Science fiction is often sinister in its ability to predict what’s coming. Jules Verne, for example, introduced himself in his novel Paris in the 20th. Arthur C. Clarke envisioned 3D printers long before their time. William Gibon coined the term cyberspace in his novel Neuromancer in 1984.
Yet these premonitions of the future of mankind are typically shaped by cynicism and premonitions about where our future is headed, from social elements to environmental issues. But why couldn’t a vision of a more hopeful future be as realistic to the real world as a dystopian outlook?
After a year of pandemic lockdowns and warning signs of climate change, it could feel out of reach. Yet science fiction writers, the futurists that they are, have devoted entire subgenres to exploring more positive versions of our possible future worlds. Enter Hopepunk.
Here are eight hopepunk novels with an environmental edge and creative solutions that could really come in handy in fighting climate change.
Sun catcher from Alia Gee
From the start, the stakes in this story just aren’t what we’ve gotten used to … because in this world those dark, tough stakes just don’t exist. Among other utopian qualities, the world’s energy on this future earth is powered by green, renewable sources, and today’s climate change concerns simply don’t exist.
Accordingly, Professor Radicand Jones’ heart beats lightly when she sets off on her well-deserved vacation in her solar-powered airship. However, your ship will soon be overtaken by pirates, leading to great outdoor adventures.
Under the Empyrean Sky (Heartland Trilogy # 1) by Chuck Wendig
To put it technically, Wendig actually called the subgenre of this trilogy “cornpunk,” but it fits the spirit of this list enough that I am calling and including the audible.
Under the Empyrean Sky is set in Heartland, where a super corn variety is grown as the main fuel for this future world as a clean alternative to our current energy sources. It’s a perfect plan … except that the genetically modified strain is aggressive so controlling its growth is a full time occupation. Teen boy Cael is restless and tired of letting the elite of the Empyrean world soar above their heads in the fuel all the time. And he’s determined to bring it all down.
While the governance dynamics of this novel give it a dystopian vibe, there is also a utopian feel to the physical future world that this novel projects. A determined push for a wider switch to cleaner, more readily available fuel sources like corn could do things quite a bit.
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
At the beginning of Woman on the Edge of Time, Connie Ramos, a homeless woman in New York City, is admitted to a mental institution against her will. Sounds more like girl, interrupted than hopepunk, but then an ambassador from the future contacts her.
The ambassador has come on a mission to show her two possible future perspectives. First, the future is a time of sexual and racial equality and unprecedented self-actualization in which capitalism has been eliminated. This world lives from an environmental purity based on smallholder agriculture and advanced green technology. Then the ambassador shows Connie a drastically different future: a darker alternative in which humans and earth are exploited.
Why show Connie these two possible worlds? Because your choices could make all the difference.
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
Wakanda is in turmoil in this modern day Black Panther comic as a superhuman terrorist group attacks, while Black Panther also faces the need for his nation to adapt in new ways. Yet underlying the Marvel legend of Wakanda is a forward-thinking society that offers an incredible model – and great hope.
Amid other hopepunk themes such as empowerment, identity, and sovereignty, the suggestion that technology can save us from our environmental sins runs through the motifs of Wakanda. If we’re smart enough to use them wisely.
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
True to its name, Callenbach’s mission in this novel is to show readers the potential of our shared environmental future. It required a successor to the Union, but in the distant future the states of Washington, California, and Oregon managed to unite into a greener, more stable state.
In this story, readers are accompanied by a skeptical journalist who travels this country and witnesses a revolutionary way of life reinvented in terms of environmental friendliness through the implementation of a multitude of green innovations. For example, the state is structured in “mini-cities” to prevent urban sprawl and has a zero-tolerance policy towards environmental pollution.
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Marked as “post-scarcity”, Walkaway’s world has eliminated all need. As? 3d printing. In this future everyone will have the opportunity to express their basic needs, from food to shelter to medicine. This has eliminated the need for labor by accessing designs online. What’s even better is that the 3D printing feed comes from renewable sources and the society is waste free.
In short, open source saved us.
Unfortunately, it cannot erase the past. Empty areas are being destroyed by the effects of climate change. And they still cannot cure humanity. In a world without scarcity and work, walkaways are people who have left a party and excess driven society for something simpler. But the ultra-rich just can’t leave them alone.
Dawn, Xenogenesis # 1, Octavia E. Butler
After a nuclear fire consumed the earth – the final phase of the planet’s final war – a huge alien spaceship piloted by the Oankali rescues what they can of what is left of humanity. Centuries later, they begin to awaken people one by one, and Lilith comes to slowly discover the Oankali as they discovered humanity.
After centuries of nurturing, the Oankali are bringing Lilith and others back to Earth – a renewed planet will have nothing to do with what they left behind. And humanity – with its new alien hosts – takes on the role of administrators of this new world. It’s a revolutionary concept.
While it takes a trip through Butler’s imaginative, living world to find this alien possession that is less than unsettling, the vision of this future planet is one of great hope – not only has it survived the worst of humanity, but is fully recovered. And humanity still has a chance to live in harmony with it.
It gives me hope that perhaps with time and care we can still heal our world.