Hopepunk, afrofantasy, cli-fi: what about that?!

Hopepunk, afrofantasy, cli-fi : what ça?!

No offense to some, science fiction and fantasy are not immune to issues related to sexual and gender diversity or cultural diversity. However, it seems that interest in these issues was late, at least in Quebec, if we are to believe the panelists of a round table presented by the Blue Metropolis literary festival on Sunday.

Le Geekois cracks the codes of Quebec geek culture for you: comics, fantasy literature, genre cinema, video games, board games. It's this way.

With the arrival of authors from non-European queer and ethnocultural communities in the literatures of the imagination, new subgenres have developed in order to offer a different vision of the future or of fantasy worlds.

To explore this phenomenon, the round table Hopepunk, afrofantasy, cli-fi – But what is it about?!was composed of the author of Caribbean origin Mélodie Joseph, the novelist with Innu roots J.D. Kurtness as well as the queer writer and translator Pascal Raud.


Contraction of the expression “climate fiction– a term coined in 2008 by writer and blogger Dan Bloom that could be translated as “climate fiction” – this literary genre generally takes “the form of post-apocalyptic stories where characters evolve in a world ravaged by the effects of climate change. climate,” reads an article in The Conversation

Author J. D. Kurtness gave the example of the novel The Road > by Cormac McCarthy – adapted to the cinema by in 2009 – during the discussion at the Blue Metropolis to illustrate his point.

Born in Chicoutimi to a Quebec mother and a Innu father from Mashteuiatsh, J.D. Kurtness remarked that, for Aboriginal people, “the apocalypse has already arrived a bit”, since their demography has dropped dramatically since European colonization. 

“We tried to live with that,” she added, thus allowing us to understand that Indigenous authors can offer a crucial reflection on the challenges that await humanity with the impacts of climate change.


Another of the subgenres covered, hopepunk, is a branch of science fiction that was created in 2017 by American author Alexandra Rowland. “It designates a literary and cultural sub-genre that puts forward a protesting hope and the idea that we can refuse the dark, scary and cynical future to which we seem condemned”, can we read word for word on the site of L'Aste et la Plume as well as that of L'arbre des imaginaires.  

So hope, but not hope naive, explained the author Pascal Raud to the public present during the round table. 

According to him, the hopepunktakes the side of trying to improve society despite the current state of our world. Thus, stories in this genre are not necessarily utopian. On the contrary, they can offer dystopian universes, but hope remains. According to the author, community spirit is also important to the genre, since this desire to improve things would go through collaboration and mutual aid. 

Also literary director, Pascal Raud clarified that hopepunk is distinct from solarpunk, which focuses on renewable energy as well as technology in general in order to “replace fossil fuels”, which is not necessarily the case with hopepunk.

Hopepunk, afrofantasy , cli-fi: what ça?!

The authors J. D. Kurtness, Pascal Raud, Mélodie Joseph, as well as the animator and bookseller Mathieu-Lauzon-Dicso.
Photo: Jason Paré, Métro


Already covered by Metroin the context of an interview with Mélodie Joseph at the time of the publication of her first novel, The breath of the sky, afrofantasy is a very recent genre. 

If Afrofuturism – popularized by the movie Black Panther– makes it possible to create optimistic futures for people from the African diaspora, afrofantasy presents a story belonging to the genre of fantasy, but written from the point of view of Afro-descendant peoples and based on their cultures, their stories, their folklores.  

When the host of the round table, the bookseller Mathieu Lauzon-Dicsö, asked the author if it bothered her to be confined to Afrofantasy, Mélodie Joseph said she took on this label, simply explaining that this is the genre she wants to write. A process that is far from over, since The breath of the sky is the first volume of a tetralogy.

Hopepunk, afrofantasy, cli-fi: quessé ça?!

Mélodie Joseph, at the launch of her book “La respiration du ciel” at Librairie Saga.
Photo: Jason Paré, Métro

A Late Evolution

While science fiction and fantasy are literatures that have traditionally been “very white and very straight”, Pascal Raud argued that this tendency to include more diversity first appeared on the English-speaking side. 

< p>However, issues related to homosexuality have been addressed for several decades in Quebec theater production. Moreover, the success of writers born outside Quebec, such as Dany Laferrière and Kim Thúy, is not new. How is it in this case that the literatures of the imaginary here did not follow suit earlier?

The small volume of genre literature that is produced in Quebec could be the beginning of an explanation, advanced Pascal Raud, since French speakers are less numerous in North America than English speakers. He also explained that Quebec science fiction really appeared in the 1970s, while in the Anglo-Saxon world, this phenomenon was born several decades earlier. 

On the of J.D. Kurtness, she pointed out that Aboriginal people took time to handle the French language and the codes of imaginary literature. Mélodie Joseph answered for her part – paraphrasing another author – that the past of Afro-descendant peoples was too heavy “to fly away to the future”. 

On this thorny question, the host of the discussion made it clear that some Quebec authors, such as Élisabeth Vonarburg or Sylvie Bérard, have long been offering queer stories, but that they may have remained in the shadows, since their audience was rather limited.

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