Solarpunk Winters Writing Prompts
From January 1, 2019 to March 1, 2019, I will be accepting submissions for an anthology of optimistic science fiction stories set in winter—specifically, solarpunk stories, which means stories that engage with climate change, renewable energies, or other environmental issues through an optimistic lens. This will be a followup to my anthology Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers, which took the same approach for stories set in summer.
To break it down, the story must be:
Beyond those criteria, I'm open to a wide range of interpretations of the prompt. The Solarpunk Summers anthology was quite varied, and I want this one to be as well. If you have an idea that might fit, then I hope you'll let me see it, However, if you want some insight into specifically what I'm looking for, or need some prompts to get rolling with an idea, check out my wish list below.
To submit a story to Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters, send it as an attachment, with a brief cover letter in the body of the email, to solarpunk[at]worldweaverpress[dot]com. Stories up to 8,000 words will be considered, and we will pay $0.01 per word. Please submit only between January 1 and March 1, 2019 unless an extension has been posted on the World Weaver Press website and social media. The full guidelines may be found here: www.worldweaverpress.com/submit-anthologies.html
A couple of my cousins recently decided to sell their home, quit their jobs, homeschool their kids, and travel the country in their RV full time, working a few seasonal jobs to support themselves. They made this radical lifestyle change because they recognized the absurdity of working long hours at a job you hate to pay for a house you hardly stay in and to support a family you never see. This strikes me as a very solarpunk thing to do (though it would be more so if the RV were fully electric), and possibly even a precursor to the "walkaway" culture depicted in Cory Doctorow's cyberpunk/solarpunk novel. Imagine a world where this kind of migratory lifestyle was more common, perhaps even necessary, where cities are uprooted and the roads become the real communities. Imagine fleets of solar-powered RVs, caravans sharing a portable wind turbine, highways built to both maximize travel and minimize damage to the land and wildlife.
That's one type of migration, but maybe in a solarpunk future people will migrate the way animals do, going north in the summer to escape intense heat and south in the summer to escape extreme cold. (Or vice versa for the southern hemisphere.) What can we learn about the migration patterns of animals that can make our own living circumstances more adaptable to the changing planet?
Consider also the Kasita concept: a "portable, stackable studio apartment" that can be slid out of its apartment "rack" and moved as a whole to a different "rack" in a different location. (See what I'm babbling about here.) Who might live in this kind of a place, and where would they be moving to?
Sometimes people assume that "global warming" will mean there is no more snow and ice, but in some locations, it's likely to have the opposite effect, leading to more extreme blizzards. Higher global temperatures mean more water vapor in the air, which can lead to heavier snowfall. Warmer lakes may not freeze as early as they used to, leading to more lake effect snow as cold air blows across their surface. The loss of arctic sea ice may actually be making winters longer, because of the weakening of the polar vortex that used to keep arctic air trapped northwards. So do your research about what the future of winter might actually look like. I don't need every story to look like a snow globe, but I will look skeptically at ones that just assume snow is a thing of the past.
Wet Season/Dry Season
I'm well aware that many places in the world don't have "winter" and "summer" per se, but rather a wet season and a dry season, and the timing of those seasons varies immensely depending on the local climate. I'm interested in seeing interpretations of "winter" that correspond to local climates and investigate the unique challenges those particular locations will face under climate change. If your story is set in the northern hemisphere between November and March, or in the southern hemisphere between May and September, and the weather or climate plays a role in your story, then that counts as winter as far as I'm concerned.
I'm open to a solarpunk Christmas story—maybe something that addresses a more sustainable way of harvesting/disposing of Christmas trees?—or a solarpunk Hanukkah story—maybe a retelling about a solar array that should only be enough to power one city block, yet powers eight?—but I'm also very interested in stories that feature any or all the other winter holidays: Yule, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Shab-e Yalda, etc. The world is large, and there are many festivals that celebrate light in the darkest time of the year. Or perhaps your solarpunk society will create a new winter holiday?
When I think of solarpunk winters, I picture places like Pagosa Springs, a Colorado mountain town where food is grown year-round in geodesic domes that are heated by the same geothermal hot springs that allow you to float in 100 degree pools while snow falls around you. How can we safely and sustainably harness the Earth's own heat to keep ourselves warm? What kind of a story might take place in a futuristic wintry hot springs?
I saw a climate change map recently which predicted that when the world is 4 degrees warmer, the ice on Western Antarctica will be completely melted and that land will be covered in large cities. Similar ideas were proposed way back in the early 20th century, imagining domed cities in Antarctica. Either of these seems like a fascinating setting for a solarpunk story. What are cities like in a future Antarctica? And even if conditions are pleasant during the summer, how do the people there deal with the long nights of winter?
Then, of course, there's the issue of what gets revealed when the ice melts. Cities of ancient monsters (a la At the Mountains of Madness); buried alien ships (a la The Thing); the lost city of Atlantis. All of these ideas have been done before, but you can put a fresh spin on them by considering them through a solarpunk lens.
In Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, energy wars leave the country vulnerable and a massive earthquake splits the continent in half, but this apocalypse is actually a rebirth for the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona, partly because they wall themselves in, partly because they already know how to survive without modern conveniences, and partly because "the Diné had already suffered their apocalypse over a century before." In Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, a Himba girl's desire to go to space clashes with her duties to her family and her tribe's culture, but it's that very culture that makes her the best person to negotiate with the aliens who attack her spaceship. In "Xibalba Dreams of the West," Brazilian author André S. Silva imagines the Americas as a network of high tech and sustainable Indigenous societies that were never colonized by Europe, and who are now confronting the end of the Mayan calendar. Indigenous futurisms often show typical science fiction tropes through the lens of traditional beliefs and folklores, and push back against the colonialism that sci-fi often just takes for granted. Indigenous futurism, Afrofuturism, and other similar movements center the experiences of people of color and bring fresh perspectives to a genre that can sometimes tend toward homogeneous or white-washed views of the future. I would love to see some of these perspectives in the Solarpunk Winters slush pile. If your story references a particular cultural practice or traditional story, please feel free to mention that in the cover letter so I can consider it within the correct context.
One of the few negative reviews that Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers received said that in some of the stories, "homosexuality felt thrown into the story, not to benefit the story or enhance the character, but more, it seemed, as a cheap ploy to get more people to read." In another location, this same reviewer rants for an entire paragraph about why bisexuality shouldn't even be mentioned if the female character ends up with a "guy" instead of a "woman." In the story being referenced there, the character actually ends up with a nonbinary person, but that was clearly so far beyond the reader's comprehension they couldn't even process it. I'm fairly certain this reader gave up on the book in the middle of another story that featured a nonbinary character with zie/zir pronouns.
I hold strong to the belief that queer characters can simply exist in a story without being there as a teaching tool for cishet readers or as some kind of metaphor. A story doesn't have to be about queerness to include queer characters. Queerness in science fiction can "benefit the story" simply by depicting a future where queer people can live lives not entirely defined by their queerness, where they are not marginalized or presented as "other". A solarpunk future, especially, must be inclusive, and mentioning a character's bisexuality or transness just as a passing fact can help normalize queerness for readers and lead us toward that more inclusive future.
I'm proud of the subtle queerness of Solarpunk Summers (which, incidentally, I never tried to use as a marketing angle), and I'd like to repeat that in Solarpunk Winters. I'm fine with the depiction of cishet characters and relationships as well--Solarpunk Summers featured a number of them. It's not a romance anthology, so I don't explicitly need to know the preferences of all of your characters. But please do feel free to send me stories with gay characters, trans characters, asexual characters, characters who use neo pronouns, etc., and let these characters be as overt or as subtle about those queer traits as the story demands.
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