This heartfelt and endearing collection of short stories focuses on the non-human perspectives of life in the near future and beyond — and what that means to our own species and our survival.
Before we get started, let's define solarpunk for folks who may not be familiar with the term. It's a literary/artistic movement concerned with the fate of humanity in the era after climate change and its effects. Solarpunk is a positive and hopeful approach to imagining the future (as opposed to the more common dystopian landscapes we've seen for decades). It's post-capitalist, post-colonial, and post-solipsistic.
In other words, it's great. When climate change doomerism gets you down, it's always wonderful to pop open some solarpunk and ponder, for a moment, how life could actually change for the better. Less Mad Max, and more Willing-to-Start-a-Commune-and-Help-His-Neighbours Max. The villains aren't roaming and marauding bandits, but ecocide, misunderstandings, and a lack of resources.
Solarpunk stories like the ones in this collection are also safe places for progressive concepts, since a post-industrial future presents new opportunities for how we structure things like language, gender, sexuality, and culture. We're treated to new sets of pronouns, new terms for humans (like sapies), and new ideas of personhood.
Enter the non-humans
Get out of your head (and into a robotic dog's or an inanimate comet near the Oort cloud)
It's not often you read fiction from the point of view of animals or trees, and while it can take a minute to get used to — when it's done poorly, it comes off as cutesy and saccharine — it can truly open your eyes to new feelings and new ideas.
I mean this honestly, as even I, a hardcore cat person, found myself moved nearly to tears by the story told from the vantage point of a former fighting dog that learns to love and be loved in a futuristic sanctuary for survivors. (See? It sounds too cartoony in print, but in the skilled hands of a writer who knows what they're doing, it just works.)
And while we may never get to fully understand non-human beings or create new languages with them, we can at least art to open our minds and help us empathize with the beings we share this world with.
Highlights: Indelible characters that make you consider non-human perspectives, fascinating artwork interspersed throughout, progressive elements you don't always see in science fiction, and above all, positivity.
Nerd Coefficient: 8/10
POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, a NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo award-winning podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley. She's been working on a draft of a novel called "I Love You More Than Salt: Tales from the Culinary Apocalypse" for two years, an exercise in solarpunk with lots of cheese.