No More Dystopias: A Hopeful Science Fiction Reading Challenge

 I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of the bleak, dystopian themes in a lot of modern science fiction.

For example, I used to be a huge fan of The Walking Dead. The idea of struggling to keep   one’s children alive in such a dangerous setting was appealing when I first began reading the original graphic novels before the television show was created.

Most previous zombie movies and novels I’d heard of had killed off their child characters pretty early on, so I was curious to see how Rick, the protagonist, and the other parents in this universe would break with this tradition.

While there were many things I enjoyed about The Walking Dead early on, the graphic, relentless violence and catastrophic loss of hope for key characters eventually lead me to stop watching and reading it. It was all too much for me.

I do read recaps of what is currently going on in that universe every so often. If it eventually ends on an uplifting note, I might even go back and catch up on everything I’ve missed.

For now, though, I need a very long break from these kinds of tales. The news is already overflowing with stories about miserable things happening to good people through no fault of their own. When I read fiction these days, I’m now looking for an escape from injustices that are never made right again.

One of my goals for 2018 is to find, read, and then eventually compile a long list of science fiction tales that end on a hopeful note. This post is the beginning of that journey, and I’m tentatively planning to write an entire series of posts on this topic as I find books, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment that belong in it.

What It Won’t Be

When I say I want hopeful science fiction, I don’t mean that I want to avoid serious or difficult subject matter altogether.

There may very well be wars, battles, or other violent scenes in the stuff I read for this series.

The beginnings could include descriptions of places that are no one’s idea of a pleasant place to live. I won’t necessarily be turned off by an opening scene that sounds dystopian so long as the narrator doesn’t dwell there for every single scene from that point until the end.

The good guys might not always make the right decisions. It’s okay with me if they occasionally say or do things that deeply irritate me. In fact, I strongly prefer characters who are rough around the edges as long as they’re not antiheroes.

An occasional moment of despair is completely understandable, but I don’t want to read about or watch anyone be dragged from one traumatic event or response to the next with no end in sight.

Some of the stuff I add to this list could very well include themes related to any number of different types of prejudice, from homophobia to racism to sexism.

If a key main character must die at some point to further the plot or fulfill his or her destiny, I will accept it. (See also: Harry Potter).

What It Will Be

What I will require from these books, though, is hope.

They definitely don’t have to act Pollyannaish, but the characters should have a optimistic approach to their quest or mission most of the time.

When something terrible happens, it should be written into the plot for a specific reason that will be revealed to the audience sooner rather than later.

The good guys should win in the end.

The storylines should end on a positive note.

Will You Join Me?

You might have noticed that I haven’t listed any specific titles yet here.

That was done on purpose because:

  1. I’m still researching titles that will fit my criteria, and
  2. I wanted to get reader feedback first without influencing your suggestions for me.

There are some very knowledgable and well-read people who follow this blog. If you have any suggestions of what to add to this list, will you share them?

If you’re ready for some hopeful stories, will you join me? I can’t wait to share my ideas with you as well!


Filed under Science Fiction and Fantasy

7 Responses to No More Dystopias: A Hopeful Science Fiction Reading Challenge

  1. Can’t help, Lydia, because I rarely read science fiction. I’ll wait to hear the titles of the favorites you find–not too dark, not too light, serious, not too serious. It’s a Goldilocks search for just right. It’s out there. Will you write it?

  2. I agree with you; I am tired of unrelentingly bleak stories that offer no hope, no joy for the good guys. I’m fine with dark stuff and bleak themes, but I like there to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Unfortunately, I have no suggestions to offer–I can’t think of any recent sci-fi that would fit the bill. I actually once wrote a sci-fi book of my own that was intentionally designed to be more optimistic than the typical fare. (I sincerely hope that doesn’t come across as self-promotion. I don’t mean it that way–rather as evidence of how sick of dystopias I have become. 🙂 )

  3. I thought of a book that might be along the lines of what you want, though it’s far from traditional science fiction: “Ocean Echoes”, by Sheila Hurst. It’s about a marine biologist on a research cruise. It contains elements of many different genres, from romance to fantasy to sci-fi to horror. It does, however, end on a positive note, although the protagonist does suffer quite a few dark moments on the way. It’s hard to describe the overall tone is a bit melancholy, but not in a truly despairing sort of way, if that makes any sense.

    It’s a strange book–the prose is very dream-like, and indeed dreams and mysticism are a key part of the book’s theme. But it is a book I strongly recommend to anyone who likes to read, regardless of genre. There’s a lot in it to like in it for many reasons.

    I’ll keep trying to think of more titles that fit your criteria, and let you know as I do.

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