Noblebright fantasy is a genre where characters can move towards a better future. They can stand for their convictions—or even ideals—and make the world a better place. They can be good, moral people—heroes—and still win, or at least make a difference.
It’s not a world where everyone is perfect and everything is wonderful and always goes right—there would be no story then—but there is hope and light in spite of darkness.
“Noblebright fantasy has at least one important character with noble, idealistic motives who does the right thing out of principle. The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better. In a noblebright story, even villains are not without hope; their stories may have a redemptive ending, or they may have some kind of conversion experience (religious or not). It’s not guaranteed, of course, but in a noblebright story, it’s a possibility.
Noblebright fantasy is not utopian fiction. The world of a noblebright story is not perfect, and indeed can sometimes be quite dark. Actions have consequences, and even good characters can make terrible mistakes. But a noblebright story is generally hopeful in tone, even if there are plenty of bad, grim, dark things going on in the world.”
The term “noblebright” came to be in reaction to the grimdark genre of fantasy. As one might imagine, grimdark is very grim and dark, and more in the vein of those stories where no matter how good a hero is or how hard he tries, everything ends up awful. The hero ends up corrupt and his best efforts to be good often make things worse.
In my mind, noblebright isn’t so much about cheerfulness so much as it is about hope. I get enough grimness and darkness from real life (just turn on the news)—I don’t need it in my fiction! Fiction, especially fantasy, should inspire us to do and be better!
If you’d like to learn more about the genre, check out noblebright.org, particularly this article here.
I blogged about why I like the term “noblebright” here.