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Solarpunk? What is THAT?

September 28, 2015

So: in addition to writing great books, Danielle Shipley keeps a lively blog. Some time ago now on said blog, I came across the following cover reveal:

wings-of-renewal-front-cover

Now, this cover is gorgeous in my opinion: the art is great, and the whole thing is very nicely laid out in my view. What really got my interests up, though, was the tagline. I’d never heard the phrase “solarpunk” before, let alone read any stories in such a genre. Just what, I found myself wondering, did “solarpunk” entail?

So, I did some googling. And I’ve done more googling (and reading) since then. And I’ve very much liked what I found.

Solarpunk is essentially an ideological rebuttal to the dark and dingy settings which frequently appear in science fiction works today. It deals with bright futures in which clean and renewable energy sources are the norm, and in which modern-day problems can and will be solved. Solarpunk is effectively, then, about optimism: optimism for the future, and optimism towards the nature of humankind.

Of course, bright futures are hardly ideal from a narrative standpoint. Such settings are not obvious sources of conflict, after all, and conflict is a vital component to any good story. How then, you might wonder, would a Solarpunk story work in practice?

One approach here is to write about the struggle towards an ideal future, rather than writing about that future itself. This is the approach taken by many of the stories in the Shine anthology, which shares many elements with the Solarpunk concept. Most of Shine’s worlds start off in bad shape, or are at least far from ideal, but a better tomorrow is always shown to be just around the corner.

This isn’t to say, though, that one cannot make a good storyline out of an optimistic setting; a utopian setting never stopped the writers of Star Trek, to name an obvious example. A writer could chose to focus on characters’ personal conflicts instead, or else to write of interactions between the “ideal” society and others. No society is ever going to be completely without its little problems, after all; some conflict or other can always be expected to arise.

So, in case you couldn’t tell from this brief write-up, the idea of Solarpunk now interests me a great deal. I’ve actually starting writing some short stories in that direction, and I can see myself doing more later on.

And I will indeed be buying Wings of Renewal when it comes out. Because…well, see above. And dragons. Can’t forget the dragons. 

(A full description of Wings of Renewal, for those who are interested, can be found here)

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