Solarpunk

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[Please note this page’s content has been updated as of  11-12-15. For the original content discussing the evolving definition of the genre please go here. Some of the comments listed below pertain to that original post. Apologies to the commenters–we were not able to move the comments with the post.]

TAKE the POLL!  What do YOU think should be done with the domains solarpunk.com and solarpunk.org? Magazine? Bulletin board? Sandbox?

WHAT IS SOLARPUNK? Solarpunk is an evolving movement and literary genre. Depending on where you read about it, everyone has a different opinion. The consensus seems to be focusing on a future where clean energy and eco-friendly global policies are the norm. This website is being parked here to allow people to give feedback through the polls on what they’d like to see done with the websites solarpunk.com and solarpunk.org.  Also being an extension of my website (for now) I’ve shared my thoughts on how I’ve approached using solarpunk the literary genre in my novels (see below). For more information on how others are approaching the movement and the genre visit:

AbsoluteWrite.com (Dec 2010) – MormonMobster asked for feedback on “Figuring out ‘Solarpunk?’” A few people weighed in on the possible parameters of such a genre. Some of their ideas are really cool and certainly influenced my work.

ABC Environment (November 10, 2014) – published an article by Bianca Nogrady discussing solarpunk as a bright and sustainable future. It has one of my favorite images by Mark Salwowski.

Solarpunks.tumblr.com – You’ll find bio-friendly pictures and read about the ideals of positive futurism. A post by visual artist Olivia Louise (2014) gave new life to the movement, which shows the power of  art as inspiration.

Carbon Culture Review (April 1st, 2015) published an interview by Alyssa Watson discussing the worldbuilding rules and definitions with a couple of writers including myself.

Eco-fiction.com (July 2nd, 2015) interview with Adam Flynn on Solarpunk. Discusses Flynn’s notes toward a manifesto.

New Republic (November 9, 2015) published an article discussing the Utopian genre’s influence on Solarpunk.

Amazon has a few novels in the literary genre (List to come). There are many! I’d suggest doing a search for “solarpunk”.

If you’ve got a link or a website where people are discussing solarpunk, please let me know. I’ll add it to this list and to the .org and .com websites once they’ve been developed. For more information on what parameters I use in my worldbuilding for solarpunk the literary genres, please continue reading.

Comments are welcome, but if your comments are in anyway insulting or mean, they will be deleted. If you’d like your solarpunk website or link added here, leave a comment below. A nice one.

S ButtonOne writer’s working definition…

When I wrote my first solarpunk novel Timewalkers: They Also Walk Through Walls in 2004, I fell in love with this idea of a perfect future. But as a writer, I needed to figure out the inherent conflict and reasons for setting my story in this world. By my second solarpunk novel Donor in 2009, I had a working definition and copious notes for the rules of this genre. Please note: Solarpunk is a genre that is yet in flux, and I’m sure other writers will probably have different thoughts on the subject. I also expect that my definition will evolve.

What is a Solarpunk World?
Better living Through Technology. Solarpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre focused on mankind in harmony with his environment but in disharmony with himself. It features advanced science and environmentally-friendly technologies such as clean energy, recyclable or particle synthetics, and/or ambient energy.

In my novels, petroleum based products such as gasoline and plastics have been outlawed.

What is a Solarpunk Timeline?
Solarpunk begins post now in a world that uses renewable, bio-friendly energy resources and building materials—a world capable of, but weighing the ethics of, genetic and bio-enhancing technology. The timeline spans from the use of solar energy to ambient energy, and may include teleportation as well as anti-gravity devices. The timeline also spans from a fusion of the new and old (bio-friendly and historic architecture side-by-side) to cities in the sky where the earth below has been restored to its natural, pristine state and global pastoralography is a viable science. The timeline ends pre-space exploration.

In other words, near future but pre-Star Trek.

What makes my novels solarpunk?
Perfect World, Imperfect People is the phrase I use to describe my novels, where the perfect world setting is integral to the conflict. In other words, if not for a perfect world, my characters would not be experiencing their particular conflicts.

The world in my novel Donor creates conflict in that we have everything we want except immortality, so we make monsters of ourselves to live forever young. In my next novel Solarpunk, the world is perfect, and we can choose to live forever young, but now how do we deal with overpopulation?

What’s the potential conflict?
If the world is perfect and we have everything we could want, what then is the problem? The only possible remaining blemish is the human condition. Originally I defined that as a breakdown due to a narcissistic neurosis. But really Humankind is a multifaceted beast that has so many delicious potential flaws.

Isn’t there already another perfect world genre?
The subgenre that comes closest to solarpunk is a combination utopian (Perfect world) and dystopian (nothing is pefect), usually labeled dystopian, where the world is perfect but society is not and the perfection of the world benefits a few at the expense of the many. While solarpunk may explore themes surrounding the disenfranchised, in my definition the disenfranchised suffer as a result of the perfection not in order to create it.

Do we need another genre?
Do you know of many writers that stay strictly within one genre? Not many, right? Most of us do mashups. A genre is merely a set of guidelines, a starting point. Where a writer goes from there is wherever the story needs to go to be compelling. But for a reader, we like knowing the starting rules of the world we’re about to get lost in. So genre’s help identify what a reader can expect at the very least. For example, solarpunk as I’ve defined it means my characters won’t be struggling for water, food, or clean air. But yes, they’ll suffer anyway because the world is so darn perfect.

Why solarpunk?
 Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian stories have made their mark on the world as I’ve discussed in the blog post Why Solarpunk? Now it’s time for Solarpunk to make a difference in the world.  In other words, Solarpunk is a genre whose time has come because it has the artistic and literary power to push beyond our cultural doomsday mindspeak and make us believe in the future again. A well written story can do more than make you live in its pages. A well written story can make you believe.




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11 responses to “Solarpunk

  1. I feel like solarpunk.COM should be an interactive kind of blog with sections for people to spew out their ideas on specific topics within solarpunk, post their writings, etc. While solarpunk.ORG should be 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.

  2. I like both of these ideas. Definitely if solarpunk.ORG is an information hub, I would hope that people would list tech and inventions and discoveries and strategies- as you said- “everything we can do now to get closer…” But also, upcoming inventions and discoveries. How many of us have heard rumors of inventions that are hard to track down? So an opportunity to track the truth about inventions and what stages they’re in. As for your idea of Solarpunk.COM, I worry that such a mission would impede on what’s being done over at http://solarpunks.tumblr.com/ where ideas and writings and images are being shared. Whatever we do here, we want to increase the community and honor what has come before. As far as I know, I haven’t heard from the people over at solarpunks.tumbler, but I would hope they would want to continue to be a voice in the movement. So if you can think of a means to implementing your ideas that will honor their efforts, I definitely want to hear more. THANKS, LEO!

  3. I really like the idea of having two sites, like how you’d write a book. The first rough draft, or the first site, is all creative expression for nearly anything solarpunk. Writings, art, music, ideas, everything that fits.

    And the second one as a sort of basic explanation of solarpunk, or the polished draft of a book. The ‘official’ site, if you will. Preferably with facts and figures and clear explanations to point to when people ask ‘what is solarpunk?’ or ‘how can solarpunk even work?’

    This is what seems interesting and useful to me; I’d think it’d fit well with the comments above too. Good luck with everything, and thanks for asking our opinion!

  4. Hey Laurel,
    I like these ideas. So the first one is sort of a sandbox where we can all bring our toys, and the second is a Go-to place for research and explanations. What format would you suggest to support each?
    And THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I think a sandbox is a brilliant idea for the .org. Perhaps even set up a wiki for authors to contribute and round out the genre? I’m just coming to understand solarpunk and getting as much info as I can about it having only been exposed to the term a week or so ago. There is solarpunkpress for publication but there’s nothing to say you cannot create a magazine arm solarpunk.com

    • Hey Jayne,
      Yeah, the poll is shaping up to be a bulletin board/sandbox for the .org and a blog/magazine for .com. I love the wiki idea, but have no idea how to set one up. I think people are chomping at the bit to see this happen. So I’m hoping to have a bulletin board up mid-next year where we can finally hang out and chat! I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts and ideas.

      • I think the wiki for the .org would be amazing! I’ve seen a few opensource wiki toolkits out there, but haven’t set one up yet myself so I can’t vouch for their ease of use.

        I would most definitely be up for participating in a bulletin board. I think the main place things are happening in that respect right now is this google doc which isn’t the easiest way to go about it: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EAYTyWFIqxFXdtHMP1oU5-vi1Ll1WW_NL6N1X9gDcUY/edit

        • Hey Navarre,
          You’re the second person to mention a wiki recently. I don’t have a clue on how to set one up either, but I’m willing to dig in. I wish I had added that to the poll. But…here’s the good news. I finally got a site for the .ORG, and I’ll be getting that bulletin board set up soon. In the meantime, I’ll take a look at the google docs. Thanks for the heads up! And I look forward to hearing your ideas on the site. Especially about maker trends. So cool.

  6. If you try to own a movement, especially one such as this that is anti-establishment and subcultural in nature, you will effectively kill the movement.

    • Hmmm…are you saying you think I want to own this movement or the people who are already trying to promote the genre are trying to own the movement?

      First off: Attention all trolls—if I thought this poster was a troll, I would not be responding. Please do not take this as an invitation to interact. You will simply be deleted.

      So Isica-lynn….

      If you are worried anyone is trying to own the movement…don’t let them. Join us. (Come to the dark side. In addition to cookies we have small cakes and coffee.)

      I have too much on my plate to try to conquer worlds never mind slippery ephemeral beasts like subcultural-anti-establishment movements. I think most of us do. But we’re only human, and sometimes our good intentions are misread and mislabeled. All we can do is reach out, invite, ask people to join the conversation, ask for opinions, listen when they’re given (with respect on both sides), and share of ourselves.

      So far the polls are running in favor of an ezine for solarpunk.COM (60%) and a bulletin board for solarpunk.ORG (33%). I like those answers.

      I’d like to set up a bulletin board on solarpunk.ORG so we can discuss things like “Is solarpunk a subcultural-anti-establishment movement? Or is it a different beast?” And then see what we do with solarpunk.COM from there.

      Notice I said “we”. Twice. I am evil that way. I like company.

      I’m in my writing cave right now. When I emerge the bulletin board is on my list. When it happens people who are on the mailing list will be invited to join. Others will be added very slowly…very, very slowly. [Meaning…I’m one person with the hopes of adding people who want to help and to build to a point where we can support many.]

      Join us. Fight to keep solarpunk a free sub…cul—Ack! I’m having trouble typing it a third time—a free movement. To do so you’ll have to sign up for the mailing list.

    • Such great ideas here. I’ve been following the movement (genre, hashtag) since last year and am excited by it as a potential literary genre that joins in with something beyond fictional literature: the nonfiction world of art, engineering, science, hope…

      You mentioned my site above, but it’s actually eco-fiction.com, with a hyphen ;). I’m also running a solarpunk short story and art contest, with the help of a couple others in the solarpunk crowd, beginning in March. eco-fiction.com/contest

      Anyway, yes, it is good to see that nobody is trying to own a movement or be exclusive with it. The beauty of this label is that it invites the freedom to interact and brainstorm. I also think like what Adam Flynn said in my interview with him, “… a solarpunk future is one that is “sustainable” at a not-just-for-rich-people level, a human-friendly future that can scale.” I would love to see a forums and other ways to discuss here.

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