The term to add to your vocabulary this month speaks of a utopian future
Solar panels masquerade as roads and stained glass. Plant life is closely linked to infrastructure, and colorful handicrafts are sold along the walkways. There might be airships, but an eerie Victorian-inspired steampunk landscape isn’t. This near-future fantasy has also not been corrupted by the superintelligent singularities and post-human artificial visions of cyberpunk.
Enter a new aesthetic, inspired by Art Nouveau and Afrofuturism, which envisions a lasting, often realistic, sometimes utopian next chapter in our history. This is called solarpunk.
Although the label appeared ten years ago, it is gaining ground: in 2018, a reference in the Los Angeles Book Review; in 2020, another in the Washington post. Arizona speculative fiction author Andrew Hudson worked on some of the earliest openly solarpunk fictions – a story he co-wrote titled “Sunshine State” won a climate fiction contest in 2016. “This answers fatigue for dystopian and post-apocalyptic material, “says Hudson, catching up Maclean’s in the middle of a Colorado camping trip. “Solarpunk tends to be really interested in solutions to climate change and ways to reinvent our communities to make us more worthy and happier. It’s trying to be a reassessment of what high tech means.
It is also a rebellion – hence the “punk” – against capitalism, anti-environmentalism and popular accounts of the decline of humanity. “Optimism has been taken away from us,” says an online solarpunk manifesto, “and we are trying to take it back. “