. They got up, and left to the woods. Since then humanity has turned to a much more relaxed lifestyle, learning to make do without the technology their ancestors relied on. Then a young Tea Monk on a journey of self-discovery meets a robot. A robot who asks a question. A simple and impossible question. “How are you doing?” The sequel A Prayer for The Crown-Shy, was just released, so now is the perfect time to pick it up.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
While there is some debate about whether or not this book and series actually qualifies as hopepunk, I believe it checks off the boxes and so should be considered. This is a story of an earth that is broken and desperately trying to survive as unimaginable forces try to rip it apart. Told through multiple POVs this is a remarkable story of resilience, growth, and the determination to live another day. Highly regarded as one of the best fantasy trilogies of all time, this is a series you do not want to miss.
The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay and Tracy Lynne Oliver
This graphic novel follows two generations of families leading up to and following a tragic event that plunges the world into darkness. As we see the build up and the aftermath, we come to understand these characters motives, and hopes for a better future. With a story that is incredibly moving, and art work that transports you, this is a book that will stay with you for a long time.
This is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
The time war has been raging for centuries. Two factions fighting history itself. Two rival agents leave notes taunting the other hidden in the forgotten corners of time. Soon these taunting messages turn to something more. Perhaps there is a way forward through the time war that won’t result in further bloodshed, and maybe there’s even a path towards love.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
In a future much like the Wild West, information is heavily censored. Librarians are recruited to spread the government issued reading material across the plains. But some of these women aren’t exactly following the laws. When Esther stows away in a librarians cart to escape a town who killed her lover, she finds that everything she had been told was a lie. And now she has a chance to join the rebellion and fight for a world that doesn’t care for her.
There’s a lot more great hopepunk out there! If you’re looking for more be sure to check out this list of environmental hopepunk books. Happy reading.