Why Solarpunk?

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.


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.



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.