What is Solarpunk?

There’s a new genre in town.

Back in 2015 there were only four books on Amazon that popped up when you searched Solarpunk. (Now in 2019 there are 97 results). The first one published was Solarpunk, a collection of short stories from a Brazilian literary journal. (Unfortunately the book is in Portuguese with no translation available.) The other three are Donor by Sheryl Kaleo, Suncatcher by Alia Gee, and Viral Airwaves by Claudie Arseneault. Both books’ settings involve near future worlds dominated by eco-friendly technology. Though it came out years later Ann Margaret Lewis’ Warrior of Kizan is also an excellent addition to the emerging genre.

It’s still an emerging genre so a lot of the conventions have yet to be decided by so far bio-tech and environmental themes are common. But don’t think this a genre just for left-wingers. Only 1 out of these 3 books I’ve read so far could be classified as such. So far I’ve found most Solarpunk books do a good job at considering both the human & environmental cost of advancing technology.

Solarpunk got its start on Tumblr with this post by Miss Olivia Louise.

Solarpunk – a plausible near-future sci-fi genre, which I like to imagine as based on updated Art Nouveau, Victorian, and Edwardian aesthetics, combined with a green and renewable energy movement to create a world in which children grow up being taught about building electronic tech as well as food gardening and other skills, and people have come back around to appreciating artisans and craftspeople, from stonemasons and smithies, to dress makers and jewelers, and everyone in between. A balance of sustainable energy-powered tech, environmental cities, and wicked cool aesthetics.

For example, in Donor, humanity is at harmony with the earth but at war with their moral natures. Human experimentation & genetic engineering are among the darker results. Becoming a kind of bio-engineered Vampire is even considered an environmentally friendly thing to do.

In Suncatcher– the world has survived massive flooding from rising sea levels and other environmental disasters but humanity has also risen to meet these challenges with new technologies and engineering feats. There is a really cool scene where you see Miami is a now a walled city surrounded by a low level salt water marsh. And solar-powered flying clipper ships have become a major source of travel that can bypass a lot of the ground destruction done to roads.

Warrior of Kizan has it’s Solarpunk elements on a different planet. There, a Sumerian-based Utopian culture has developed advanced bio-engineering along with mechanical engineering and the two technologies coexist in harmony.

This article was first published by Carbon Culture Review. You can find the full articles plus interviews with two solarpunk authors here:

Part 1 Interview with author Sheryl Kaleo: Solarpunk, a world in harmony with Nature but in Disharmony with Man. 

Part 2 Interview with author Alia Gee on Solarpunk & Environmental Disaster