If you are anything like me, you’re getting tired of the same old doom-and-gloom, apocalyptic stories. You may not even be able to risk engaging in anything dystopian thanks to the situation surrounding coronavirus for fear of going too deep and being unable to escape. Stories can model the way to overcome or survive hardships, or they can provide metaphors that allow us to see ourselves in a new light. Even science fiction should encourage us to think about our lives and the future. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, Back to the Future are just a few examples of how this can be done. Would we even have half of the technological advances and devices we have now without science fiction? But sometimes it’s nice to simply escape.

I recently came across an article saying why we should abandon the Cyberpunk genre. While it is a genre of immense popularity, Cyberpunk is becoming increasingly more realistic. It’s one thing for stories to act as a warning against certain futuristic realities, but wouldn’t it be better to see a reality worth working towards? So I was introduced to Solarpunk. Where Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction in a dystopian setting with a focus on advanced science with a breaking down of the social order, Solarpunk is a slightly more optimistic sci-fi sub-genre. At least with respect to the world and the social order. Taking current societal issues like climate change, pollution, and social inequality, Solarpunk asks, “What does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” It’s like steampunk but with renewable energy. It should be noted that Solarpunk is not a case of utopia versus dystopia. People will always be people, and there wouldn’t be many stories in Solarpunk if it was a Utopia without any conflict. 

So if you’re like me, looking for some science-fiction that will give you a sense of escapism and hope for the future, I highly recommend checking out Solarpunk! And now, without further ado, Rogues Portal proudly presents some must-read Solarpunk books to get you through isolation:

The Dispossessed solarpunk The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life—Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

Parable of the Sower solarpunk Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.
When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

Nausica of the Valley of the Wind solarpunk

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 by Hayao Miyazaki

In a long-ago war, humankind set off a devastating ecological disaster. Thriving industrial societies disappeared. The earth is slowly submerging beneath the expanding Sea of Corruption, an enormous toxic forest that creates mutant insects and releases a miasma of poisonous spores into the air.
At the periphery of the sea, tiny kingdoms are scattered on tiny parcels of land. Here lies the Valley of the Wind, a kingdom of barely 500 citizens; a nation given fragile protection from the decaying sea’s poisons by the ocean breezes; and home to Nausicaä.
Nausicaä, a young princess, has an emphatic bond with the giant Ohmu insects and animals of every creed. She fights to create tolerance, understanding, and patience among empires that are fighting over the world’s remaining precious natural resources.

Oryx and Crake Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.

Glass and Gardens Solarpunk Summers Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers by Sarena Ulibarri

The 17 stories in this volume are not dull utopias—they grapple with real issues such as the future and ethics of our food sources, the connection between technology and nature, and the interpersonal conflicts that arise no matter how peaceful the world is. In these pages you’ll find a guerilla art installation in Milan, a murder mystery set in a weather manipulation facility, and a world where you are judged by the glow of your solar nanite implants.These are stories of adaptation, ingenuity, and optimism for the future of our world and others. For readers who are tired of dystopias and apocalypses, these visions of a brighter future will be a breath of fresh air.

Solarpunk Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro

Imagine a sustainable world, run on clean and renewable energies that are less aggressive to the environment. Now imagine humanity under the impact of these changes. This is the premise Brazilian editor Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro proposed, and these authors took the challenge to envision hopeful futures and alternate histories. The stories in this anthology explore terrorism against green corporations, large space ships propelled by the pressure of solar radiation, the advent of photosynthetic humans, and how different society might be if we had switched to renewable energies much earlier in history.

Suncatcher: Seven Days in the Sky Suncatcher: Seven Days in the Sky by Alia Gee

It’s 2075 in a post-climate change, post-pandemic, post-peak oil world. Professor Radicand Jones has earned a nice quiet sabbatical in her sister’s solar powered airship, floating serenely above it all.

Instead, Radicand finds herself:

  • Defending the airship flock against pirates with nothing but her rifle and her wits.
  • Risking her mind every time she goes deeper into the enhanced virtual reality of the aether—just like her father before her.
  • Helping her best friend escape from bounty hunters determined to keep her genetic property under corporate control.
  • Falling in love with a killer. He has a heart of gold. It might belong to someone else.

Happy endings may look easy in the sky, but can Radicand Jones save everyone else’s hearts and minds without losing her own?

the Redwood Revenger

The Redwood Revenger by Johannes Johns

In 2043, Olivia Ermine survives The Great Warming safe in Cascadia, yet a maniacal woolen devil would see her dead. Her blood holds the key to the VanDirks Corporation’s domination of the planet, and they will stop at nothing to get it! Can she beat the rising tide? A genre-bending journey through solarpunk sci-fi and science fantasy awaits.

If you would like to purchase these books, please consider supporting your local bookstore. If you want to read more about Solarpunk and check out the articles I used in my research, follow the links below:

Josh Rose
Basically a hobbit, Josh is always enjoying food and drink, and going on unexpected adventures. Beware if you see him without a cup of coffee: caffeination deprivation makes this boy go loco.

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