Interview with the Editors of Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation
Today is release day for Sunvault, a new anthology from Upper Rubber Boot. In Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, you can find optimistic sci-fi stories by authors such as Daniel José Older, Nisi Shawl, Lavie Tidhar, A.C. Wise, and many more.
Check out my interview with the Sunvault editors, and then pick up a copy of their book at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, or IndieBound.
And, if you want to support even more solarpunk fiction, check out the Kickstarter to fund the translation of the earliest solarpunk work from Brazilian Portuguese into English: www.kickstarter.com/projects/262808239/solarpunk-anthology-translation
Sarena Ulibarri: Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation was your first time editing an anthology, right? How did that process go? Was it harder or easier than you anticipated?
Brontë Christopher Wieland: It was! The process has been long, and we’ve done a lot that I used to imagine was unachievable. Like… Phoebe and I ran a Kickstarter that raised over $6000??? Isn’t that territory for people way more adept at the publishing world than I am? Ultimately, the process went much more smoothly than I had anticipated, and I think that was largely because Joanne Merriam of Upper Rubber Boot Books is a powerhouse. She seemed to know the ins and outs of just about everything, and Phoebe and I both learned a lot from her over the last two years.
Phoebe Wagner: I second that about the wonderful, amazing Joanne Merriam. She works so hard to make the SF world a better place, and it was a privilege and important learning experience to work with her at Upper Rubber Boot Books. The anthology was a new experience, and totally rewarding by the end. Reading submissions was fun and exciting (if not exhausting), but I definitely wasn’t sure how to go about helping on social media, which is still a mystery to me. The hardest part was rejecting stories that we liked but weren’t right for the anthology.
SU: Can you give a couple of teasers about some of the stories we’ll find in Sunvault?
BW: How do y’all feel about generation ships, burgeoning sentience in refuse collection droids, solar sails, self-sustaining smart buildings, oil struggles, community-centered educational systems, asteroid mining, reforestation, and planet- and society-saving genetic engineering?
PW: Everything from AR resistance to Strandbeests to genetic modification. Without spoiling the story, one that I think about a lot is “Death of Pax” by Santiago Belluco. It deals with ideas of evolution and genetic modification and the story changed my ideas on GMs and their utilization.
SU: What does the “punk” in solarpunk mean to you?
BW: So so so so so much. This is an important question, because “punk” in a genre name often connotes an aesthetic derivative of cyberpunk’s techno-orientalism, something that is mostly lacking in solarpunk. Solarpunk is still punk as hell, though.
To me, the root of a -punk genre necessarily needs to be countercultural. In a very basic way, solarpunk responds to and challenges SF and Hollywood’s recent spell of “gritty reboot” stories. More deeply, though, solarpunk manifests a counterculture in the ways that it is community-focused, anti-capitalist, decolonial, inclusive, etc. Solarpunk presents an alternative. Every piece in Sunvault is in some way a response to the artists’ concerns for the world around them and a little nugget of hope.
PW: This question comes up a lot from people exploring the solarpunk community, which does have an optimistic element that many seem to consider un-punk. To me, solarpunk is all about resistance, and what’s more punk than that? A resistance of consumerism, capitalism, environmental destruction, selfish individualism, racism, ableism, homophobia, sexism, specisim, and on. Solarpunk has a strong DIY and community aspect that always attracted me to “punk” in general.
SU: What do you most hope to see in new books and stories following the solarpunk tradition?
BW: This sounds corny, I know, but I want to see what more and more new voices bring to the genre; I want to see solarpunk reimagined and reborn with every new story. I want to see what solarpunk looks like to those of cultures, classes, faiths, places not represented in Sunvault. I especially want to see solarpunk become ever more decolonial, and I would love to see indigenous voices from around the world become central to the genre.
PW: Hopefulness, joy, new ways of resistance, community. Speculative fiction has a way of shaping the future (from the early conception of Sunvault, Star Trek and how it inspired the cell phone has been in the back of my mind). Right now, SF is predicting a pretty bleak place. Let’s imagine change and inspire people to create solutions. Like Brontë said, I hope solarpunk gets decolonial AF. I’d love to see more international voices and more connection with the science communities. I day dream of a collaborative series of solarpunk stories/poems/art where the artist and scientists work together to create and inform the solarpunk ideas.
SU: What’s next for you, either as writers or as editors?
BW: First I have to cry a lot, then I have to finish my novel! After that, who knows? Hopefully, I can finally write some solarpunk of my own.
PW: I’m finishing up my graduate thesis right now—a YA novel that, while not solarpunk, does deal with climate change in a non-dystopian way. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Phoebe Wagner grew up in Pennsylvania, the third generation to live in the Susquehanna River Valley. She spent her days among the endless hills pretending to be an elf and eventually earned a B.A. in English: Creative Writing from Lycoming College. Follow her on Twitter: @pheebs_w
Brontë Christopher Wieland is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University, where he thinks about language, storytelling, nature, history, community, and their intersections. His fiction has previously appeared in Flash Fiction Online and Hypertext Magazine and his poetry in FreezeRay. Follow him on Twitter: @beezyal
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