There’s an idea I’ve seen pop up and get some traction in my circles lately. A very simple thing, really:
The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk.
This simple phrase was like a lightning bolt to me.
Let me step back a bit. You see, “grimdark” is a subgenre of fantasy that just doesn’t work for me. What is “grimdark”? If the name wasn’t cue enough, from the wikipages: “Grimdark is a subgenre or a way to describe the tone, style or setting of speculative fiction that is particularly dystopian, amoral or violent.”
And, yeah, for me and my fantasy, this represents everything that doesn’t work for me. I don’t begrudge anyone who writes or likes it, mind you. It just doesn’t work for me.
So when I saw the post that expanded on the idea “the opposite of grimdark is hopepunk”, I was immediately invested in it, because “the opposite of grimdark” is exactly the kind of fantasy I want to do.
Now, this doesn’t mean fantasy that’s light and fluffy and consequence-free. Bad things happen. I mean, I like to put my characters through the wringer. Fundamentally, with each of my various Maradaine series, I’m exploring heroism at different angles, and each of my protagonists are capital-C Champions who aim toward the light. They may miss, they may have a journey through the darkness that threatens to break them. But what I want to write, what drives me, is fantasy where no matter how bad it gets, it’s worth trying to make it better. No matter how hard my characters fall down, they’re still going to stand up, tie their hair back, set their sails and get their Moana on.
Because hope is always the star that guides them.