You care about the environment, but are you ready to punk it? Solarpunk!

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One of the many magical things that happened at Readercon this year, and which subsequently popped my poor brain like an overripe grape, resulted from being exposed to a new type of “punk”… solarpunk!

For those of you who don’t know, all the sub-genres bearing the -punk suffix share a set of characteristics. Steampunk, cyberpunk, afropunk, clockpunk, atompunk…you get the idea. They all harken to a certain maker mentality, an edgier vibe of ingenuity and do-it-yourself-ness. 

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

“…a world built on one particular technology that is extrapolated to a highly sophisticated level (this may even be a fantastical or anachronistic technology, akin to retro-futurism), a gritty transreal urban style, or a particular approach to social themes.”

Also referred to as eco-futurism, solarpunk is a literary and visual movement that addresses the problems I frequently face when attempting to write science fiction. It’s hard to project our current course as a species forward without arriving inevitably in a world of scarcity and decay. In otherwords, dystopian. Yawn. 

Not to say that compelling dystopian stories can’t be told. I’ve read The Hunger Games. I’m not so much bored with the premise as I am worn out by it. I read for enjoyment, to escape into a fantastical world, not a dark, depressing place where I can’t get enough to eat. 

It’s why I can only tolerate so much horror, and why I avoid grimdark like the plague. A number of sub-genres have sprung up to embrace entropy and the worst aspects of our baser natures. Or is that the best of the worst in us? Either way, not for me.

I see, or at least I want to see, a more positive future. Just as I turned to science fiction in my teens for its sense of adventure and discovery, I’m unwilling to turn to it now when that spirit is absent. Solarpunk subverts the cyberpunk future of technology that overwhelms our humanity, and puts human beings back into the equation, as makers of a brighter world.

Not a perfect world, mind you. Solarpunk has the potential to nestle within dystopian settings as well as supplant them. The stories solarpunk tells will still be human stories, perhaps all the more human for the acknowledgement of how connected to the environment we are, how dependent on it for our survival. 

Consider this example of solar punk micro fiction from Romie Stott, who led the solarpunk discussion at Readercon:

“California’s property-tax-funded electrical collectives worked like fire departments, ready to rush batteries and generators onto the grid when weather events took buildings’ self-powering systems offline. It was a skittery, nerve-wracking job, and Elena loved the adrenaline.”

From her blog, Postorbital: very short science fiction by Romie Stott (and worth a visit! Very inspiring).

I intend to give this a try. I have a deep fondness for all the “punk” subgenres, and this one hacks more than just the sun. It hacks hope. It hacks optimism. It hacks a brighter tomorrow. 

Won’t you join me?

Get inspired with these articles:

Solarpunk: a new movement sees the future in a positive light

Solarpunk, the LGBT Community, and the Importance of Imagining Positive Futures

The Solarpunks Tumblr Blog

Interview with Adam Flynn on Solarpunk

Innovation Starvation by Neal Stephenson 

A Solarpunk Reading List on Goodreads

Solarpunk: Notes toward a manifesto

Renewable energy from living plants!

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