In the charged political climate following the election of President Trump, sales of classic dystopian novels rose, and more recently, the industry has notched a spate of notable feminist dystopian novels. Demand for dystopian fiction aimed at young people, the category’s largest group of readers, fell in recent years. Print sales for young-adult dystopian novels declined to 850,000 last year from more than 5 million in 2014, when “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1” and “Divergent” were in theaters and popular new series hit bookstores like Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” and Marie Lu’s “The Young Elites.” Similarly, e-book sales fell to 99,000 last year from more than 4 million in 2014, according to NPD BookScan/PubTrack Digital. Last year, Cat Rambo, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, started teaching an online course, “Stories That Change Our World: Writing Fiction With Empathy, Insight and Hope.” More than 20% of the titles she’s reading for the group’s Nebula Awards this year feature strong, feel-good elements, she said, compared with just a handful five years ago. Some readers of speculative fiction call this more optimistic style “Hopepunk.” Here, cooperation beats out go-it-alone antiheroes, altruism exists even in the face of the apocalypse and resistance to dehumanizing forces is rarely in vain. Such details could throw the story off balance and threaten his more therapeutic aesthetic. Two hits from the last couple of years: “Less,” the comic novel about a struggling writer by Andrew Sean Greer that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine,” the Gail Honeyman novel about an eccentric loner that Reese Witherspoon’s production company is planning to adapt for the big screen.
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