Beyond the green smart cities, solarpunk can also be dark

Lidia Zuin
7 min readMay 6, 2021

Disclaimer: This essay was originally published in Portuguese on Tab UOL.

For the past months I have been dedicated to reading more about the science fiction subgenre Solarpunk. Here in Brazil, back in 2013, we already had the publication of one of the first anthologies of the genre, “Solarpunk — Histórias ecológicas e fantásticas em um mundo sustentável” (Solarpunk — Ecological and fantastic stories of a sustainable world, anthology also available in English by World Weaver Press). This summarizes much about what the subgenre proposes: histories of a future more ecological, sustainable and optimist.

The suffix “punk” added to subgenres such as cyberpunk, steampunk or dieselpunk for a long time have acquired a negative connotation due to the cyberpunk, which was originally characterized by protest and pessimism in a similar way to the associated subculture. But with the development of other subgenres of the “punk” family, it grows clearer that we don’t necessarily need to adopt this grim and pessimistic viewpoint about the future.

As I mentioned before, increasingly more people are asking for more optimistic stories which not necessarily need to be utopias, especially because they are just the “other side of the coin” of dystopias, but at least that these narratives become a bit more reasonable, that they could serve us as inspiration for an optimism that we are currently lacking.

Released in April by World Weaver Press, the anthology Multispecies Cities includes 24 short stories of authors that tell tales of an ecologic future, mostly situated in regions such as Asia and the Pacific Ocean, so you will likely read narratives from the Philippines, Russia, China, Taiwan, Japan, but also Hawaii and… Mars (!). At a first glance, solarpunk may look like a more aesthetic movement rather than a subgenre with a strong bibliography. But this is similar to what happens to more recent subgenres such as sertãopunk and amazofuturismo, which are still being developed as literary movements after gathering fans for their images. And in the case of the visual arts connected to solarpunk, the subgenre is often represented as a shinier future, a future that, by the way, may look like mock-ups of projects for smart cities and future gentrification.

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Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Technical and science fiction writer.