Hopepunk: Essential Tales of Optimism

Unfashionable? Sure. And yet tales of optimism (“hopepunk”) are increasingly growing in popularity and influence against stories of doom (“grimdark”). Which stories will help us create a better world? Rev. Amanda Aikman served UU churches in the Seattle Area and British Columbia for 25 years and is currently maintaining a practice of spiritual companioning in Shoreline.

Grimdark: a subgenre of speculative fiction with a tone, style, or setting that is particularly dystopianamoral, or violent. Fiction “where nobody is honourable and Might is Right.” The notion that the actions of one person can do little to improve this world in decline, that the forces of evil and inertia and temptation will ensure that all of us are doomed.

Noblebright: The notion that the actions of one person can make a difference, that even if the person is flawed and opposed by strong forces, he can (and wants to) rise to heroic actions that, even if they may cost him his life, improve the lives of others.

Hopepunk: A worldview that argues that the fight to build positive social systems is a fight worth fighting. An emphasis on community-building through cooperation rather than conflict. A depiction of the fight to achieve human progress as something permanently ongoing, with no fixed ”happy” end. A sense of self-awareness about weaponizing kindness and optimism in the face of that fight.


  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
  • The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey
  • Fledgling by Octavia Butler
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (and the 2018 film)
  • Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (and the 2015 film)

Movies and TV

  • Orphan Black
  • Pacific Rim
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Sense8
  • Star Trek, particularly the original series, Next Generation, and Star       Trek: Discovery
  • The Good Place
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?