7 reasons why solarpunk is the most important speculative fiction movement in the last 20 years
  1. It’s hopeful. Solarpunk doesn’t require an apocalypse. It’s a world in which humans haven’t destroyed ourselves and our environment, where we’ve pulled back just in time to stop the slow destruction of our planet. We’ve learned to use science wisely, for the betterment of ourselves and our planet. We’re no longer overlords. We’re caretakers. We’re gardeners.
  2. Scientists are heroes again. And not just physicists and astronomers. Knowledge of biology and earth sciences matter, they’re the building blocks for a future on Earth. Scientific literacy isn’t just for academics – it’s part of daily life. People know how the things they use work, and if they don’t, they can access that information. 
  3. It’s diverse. Solarpunk is rooted in using the environment, so it looks different in different places. Alternative energy is best when specific to place (I imagine geothermal, wind, tidal, and hydroelectric energy sources are still used in certain places) so no overarching government system is needed. Communities can organize themselves, taking their own location and needs and history into account. Brazilian, Inuit, Egyptian, Pacific Northwest, and New Zealand solarpunk can all look very different, but be unified in resourceful, intentional, low impact living.
  4. Individuality still matters. In a post-scarcity society, ingenuity and self-expression are not sacrificed on the altar of survival. With solar power there’s no reason not to go off grid, if that’s what you want to do. Communities can self-organize. You can find a community that suits you, or go live by yourself if that floats your boat.
  5. There’s room for spirituality and science to coexist. Solarpunk is rooted in a deep understanding and reverence for natural processes. There’s room for spirituality there, be it pagan, Buddhist, Sufi, Transcendentalism – anything. There’s so much to explore, from nature worship to organized monotheistic religions, and how they interact with solarpunk.
  6. It’s beautiful. The most common solarpunk aesthetic is art nouveau, but again there’s room for diversity, incorporating art styles from multiple cultures in respectful, non-appropriative ways. The most important aspect of solarpunk aesthetic is the melding of art and utility. The idea of intentional living is strong in art nouveau, but it’s not the only art movement with that philosophy.
  7. We can make it happen. Now. Earthships. Permaculture. Aquaponics. Algae lighting. Compostable products that turn into fields of flowers. Buy Nothing organizations. Tiny, beautiful, efficient homes. Solar power cells you can see through. That’s all happening now. Solarpunk is within our grasp, at least on a personal level. I’m not saying there aren’t still big, ugly infrastructures devoted to unethical consumption, but we can start to tear them down. We can build a solarpunk world with stories and small changes. And small changes lead to big changes. That’s the real beauty of solarpunk. It’s not a post-apocalyptic power fantasy. It’s not a wistful daydream, or an elite future only for physicists. It’s something we can work towards right now. It’s tangible.
Religious curses are so interesting because they reflect world-building more accurately that the other types of swears do.

So when Patrick Rothfuss’s character says “Shit in God’s beard,” you know beards are important to the culture of the guy who is swearing, and when N.K. Jemisin has one of her characters, a god, say “gods,” in a moment of frustration, a reader learns something about this world: there is more than one god, for example, and this particular god probably prays to a god higher than herself.

Swearing is about taking the name of something important in vain. You can learn a lot about a culture’s values by looking at the things it considers to be obscene.

That’s the best kind of (expletive deleted) world-building there is.
11 Sci-Fi Books Every woman Should Read
There’s lots of great science fiction by and about women out there. Whether you’re looking for a fresh otherworldly take on gender, a sci-fi adventure with kickass women protagonists, or just a good woman-authored story of mind-exploding creativity, these are some of the sci-fi books that every woman (and really just every sci-fi fan) should definitely get her hands on.

Books by Ursula K. LeGuin, Nisi Shawl, N. K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie, and more!

Book Smugglers Calls for Fiction Submissions for ‘Gods and Monsters’ Anthology - Pays up to $500/story

Book review blog and digital-first publisher Book Smugglers (est. 2008) has issued an open call for submissions to find the best original speculative fiction short stories based on the theme of “GODS AND MONSTERS.” Founders and publishers Thea James and Ana Grilo plan to publish a minimum of three stories, connected to the main theme, between May and August 2017. Original artwork by a commissioned illustrator will supplement each story.

Writers are encouraged to inject their creativity into the Gods and Monsters theme and create a story that excites and inspires them. It can be Gods VERSUS Monsters, or Gods but not Monsters, or Monsters without Gods. Writers may overturn these sample themes, embellish upon what “gods and/or monsters” represents, and fine-tune the concept to other plausible nuances and genres under the Speculative Fiction genre.

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Labyrinth Maker by Santiago Caruso *** Homage to Jorge Luis Borges

“We discovered (very late at night such a discovery is inevitable) that there is something monstrous about mirrors. That was when Bioy remembered a saying by one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar: Mirrors and copulation are abominable, for they multiply the number of mankind.” ~from Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges


You may have heard that Alan Moore – the creator of comics like Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell – is stepping back from comics to focus on other projects – like his new novel, Jerusalem, a truly epic 1200-plus-page love letter to his hometown of Northampton.

Our critic Jason Sheehan says  “Should you read it? Absolutely.”

Because it is insane in the best possible way. Overachieving in the best possible way. Digressive in the best possible way. It’s full of cowboys and dead kids, drunken poets, history, metaphysics, strange cameos, highly personal rants against everything from modern politics to the comic book industry. There are long stretches (like a couple hundred pages about a child choking on a cough drop which devolves into a mind-and-time-bending journey through history, the future, extra dimensions, the spirit realm and, mostly, Moore’s remarkable imagination) that play out like pure, mainline literary fireworks. In its best moments, it’s like a bedtime story for the overeducated and extraordinarily verbose.

Check out his full review here – and tune in to Weekend Edition this Sunday because yours truly got to GO TO NORTHAMPTON AND TALK TO ALAN MOORE OH MY GOD … and he was an absolute sweetie. But now I have to turn 2 hours of interview into six minutes of radio, so that’s a little daunting.

– Petra 

TROPE OF THE WEEK: I hate my dystopic job!

Living in the hell-hole that is a dystopia – no matter if it’s capitalist or communist – means that your characters hates their job. They were forced into this position, but the government has been in control for so long that there’s no means of fighting it, so no one tries. Despite everyone hating their job, however, no one ever tries to rebel against even this small facet of the world. Well, not until your story begins, at least.

Why this can be bad: This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. While of course the dystopic government doesn’t want its people to rebel and may use fear to control a populace, fear can only go so far. After all, the characters in the dystopia also tend not to have any happiness or leisure outside of work, either, and if they do, then it’s not anything significant. History shows that unhappiness is the driving force in revolution, so if your people can’t even be happy in their jobs, they’re not going to stay there very long. That unhappiness will feed into other parts of their lives, and before long, that dystopia is out, even if it’s just replaced by a different one.

How you can fix it: For the most iconic examples, Brave New World and 1984 handle these issues in very different ways. BNW diffuses any unhappiness in the populace’s work lives by pumping leisure time full of drugs to keep citizens languid and content. If you can’t make your people happy at work, you can at least make it happy outside of work, right? Oceania of 1984, on the other hand, tries to grant some kind of fulfillment to its people (or we can infer that, at the very least). Winston, who is the most angry at and hateful of the government, manages to find pleasure and satisfaction in his government-assigned job rewriting history, despite hating that the government rewrites history. He finds an aspect of it fun, and so while he’s angry most of the time, there’s a bit of joy that can be found in his everyday life.

Bottom Line: A government, even a dystopic one, wants its people to be happy because a happy people will not rebel. Amend your world as needed.

Picture: Screencap from Dystopixelia by Kvantpant.


INVISIBLE UNIVERSE: A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction

documentary by M. Asli Dukan

In 2003, independent filmmaker, M. Asli Dukan, set out to make a documentary about the 150 year history of Black creators in speculative fiction (SF) books and movies. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she was about to document a major movement in the history of speculative fiction. A movement where a growing number of Black creators were becoming an effective force, creating works that had increasing influence on the traditionally, straight, white, cis-male dominated SF industry. However, while these Black creators imagined better futures for Black people within their fictional works of SF, in reality, the everyday, lived experiences of Black people in the United States – e.g., the rise of massive inequality, the prison industrial complex, and police brutality – stood in stark contrast. She began to wonder if these phenomena were related. 

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‘People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction’ Anthology is Seeking Sci-Fi Stories - Pays 8 cents/word

Leading sci/fi magazine Lightspeed has opened an exclusive reading period to curate stories for a special issue called “People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction”–based on the popular successes of its other “____ Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy” themes.

This issue is being guest edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim. Nalo is a Jamaican-born Canadian who has published multiple novels and short stories, and has edited and co-edited anthologies. Kristine, a best-selling author of numerous novels, is also poetry editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, a literary journal distributed by Epigram Books in Singapore.

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All Mixed Characters in a Dystopia

@biology15 asked:

I’ve come up with a dystopian world where everyone is of multiple/mixed races to some extent, including the main characters. The MCs are the heroes but are portrayed by the government as criminals, and, for some time, they also believe that they are criminals too. The president of the country is of mainly European decent, however, she has tan skin, coming from families with North African and East African ancestry as well. And four out of the six main characters have darker skin tones. Would this come off as racism towards darker-skinned mixed people (because they are “criminals” but are actually on the good side), even if there are lighter-toned mixed people on the good side and darker-skinned mixed people on the bad side too?

And everyone in my story is of mixed heritage, naturally, including part-east-asian/part-blacks, part-arab/part-latinx, and so on. Would this in any way come off as fetishization towards uncommon mixed people in today’s world?

Good question. With a dystopian world like that it’s good to really look at your world-building process and ask the right questions. 

  • How did the world turn out the way it did?
  • Why would everyone mix until everyone is mixed race?
  • What happened to the people who don’t want to mix (for any possible reason)?
  • What effect does this “we’re all mixed” situation have on the racism happening globally? (chances of racism being solves are next to 0 to be honest, so really think and do some research to make this realistic)
  • How does this affect the current views on race as a (social) construct?

Personally, I have to say that speculative worlds where everyone is mixed feel very unrealistic to me. I know interracial couples could easily increase over time and be more normalized, but I hardly think all people would let go of their reasons not to. I’ve had people tell them right to my face more than once, as well as seen them on the internet. There’s obviously the people who feel like “race purity” is a thing. The people who feel their or a certain race are superior *cough* white supremacists *cough*

You also have the people who see how other races keep on hating on them and decide to date people who actually appreciate and understand them. I bet there are more reasons on people’s minds, some I’d say good for you while other’s I’d personally want to dump on a faraway island so they don’t ruin the world for the rest of us. Reality is, all of those people exist, so what happened to those groups in your world?

Racism, colorism and anti-Blackness

Your question about the racism against darker-skinned people (colorism) is a good one to ask. Yes, I think colorism would most definitely exist in your world and could even be a hugely popular sentiment. Just think about how anti-Black racism can be found almost anywhere in the world and see how dark-skinned Black people are being treated the worst compared to lighter skinned Black people.

Your country’s leader demonizing your main characters by portraying them as criminals could easily be seen as an act of colorism. It depends on how they treat other dark-skinned people, if the discrimination is systematic and structural, and if and how you portray them in your writing. 

However, with how racism works in our world, many people could easily see this leader as racist or stereotype your main characters, consciously or unconsciously. Good thing to keep in mind. 

Mixed race and stereotypes

Another pitfall are the stereotypes surrounding mixed people that can seep into your writing. Multiracial people are not the epitome of the human race. We are not the answer to ending racism and we aren’t all a clear representation of our cultures and races in terms of our appearances. There are vastly different ways to identify as well. Some identify as one of their races, some as a few and some as all. Some identify as mixed, bi- or multiracial. I bet there could be more. 

Also be careful about the ambiguously brown thing. A common thing with mixed race characters is that writings find ways to omit culture or any sense they might have of their race and how it impacts their identity. They’re only POC in a superficial way. It’s not a problem because such mixed race characters exist, it’s a problem because it’s the norm. It’s a problem because they get whitewashed so easily and frequently. 

On “we’re all mixed”

The whole “we’re all mixed” scenarios leads to and ignores many problems due to (internalized) oppressive views and systems being seen as the default. This is one of the many reasons why many people don’t like it. 

If you want to write such a world, do your research, and ask appropriate beta-readers to check out your story. Be respectful and listen to the people you’re representing as well as the ones whom you’re actively NOT representing. POC often see themselves overlooked and erased from  stories, even their own, so think about how a world where they’ve been consciously taken out (maybe not literally, but that’s how it could feel) feels to POC.

~ Mod Alice


Deadline: December 1, 2015
Length: up to 10,000 words
Anticipated publication date: Fall 2016
Paid: Yes (rates to be determined)
Contact email: specfic@topsidepress.com
Submit work to: https://topsidepress.submittable.com/

Topside Press is accepting submissions for an anthology of short speculative fiction by self-identified transgender writers. Speculative fiction can include science fiction, horror, fantasy, alternate history or any fiction which envisions a world that is fundamentally different from our own.

Our goal for this anthology is to showcase the talent of a diverse range of authors and catalyze the next wave of meaningful, moving, and politically engaged speculative fiction.

About the Editors:

Cat Fitzpatrick co-edited Sybil Lamb’s 2014 novel I’ve Got A Time Bomb. Her zines include “At least It’s Short,” “You Have Ripped Your Dick Off,” and “I Walked Through The Desert.” She is a poet, essayist, and professor at Rutgers University-Newark.

Casey Plett is the author of the short story collection A Safe Girl To Love and wrote a column on transitioning for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She contributed to the Topside Press anthology The Collection: Short Fiction From The Transgender Vanguard and her work has been featured in Rookie, Plenitude, Two Serious Ladies, Anomalous Press, and other publications. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada.

About Topside Press:

Topside Press is a small independent publisher that began publishing transgender fiction in 2012 with The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard. In 2013, Topside published the ground-breaking novel Nevada, by Imogen Binnie. Find out more at www.topsidepress.com.

University of Iowa Libraries Begin to Digitize Decades of Fan Fiction
Every library has a sci-fi section, but not many can compete with the collection of speculative fiction that has been growing steadily at the University of Iowa (UI) in recent years. While the UI Libraries boast an impressive collection of works by notable authors in the genre, it’s not the focus of the UI’s universe-spanning sci-fi collections.
Books for Solarpunks

These books were not all conceived as solarpunk, but they all fit some aspect of the movement. Add on if you know of more.

  • Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston, by Ernest Callenbach – this is one of the first ecological utopias, and, as a Northwesterner, I have to put it before all others. Cascadia Forever.
  • Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy – you’ll find a legitimately utopian world in this novel. I’ve never been a huge fan of the plot, but as an ecological/cultural thought experiment it rules.
  • Science in the Capitol series, by Kim Stanley Robinson –  beginning with 40 Signs of Rain, this series imagines a near-future/present day shift to politicians actually giving a fuck about global warming.
  • The Gaea Trilogy, by John Varley – anything by Varely will have solarpunk aspects, but the Gaea Trilogy is an interesting look at what solarpunk in space might look like. Humanity encounters a massive Stanford torus orbiting Saturn. Is it closer to fantasy than sci-fi? Yeah. But who doesn’t love centaurs?
  • Three Californias trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson – this trilogy explores three versions of future California. The third book, Pacific Edge, is the only ecologically sound future imagined, a very solarpunkish utopia.
  • The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson – I saved this for last because as far as I’m concerned it’s legit solarpunk. Gorgeous imagery and world-building any solarpunk will love.

The Black Tribbles Radio show + The AfroFuturist Affair is CALLING ALL WRITERS AND STORYTELLERS OF BLACK SCI-FI & AFROFUTURISM for our Third Return to OCTAVIA CITY!

All throughout April 2015, Black Tribbles and afrofuturistaffair with Mythmedia Studios will turn over FIVE LIVE BLACK TRIBBLES RADIO SHOWS (broadcast on WHYY and GtownRadio.com) to the big event. Every show in April will feature original short stories, music, spoken word pieces and personal reflections on the influence the work of #OctaviaButler has had on the artistic community.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS for all artists, writers, screenwriters (wouldn’t a cool stage reading sound great?) and music/spoken word performers interested in showcasing their craft. Send an email to OctaviaCity@gmail.com letting us know what you wish to contribute to OCTAVIA CITY 2015. Submissions are due by March 20th.

Solarpunk is just as much a utopic fantasy dependent on invisible Macguffin as the Gleaming Atomic future of the 50′s and 60′s.  It’s fantasy is of 100% efficient, clean solar energy that cures all social ills.  This is as much a fantasy as a matter replicator on star trek or the clean and safe nuclear power of the Jetsons

.  Solarpunk’s defined by what’s missing from it’s sunny, stained glass worlds.   Namely, the means of production, the problems of energy storage, ignorance of class inequalities in access to technology, and the miraculous resolution of all social conflict.

Solarpunk is a ridiculous dream as it is now conceived..  If you’re attached to the aesthetic and don’t want to be disillusioned about your nice sun themed fashion lines don’t read on.  Or you don’t want to listen to a cranky person.

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The Fantasist eZine Opens Temp. Reading Period to Find Novella-Size Fantasy Stories - Pays $50/story

Writers have until September 30th to submit long-form fiction to The Fantasist, a new online quarterly magazine of novella-length fantasy stories.

The purpose of The Fantasist is to widen the classification of fantasy, to strengthen and interweave the discussion around speculative fiction, and to amplify the role of fantasy within that discussion.

The publisher plans to publish three original fantasy novellas the third Thursday of every third month starting in December.

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“There is a righteous, deep-felt fury I sometimes experience when reading stupendously good work. How dare you, I shout at the author, dropping the book, pacing for a while, how dare you make me feel so much. I rant on Twitter. I joke about how the author must be stopped,” says reviewer Amal El-Mohtar. “I have done all those things elsewhere and am left hollowed out.” 

She’s not kidding, y’all. The Paper Menagerie really is that good!

Bonus: You can hear several of these amazing stories at Podcastle and Escape Pod. (h/t to Podcastle audio producer @liminal – thanks for the heads-up!)

– Petra