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?”
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
Does Solarpunk preclude Dystopian societies?
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
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?