Tag Archives: Carbon-Culture-Review

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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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?