Why Solarpunk?

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Morguefile DSC_03511 by DeduloPhotos

Morguefile photo by DeduloPhotos

In a few days, Alyssa K. Watson’s interview with me on Carbon Culture Review will no longer be featured, replaced by an interview with Alia Gee or Claudie Arsenault. Not sure who’s next, but I’m excited. I’m looking forward to reading the opinions of other writers on this genre.  Writers, artists, innovators, philosophers, scientist–we influence each other in ways that move the whole forward. And Solarpunk is a genre that deserves to be moved, pushed, prodded, and speculated forward.

Why?

Ebook on Cambridge Press

Ebook on Cambridge Press

My interests can be explained by a very misunderstood yet often quoted scientist, historian, and philosopher at MIT, Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996). He wrote a number of books; one of them The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1996) was responsible for the equally misunderstood and overused word paradigm. But in my humble opinion, what he truly should be lauded for is this idea that our language and our culture are limited by our science and our science is limited by our language and culture. To get a sense of how difficult it is to understand the depth and breadth of this sort-of ouroboros-driven concept, read Tom Horgan’s interview, What Thomas Kuhn Really Thought About Scientific Truth in Scientific American.

Thomas Kuhn Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Said another way, scientifically we get stuck in our own mind (or cultural) speak and can’t see far enough to move in new directions beyond what we know, until somehow we do and then everything changes including our mind speak.

Dick Tracey Artwork by Johnny Kwan

Dick Tracey Artwork by Johnny Kwan. Click on link to purchase a copy.

However, I believe art, particularly speculative fiction, is the exception limited only by our imagination and our perceived needs. And those needs are ever expanding, which sparks innovation, which feeds on ideas, which is the brainchild of speculative fiction. As a result, science fiction has this ability to push us culturally and scientifically. Think of how many innovations we take for granted that were first encountered in speculative fiction, and then think of how many of us are waiting for that opportunity to speak into our watches and look at the faces of our loved ones like a certain square-jawed detective, who first showed up in our culture-speak eighty-four years ago.  Are we on the verge of having Dick Tracy watches? Apple certainly banked on it by securing the trademark to the iWatch.

So why Solarpunk?

In the Carbon Culture interview, I mention the dominant culture-speak that “right now, post-apocalyptic thinking seems to have become the de rigueur mindset—nuclear war is inevitable, we’re going to run out of resources, we’re killing all life on earth. It’s as though we can’t see past our own terrible end.”

Mayan 2012 doomsday

Mayan Artifact

If you recall, leading up to the idea that the world is going to end badly, there was this thing that was supposed to happen in 2012. Somewhere someone mentioned the Mayan calendar ended on December 21, 2012. I imagine, despite archeologists telling us differently, someone else then speculated about the coming end of time. And from there someone speculate the world was going to end. (I’d love to know the details of how this all came about–if you know how, please do leave a note in the comments.) But the idea didn’t grow and gain momentum until the writers of speculative fiction ran with it. Suddenly we had people across the globe preparing for the end of the world (or technology) with underground bunkers, canned foods, and gallons of water.

But we haven’t died. And the world hasn’t been destroyed by meteors. And the good things that have come out of that phase of cultural mind speak is that scientists are monitoring the skies with ideas as to how to deal with impending disasters and we–all of us, whether we believe in global warming or not–are aware of the consequences of all sorts of pollution, even light pollution.

Zombie Cyborgs Anyone?

Zombie Cyborg artwork by Sheryl Kaleo

But we’re also still stuck in this doomsday mind speak, even though Cracked.com has assured us that a zombie outbreak would fail.

But that’s because Cracked.com is humor, and while humor can be the wind beneath our collective wings, speculative fiction is the muscle and brawn that makes us fly. Science fiction excels at changing our mind speak because anything we see or read becomes real to us. And that’s where solarpunk can help. We can convert to clean power. We can rely on clean resources. We can make a clean future for ourselves and our progeny.

This is why we need more artists, more writers, more innovators to envision how and where and with what do we transition this world of ours into positive realism, as first coined on the tumbler group. This is why if you love science fiction, I hope you’ll consider writing, reading, and imagining in the solarpunk genre.

It’s a gift, you see, one where we can make a difference for the world. But please note–as a writer, I’m not suggesting we write “Happy, Happy–Joy, Joy” stories. When we’ve fixed the world, so to speak, then we’ll have the real problem at hand—fixing ourselves. Which is what Solarpunk as a genre gives us the opportunity to do – focus the microscope on the true nature of our problems–ourselves.

Last week I posed the question “#Solarpunk what would you do with www.solarpunk.COM and www.solarpunk.ORG? To vote/signup visit www.sherylkaleo.com/solarpunk/. If you haven’t voted on solarpunk.org and solarpunk.com, please do, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Donor Shreya's Chronicles Book 1

DONOR (Shreya’s Chronicles Book 1) 2013 by Sheryl Kaleo

In 2013, I self-published my novel Donor on Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon Author page, and All Romance eBooks.Donor is about a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers that everything she ever knew about her life is a lie. Donor chronicles Shreya’s journey from an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in upstate Louisiana to a fugitive on the run from the law, the unlawful, and those beyond any natural laws known to Humankind. For a peek at the series back cover click blurb.

 

Does Solarpunk Equal Utopian?

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Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.58.57 AM

The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951

I exchanged tweets last week about the cleanliness and political aspects of solarpunk. And I wanted to use this opportunity to add to the dialogue around solarpunk the genre.

By the way, if you haven’t read the working definition I use for my #solarpunk stories please read my interview by Alyssa Watson on @CarbonCultureR. Much of what I’m discussing here refers to my answers there.

Does Solarpunk have to be “squeaky clean?”

On April 6th, Stephan M@stephan4770 Apr 6 said “@SherylKaleo Thank you. I have high hopes for #solarpunk. Quick thot – If we make solarpunk too clean it will never take off.#contrastisking.”

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Nostromo, Alien 1979, Ridley Scott

The difference between solarpunk the genre and solarpunk the movement is an idealistic asthetic. Personally, I believe solarpunk the movement should strive for the best—our cultural goal should be to get to the point where we have bio-friently nanite technology and anti-microbial technology that works to keep our man-inhabited environments in tune with nature.

But to paraphrase Agent Smith in The Matrix—we humans tend to reject perfect human worlds as “too good to be true.” And I would add, especially in our literature and media. We want to immerse ourselves in the fantastic, yes. But first it has to be realistic. The gritty realism of dirty gears and erupting steam is what made the Millenium Falcon and the Nostromo real. Gone are the days of shiny, silver spacesuits as representing advanced technology. Superman in pretty blue and red spandex? Not so realistic. Superman in textured dark blue kevlar-looking fabric? That’s alien technology that makes sense.

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Superman Returns, 2006

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Man of Steel, 2013

But it’s not just that we know now that a honeycomb construct makes for greater tensile strength than a shiny, scratchable sheet of metal. I think what Stephan was also referring to is that every improvement we make has consequences, and those consequences always result in a mess. For example, our first forays into using silver as a self-cleaning surface has yielded destructive side-effects in our environment. Then there are the aspects of what makes us human. How many of us have seen a perfectly clean house and thought that looks nothing like my house. Do we want that perfectly-clean-space-age-glass-everywhere house? Sure. Do we know that the minute it’s ours we’re going to have books and dirty dishes in the sink? Absolutely.

DONOR Part 3: A Silver-Lined Grave -- Police Bot

Police Bot, Donor 2013, Sheryl Kaleo

In Donor, my heroine sees a baseball-sized cleaning bot zap a pigeon that has swooped down to eat a piece of bread in Rockefeller Center. She’s afraid of dropping anything for fear of losing her hand in the same way. And while the New York City of the future is super-clean of litter and fuel emissions, there’s still plenty of other types of pollutants.

Does Solarpunk have to refer to narcissim?

All day and tomorrow@Threadbare Apr 7 said “@SherylKaleo @stephan4770 If the obstacles to a sustainable world are cultural/political, might it yield different problems than narcissism?”

Wikipedia defines http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_neurosis as it was originally applied by Freud as “a range of disorders, including perversion, depression, and psychosis. In the 1920s, however, he came to single out “illnesses which are based on a conflict between the ego and superego.”

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Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, 1993

When I first wrote my working definition and included the phrase “coupled with a radical change in the social order symptomatic of narcissistic neurosis”, I had in mind the thought that the classic conflict in my solarpunk worlds is man versus man and/or man versus self. Most especially where narcissism breeds this belief of “we know best” which is at the heart of most political systems. Then coupled with the psychotic break that occurs in our inability to come to terms with our human frailties. We humans have very high ideals—oftentimes subjective, opinionated, rigid ideals—and very deep flaws.

But here’s what I’m seeing, the problem with using a word that has it’s own strong meaning in combination with another word that is intended to give it a different nuanced definition, is that original word can overshadow the intent of the phrase. Such is the case with the word narcissism. Obviously a better phrase is needed than narcissistic neurosis. Which brings me back to my original phrase – man in harmony with his environment but in disharmony with himself. Perhaps the definition needs to stop there? Or perhaps stopping there is too ambiguous? Too soon to tell.

The wonderful thing about being at the forefront of a genre and having this dialogue is that there is plenty of room to shape and morph the definition. As such, I’m sure that my definition will evolve with feedback.

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Zardoz, 1974

Does Solarpunk preclude Dystopian societies?

All day and tomorrow@Threadbare Apr 7 also said, “@SherylKaleo @stephan4770 Thinking about Ursula K LeGuin’s ‘The Disposessed’ here…”

Although @Threadbare was speaking more to the issue of narcissim versus utopian constructs like the one in LeGuin’s novel, this question made me pause and consider…Does solarpunk automatically mean the society has to utopian? Or is there room for dystopian societies?

Just because the world is clean and mankind is in harmony with his environment, does that preclude a utopian society? In the examples in the interview, Zardoz, 1974 could definitely be taken for a utopian society. But then again, the government in Demolition Man, 1993 is totalitarian and dystopian.

I guess to answer @Threadbare, I would say that solarpunk to me is man in harmony with nature and the environment, but in disharmony with himself. Whether this disharmony creates conflict in the form of man-versus-man as is the case with political systems, or man-versus-self as is the case with our inability to accept the consequences of being human, this phrase leaves room for both.

Last week I posed the question “#Solarpunk what would you do with www.solarpunk.COM and www.solarpunk.ORG? To vote/signup visit www.sherylkaleo.com/solarpunk/. If you haven’t voted on solarpunk.org and solarpunk.com, please go

Donor Shreya's Chronicles Book 1

DONOR (Shreya’s Chronicles Book 1) 2013 by Sheryl Kaleo

In 2013, I self-published my novel Donor on Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon Author page, and All Romance eBooks.Donor is about a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers that everything she ever knew about her life is a lie. Donor chronicles Shreya’s journey from an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in upstate Louisiana to a fugitive on the run from the law, the unlawful, and those beyond any natural laws known to Humankind. For a peek at the series back cover click blurb.

What’s your working definition of Solarpunk?

#Solarpunk Poll Update

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Last week I posed the question “#Solarpunk what would you do with www.solarpunk.COM and www.solarpunk.ORG? To vote/signup visit www.sherylkaleo.com/solarpunk/.

That poll is still ongoing. There is already a thriving community on http://solarpunks.tumblr.com where ideas, writings, and images are being shared. And the goal is to add to that community in a way that doesn’t supersede what has come before.

41 for solarpunk COMI suggested an ezine for solarpunk.COM in the hopes that such a format could grow to become a magazine that would then reach the hands of a larger audience. I envisioned a collection of informative, scientific, and artistic articles that would bring to its audience the goals and realities of positive futurism. I suggested a bulletin board for solarpunk.ORG with the idea that such a format could become a warehouse for scientific facts and innovations, a discussion board for strategies and goals, and a platform where we could share our creative endeavors.

41 for solarpunk ORGIn my mind, the ultimate goal would be for solarpunk.com to hold a contest each year showcasing and rewarding the best, the brightest, and most innovative of scientific endeavors and artistic realizations. And the ultimate goal for solarpunk.org would be for that site to become a resource for us so we can all make realistic changes in our lives and a resource for teachers and students that would encourage discussions and shape future science fairs to come.

30 volunteersBut these are just my thoughts. And solarpunk is above all about community. It’s for those of us who are fed up and for those of us who believe this is achievable now and in the future. So while I can voice my opinion here on this blog, I also have to honor yours in the comments. For example, Leo said he’d like to see solarpunk.COM become an interactive blog and solarpunk.ORG become “more of an information hub with real life situations and things we can do now to get closer to an optimistic future similar to solarpunk like petitions, DIY tech, informational articles related to topics in solarpunk.” Like Leo, I hope more of you will share you thoughts and ideas, as this poll continues. Ultimately, none of this is achievable without you. To vote, signup, and share your thoughts, visit www.sherylkaleo.com/solarpunk/.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing in the solarpunk genre since 2004. (To read about how I became a solarpunk writer read here.) At the time there didn’t seem to be much interest in it, but I kept writing anyway because I loved the worlds, and I figured sooner or later there had to be other people who loved it, too.

To read the working definition I use for my #solarpunk stories please read my interview by Alyssa Watson on @CarbonCultureR.

DONOR Book 1 perfect 8o5x12o306 150dpiIn 2013, I self-published my novel Donor on Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon Author page, and All Romance eBooks.Donor is about a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers that everything she ever knew about her life is a lie. Donor chronicles Shreya’s journey from an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in upstate Louisiana to a fugitive on the run from the law, the unlawful, and those beyond any natural laws known to Humankind. For a peek at the series back cover click blurb.

Solarpunk poll

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#Solarpunk, what would you do with www.solarpunk.com and www.solarpunk.org? To vote/signup for updates visit www.sherylkaleo.com/solarpunk/

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.27.03 PMThe goal is to create easy to use and expandable communities for sharing ideas and ideals in the solarpunk genre.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing in the solarpunk genre since 2004. (To read about how I became a solarpunk writer read here.) At the time there didn’t seem to be much interest in it, but I kept writing anyway because I loved the worlds, and I figured sooner or later there had to be other people who loved it, too.

Being a typical writer I popped my head up out of my writing cave every so often to test the Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.29.13 PMethers. But mostly I wrote. Then in 2006, I won a contest for my first solarpunk novel Timewalkers, about a young adult girl unable to compete in the motorcycle racing circuit, who then travels to a perfect future with cities in the sky (and racing up there, too), a perfect world where all was not as it seems. The win was a great boost, but I realized I had much to learn about the writing craft, so I went back to my cave.

Then in 2011, I finalled in the YA category of the RWA Golden Heart ® with my third solarpunk novel. And in 2013, I self-published my novel Donor on Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon Author page, and All Romance eBooks.DonorBook1perfectworld8o5x505Donor is about a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers that everything she ever knew about her life is a lie. Donor chronicles Shreya’s journey from an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in upstate Louisiana to a fugitive on the run from the law, the unlawful, and those beyond any natural laws known to Humankind. For a peek at the series back cover click blurb.

On April 1st, 2015, Carbon Culture Review will be publishing an interview with me by Alyssa Watson in which I discuss some of the worldbuilding rules  and the definitions I used in my novel Donor. I hope you’ll take the time to stop by and comment.

 

CONTEST FINALIST

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Finalist_Medallion_GreatExpectations_v1_2015My Novel A Not So Sleeping Beauty finalled in the North Texas RWA Great Expectations Contest.  The GE is open to unpublished manuscripts by authors who have never published or contracted for the genre they’re entering.

A Not So Sleeping Beauty is a New Adult novel, a genre I’m just learning about. Since this is a new genre for me and a comedy, I’m not sure how I’ll do. But it was a lot of fun to write.

 

 

DONOR Parts Simplified

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Donor Shreya's Chronicles Book 1

DONOR Shreya’s Chronicles Book 1

DONOR was first offered as a serialized novel in four parts as a way of introducing my novel to new readers. But what I found happening is that readers thought each part was a full novel unto itself. Now I see there were things I could have done differently to make it clearer. All in all, the effort was a great learning experience, but to make things simpler, I’ve decided to offer only the full novel. I may eventually try serializing another novel. It was fun releasing a book in parts. But right now with limited time to manage so many moving pieces, I’d decided to keep it simple.

Thank you to everyone who helped me learn so much from this wonderful experiment. The full novel DONOR can be found  on my  Amazon Author, Kobo, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble pages.

 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

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Oscar the Red BT & DiversityMy #WeNeedDiversity contribution is posted under my bio–both the image and my essay about what it means to be a person of mixed race and mixed cultural heritage. But I realized that people might not get why I chose to do a poster about Oscar the Red.

Oscar turned a year on October 18th, which basically means that half of the time he’s a lot like a puppy, and the rest of the time he’s a lot like an adolescent. He’s our third dog and our second Boston Terrier. Our first Boston Terrier, Scooter, was easily identified as a BT because of his black and white coat that made him look as though he wore a tuxedo. In personality and looks he was a gentlemanly dog.

Oscar on the other hand…well he’s still a puppy. We won’t know for a while who he’s really going to be, but so far, he’s half-adorable and half-rascal. Oscar is also very different from Scooter in the color of his coat. He’s not tan–although there are tan Boston Terriers. And he’s not brown…although, he’s been called that. But what he’s mostly been called by people who don’t know is a list of other things. Is he a bulldog puppy? Is he a boxer puppy? Is he a french bulldog? And the one consistent remark we get from people is–I didn’t know they (BT’s) came in brown/red/tan.

Which is the point of why I bring it up. People don’t often see Boston Terriers of other colors, so they think they don’t exist. Don’t exist…as in nonexistent.

And that’s the way it is in this media rich generation we live in. The current media market has skewed storytelling to a very narrow bandwidth to the point where it seems other ethnic and racial groups are nonexistent. They’ve done so based on this idea that people aren’t interested. But research and the history of storytelling tell us that people’s interests can be captured and held based on how the story is told.

In Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron, Cron talks about how we humans are intrinsically wired to crave messages, warnings, and entertainment in the form of stories. We just can’t help ourselves. It’s in our survival mechanisms and in our DNA.

Which then begs the question, do we need to know about other people of diverse races and cultures?

Yes. There is a reason why we admire people who are well-traveled or cosmopolitan in nature. They seem to handle new situations so easily. They seem to worry less about the little things we all get trapped in. Perspective puts us at ease with the unknown.

Perspective is what we gain learning about other peoples, other cultures, other lifestyles. The less we know about the people around us the more our worldview is skewed, our perceptions off, and our reality so very narrow that we often find when we are presented with new situations involving new people we falter and fumble. When we learn about other people, we gain greater knowledge not just of the world around us, but of ourselves, through a greater sense of perspective.

So when people ask about Oscar’s red coat, I tell them that BT’s come in many colors including brindle, tan, blue, and lilac. I share this information as if it’s the coolest thing that they asked, because it is–because they’re sharing their curiosity and wonder. What a gift. And I often find that they’re just as delighted to learn that little tidbit of information.

I often find it’s how I share the information that makes a difference, not the what. But that’s another topic for another blog post.

For more information about the #WENEEDDIVERSEBOOKS campaign, click the image to visit their site.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks