Many people are craving stories right now with gentle plots and hopeful themes to contrast the recent dystopic trends in publishing, media, and real-life dramas. So, what makes for positive science fiction and fantasy and what are some favorite examples of the brighter side of speculative fiction.
The panelists for the titular CapClave 2022 panel were as follows: Bill Lawhorn, Suzanne Palmer, Scott Edelman, and Jeanne Addams.
Why Positive Speculative Fiction?
Speculative fiction — your science fiction, your fantasy, and even your horror are all part of the ‘escapism’ side of fiction. Some people just have too much awful in their lives and just don’t want to read about it. Some people are just looking for positivity boosts. Whatever your reason, we don’t all crave grim dark all the time.
What Does a Story Need to Be Positive?
Different people will be looking for different things, and not all things will be in all positive stories. Some readers are looking for comfort reads, while others need motivation and hope. Here are some of the many different ways you can create a story whose message is positive.
- Show that humanity has grown or moved forward
- Use whimsy or humor with no real danger
- Have people triumph over evil — using competence, caring, and/or community
- You might need catharsis
- Or for the ‘current issue’ to not be in the story timeline
- While you can put your characters through hell, you should leave them with a Happily-Ever-After — or at least a Happy-For-Now
- It needs to end with hope
How To Find The Positivity In Your Own Writing
In your own writing, it can be a struggle to find the positive threads, to bring that hope into your stories. Here are a few things that might help.
- Feedback loops — write based on your hopes and not your fears
- Write as a rebellion against the path you see us on. Give others hope and vitalize a new direction
- Just tell a good story, and include something sustaining
- Write as a way of saying that you will not go quietly into that dark night
- Rewrite actual losses, the way life should have turned out
- Pick the story ideas that you find bring you up, instead of down, instead of wallowing
- Write the heroes who are fighting the good fight
- Remember that rage is a step up from despair, it can be cathartic
- When in doubt, pets and animals can make a story better — just don’t kill them!
What authors are already doing this? Here are some of the suggestions from the panel.
- Blindsight by Peter Watts. While very grim, with a tragic ending, there is hope that it was all worth it.
- The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal. Demonstrates competency, characters behaving like adults, and communicating!
- Becky Chambers
- Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)
- Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker.
- Nancy Kress
- Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
- The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki (Murasaki Shikibu -Traditional)
Neil Gaiman paraphrased G. K. Chesterton as saying, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.“
What brings you hope?
What stories of positivity have you enjoyed?
Are you working on a positive story of your own?
Let me know in the comments below!
More books: John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Stone That Never Came Down.
Peter Beagle: The Last Unicorn
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Classic choices! Thanks for sharing.