When I was poking around a few tags yesterday I saw a post that sort of got my sarcastic ire up. This isn’t a response because it’s kind of dickish and therefor I feel no need to tag the original author, let negativity stay in it’s little corner. I’m making this post because I was thinking about it and I’m trying to put everything I think about ‘on paper’ right now to improve my writing skill.
The post was
‘7 reasons why solarpunk is the most important speculative fiction movement in the last 20 years’
My first though was ‘that’s a strong assessment’
My second was ‘no, you’re probably right actually, what speculative fiction movements started in the last twenty years?’
It’s sort of a strange award to request, because speculative fiction isn’t that large a genre, and movements within it aren’t *that* common. Really, I wasn’t sure what sub-genres it was even in the running against.
So I did a little bit of googling, and off the top of my head I’m pretty sure It’s in the running against Dieselpunk and Nanopunk. While fun, I think most dieselpunk fans can agree it’s not really an *important* sci-fi movement. I thought that pitch for Solarpunk was pretty terrible, but we can still open up the little award letter. If you’re talking about sci-fi movements at all, I think I would have to disagree. You’re running against the arrival of the Chinese hard-scifi scene in force, the expansion of the biopunk movement (and the important inter-connectivity with things like Crispr) and the slow rise of the African sci-fi scene (west African, mostly out of Nigeria in particular) , all of which help build and imagine a less western world (which our world is very much going to be.) None of these are new movements however, and started before the last 20 years. If you had made that statement about the last 30 years there would be a lot more debate, but sci-fi movements really haven’t impressed in this new millennia, no matter what matrix fans would tell you.
So fine solarpunk, I present you the ‘Fuck Kathleen Ann Goonan Award for most important new sci-fi movement from 1997 - 2017′
Here’s a pic I was playing with at the Dallas Sci Fi Expo. Sci-Fi-y, ey? So FIVE new pictures up on the site. I was going to post six, but come on guys, what would you do with all that art? I have no clue, the question was rhetorical. Also: I’m on Space-Gun Studios’ podcast today, and you can check that out here: http://spacegunstudios.tumblr.com/day/2013/02/18 Hit it!
I pre-composed this in Wordpress, because it saves automatically. And, since I was there, I scheduled this post to go up tomorrow. So, it looks like a new feature of my Tumblr is “Advance release of my musings on Solarpunk.”
So, the near-future -punks are usually named for the kind of technology they use – cyberpunk, biopunk, nanopunk, etc. and the recent-past -punks are often named for the kind of power they use – steampunk, dieselpunk, clockpunk, etc.
Solarpunk sort of fits the second category, because solar is a kind of power. And it sort of fits the first, too, because it’s about alternative energy technologies.
But solar power is (almost) the root of all other kinds of power. Plants get straight solar power, and animals eat plants for their fuel. Wood fuel is a plant’s stored solar work rendered into heat. Oil is solar-generated plant and animal matter that’s just had a long time to sit. The weather cycle comes from the sun heating up the oceans, which gives wind power as well as hydroelectric.
There are two other kinds of power, too, that don’t come from the sun. Geothermal, the use of the Earth’s own core heat, and nuclear, the manipulation of fissionable elements to release atomic energy.
Atompunk is already a thing, but it looks like geopunk might not be. And I’m not really proposing giving them their own genres, anyway. Rather, I think they’d make cool antagonistic ideologies within a solarpunk setting.
The atompunks are the folks who still think it’s a good idea to maintain a top-down, centralized power grid. They recognize the need to get off of fossil fuels, but they want to retain a 20th century style infrastructure. If solarpunk is a setting just after the whole world is on board with climate change being real and fossil fuels being a serious problem, the atompunks are the social conservatives. Still digging-in-the-earth to operate big power plants. So, not really -punk at all.
The geopunks are a lot more interesting to me, actually. These are the people who don’t think the world is saveable. They’re sold on the apocalyptic future and are looking for a way for humankind to survive despite destroying the planet. They’re looking to burrow underground and live off the heat of the deep earth, Matrix-style.
I can imagine it being a Libertarian movement – the Underground City where Everything is Legal and Unlimited Power is Free because LAVA. (In my mind, this goes horribly, and the present state of the movement is “Years since last natural disaster triggered: 0.”)
(A table of contents is available. It will be kept updated throughout the series, and I will reblog it upon completion of the series. This series will remain open for additional posts.)
Part 25: Science Fiction, Sci-Fi, SF, and Its Variations
Many people, publishers included, lump fantasy together with science fiction because of the ease with which the two can be combined or mistaken for each other. There are a significant amount of similarities, that’s true, but science fiction deserves its own space as–arguably–the second-most diverse and cross-genre-able type of fiction. The difference between science fiction and fantasy is simple: Science fiction is explainable. Where fantasy ventures into things like magic, mythical creatures who already are, and the world of imagination where unbelievable things happen (of course always keeping their own internal believability); science fiction focuses on a relationship with–predictably–science, grounding its tale in scientific principles, theories, and laws. Science fiction is about the big what if: What if humans could travel faster than light? What if humans made first contact with aliens? What if humans figured out what makes the body live? This speculation is an integral part to science fiction’s identity, alongside the science.
The laws of science that are chosen to govern a story may be fictitious, but they must be theoretically plausible. These new achievements are portrayed in a way that draws on human experience, or in other words the story is usually about how these discoveries and developments impact human life. Settings are infinite but often center on space, other worlds/planets/universes/dimen-sions, and even sometimes right here on our own Earth. Science fiction is often set in the future, but sometimes delves into what-if scenarios of the past, becoming a mix of alternative history and science fiction. Common themes include: alien invasions, apocalyptic (technologically, bio-organically, environmentally, etc), artificial intelligence, cybernetics/bodymod, dying astronaut, dying Earth, first contact, hollow Earth, immortality, invisibility, lost worlds, multiverse/parallel universe, shapeshifting, and terraforming/colonizing.
Just as with the post on fantasy, there are bucket-loads of sub-genres for science fiction, including but not limited to: biopunk/ cyberpunk/nanopunk/steampunk, hard/firm/soft, science fantasy, space opera.
What makes a space opera science fiction story?
Think Firefly or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Even Star Wars and Star Trek have been put in this category before. Space operas are, clearly, set in space or a distant planet, featuring an often campy style that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Explanations of science are often vague or not provided at all. The action is often in a swashbuckling tradition. They’re fun, silly, and generally light-hearted, although there are some that follow a darker, grittier noir-esque atmosphere.
What makes a science fiction story hard, firm, or soft?
The differences between these three varieties is the descriptions of the science. Hard science fiction is often written by scientists who are interested in being as factually accurate as possible, with characters secondary to the ideas.
Firm science fiction is a midway point between hard and soft. Technology is included, but it may or may not be invented. Authors try to stick to laws of physics and theories of science, but without much of the technical jargon that goes into hard science fiction.
Soft science fiction is focused less of the gadgets and technology and more on the people. (The humanities are often referred to as the “soft” sciences; sociology, psychology, and anthropology are some examples.) Social change and personal interactions and psychology are frequent topics, within the context of technology and how it impacts individuals.
What makes a punk science fiction story?
Just as with the fantasy post, I’ve mushed together the various -punk sub-genres. There are many, including the well-established steampunk and cyberpunk, but also lesser known genres like nanopunk and biopunk. These last two are often thought of as offshoots of cyberpunk, which may explain why they–as their own terms–are not often discussed.
Cyberpunk features a perfection of the Internet or cyberspace (a word first coined in literature via Neuromancer in 1984. Virtual realities and hackers are staples of the genre. Body modifications such as the installment of jacks, other computer hardware, and software are devices used frequently to give the characters access to these cyber realities.
Biopunk takes the idea of cyberpunk further by involving characters who manipulate DNA. The characters are often hackers or scientists of some kind, and often a dystopian or utopian society surrounds them. Gattaca is an example of this sub-genre.
Nanopunk is another small sub-genre that many consider a part of cyberpunk, the crucial difference being that nanopunk focuses on nanotechnology and its effects on humanity. Tech Heaven is often the most-used example.
Steampunk has a rabid following, rocketing into LARPs, conventions, and fandom AUs everywhere. As stated in the fantasy post, steampunk almost exclusively showcases a Victorian London setting, although the genre has been expanding into other settings more recently. The focus for this sub-genre is steam technology, hydraulics, and clockwork–even technology that perhaps has magical influences. Contraptions, wood, and copper are often front and center, with an air of romance.
What makes a science fantasy?
Authors such as Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton are often considered to be a part of this sub-genre in which societies have advanced technology or have performed scientific experiments that have come to feel a bit like magic. In McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, dragons were a result of scientific experiments on reptiles, though the dragons developed telepathic powers with their riders in a magical kind of way. The story may have the intentions of known scientific laws or theories but easily let them go in favor of the story over the science. Science and magic may work together in the same world, science may stimulate magic, or characters may have psychic powers that resemble magic. Any or all of these factors (and others) create a tapestry of the two genres.
Science fiction is another genre that crosses with others at almost every turn. Alternate histories, dystopian, religious (specifically Christian), mystery, horror, romance, erotica, LGBTQIA+, gothic, western, and military, as well as the ever-prolific media tie-ins. Science fiction publishers and agents abound. There is absolutely no shortage of them. The important parts to keep in mind when shopping your story are the nuances of the narrative. What kind of science fiction are you? What kind of a feel are you trying to give off? Always look at what the publisher or agent has represented to double-check that they don’t tend toward a variety of science fiction your story isn’t. That advice goes for all stories, publishers, and agents, though. Best practices and all.