008: "Untethered" by Andy Crawford

Issue 8 of Solarpunk Press is here! The story is "Untethered" by Andy Crawford. You can get it for free:

in text right here,

and in audio right here.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and the eBook is available right here for pay-what-you-want.

If you like what we're doing here and want to help support us so we can keep putting out this kind of content, consider supporting Solarpunk Press on Patreon.

007: "The Love Song of Laura Morrison," by Jerry Oltion

Issue 7 of Solarpunk Press is here! The story is "The Love Song of Laura Morrison," by Jerry Oltion. You can get it for free:

in text right here,

and in audio right here.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and the eBook is available right here for pay-what-you-want.

If you like what we're doing here and want to help support us so we can keep putting out this kind of content, consider supporting Solarpunk Press on Patreon.

Solarpunk Press interviewed by Sunvault

Faith Gregory, editor of Solarpunk Press, was interviewed by Sunvault, the upcoming solarpunk anthology, and that interview went online today! 

Even though Sunvault is closed for submissions, Solarpunk Press is another paying market looking for solarpunk stories! We talked with co-founder Faith Gregory about what solarpunk means to them.
Sunvault:  What drew you to solarpunk and what still inspires you?
Faith Gregory: Honestly, I wasn’t initially interested in Solarpunk. Watson and I worked on the same college newspaper, and they kept bringing it up to me as something I should look into. The idea didn’t really stand out to me, but when they finally got me to look into the community and read some posts, I started to see how important the idea of optimistic speculative fiction is, and that small movements like these are key in changing the socio-political landscape of our respective communities, and how our communities interact with each other.
Keep reading...


The events in Orlando were devastating, and we hurt for our LGBTQ communities members deeply.

What happened was caused by continuing intolerance and hatred against others, and we can only work to move forward from that.

In the true spirit of solarpunk, here's how you can help the survivors and families of the Pulse Massacre: 

Check out this Huffington Post link to see a variety of places you can donate to the Orlando families and victims, if you have money to spare.

Educate yourself and others about the causes of gun violence and the need for gun control in the United States.

If it's safe for you to, combat those who use Islamophobic rhetoric when talking about the shooter with peaceful and rational discussion. The gunman was not motivated by religion.

Continue to talk to your local and state representatives about improved gun control. It's so important.

And finally, take care of yourself. An event like this is traumatizing to a community, and it's important to check in with yourself and talk to others if it is safe for you to do so.

We'll pull through and improve, don't give up hope.

The thesis work continues... slowly

Hey folks, wanted to post a brief update about working on my "prison abolition is necessary in solarpunk activism and fiction" thesis.

My first reference point and book I'm reading/citing for this paper is "Are Prisons Obsolete" by Angela Davis. This book is prison abolition 101, which is why I thought it would be smart for me to start there.

I wanted to pull a few quotes for ya'll and talk about what I've been thinking.

"Prison abolitionists are dismissed as utopians and idealists where ideas are at best unrealistic and impracticable, and, at worst, mystifying and foolish," (9-10).

This quote struck me initially because it sounds like some of the criticisms and things we're avoiding in the solarpunk movement. I thought it would make an interesting parallel that our line of thinking is along the same path.

"The prison has become a black hole into which the detritus of contemporary capitalism is deposited," (16).

The prison-industrial complex is one of the many unhealthy and oppressive cogwheels of capitalism, which solarpunk is actually trying to deconstruct and work against. To fight against capitalism, you must reject the prison-industrial complex, and, at the base, the prison.

"Other forms of punishment that predated the rise of prisons included banishment, forced labor in galleys, transportation, and appropriation of the accused's property," (42).

I've seen a lot of talk in the solarpunk community about banishment being an adequate replacement for prison. The idea has always bothered me, because sending someone somewhere else without any resources is not going to fix the structural problem that led to whatever happened. It also immediately demoralized them and gives them no incentive to heal. Seeing this quote about banishment being one of the things that predated prisons didn't surprise me one bit. Banishment doesn't work, and it's just about as bad as prisons. 

So, that's my progress at the moment, those are my thoughts. I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments!

Reading old SF with solarpunk in mind

Reading old SF with solarpunk in mind

Solarpunk today is just one more manifestation of a long-standing tradition: people finding a way to feel comfortable in their art, and coming together with other people who want the same comforts. One of the things this means is that it's possible to read old SF for solarpunk values, and see how other writers tackled issues that we recognize in our political and environmental present.

Read More

The difficulties of writing in a new subgenre

As an editor in the solarpunk genre, I've also been making attempts at writing solarpunk fiction, my latest being a planned submission to Sunvault Anthology.

I think writing in the genre you edit is as important as reading published works in the genre you edit because it gives you a deeper understanding of what is involved in engaging through writing.

However, when it comes to new subgenres, it can become difficult, because there's not really a lot of source material, and what you're writing is becoming the foundation of this new genre (through world-building).

All writing comes with a deep responsibility to have a social consciousness and an understanding of the power of your words, but world-building a new subgenre can make your words even more fundamental and powerful.

This is equally as important for an editor to recognize, because Watson and I are the ones who are sending these words out there, so this can make picking stories and arduous and sometimes nerve-wracking process.

Another difficulty in writing in a new subgenre is being careful not to rely to carefully on early formulated tropes. This is because it can limit the scope of the subgenre, the scope of your writing, and it can make everything look the same.

Now I'm not saying that means you should avoid the tropes, because some of them I rather like, and others in the community rather like. And some of them are just plain important for the genre, but it's something to be aware of, and forming a story entirely out of the early tropes is going to make it seem more like a parody than a serious submission.

Writing is hard even without working in a new genre, but these are some of the things I've come to learn as I've been cultivating my solarpunk writing.

What are some things you've noticed have been difficult in writing in new subgenres, including or not including solarpunk?


Crowdfunding spotlight: Sunvault, a new solarpunk anthology!

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation launched their Kickstarter today, and they've raised about $100 in the first three hours, so far. 

They're aiming for $5,000, and they open to submissions as soon as they hit their goal. The anthology is planned to release in Spring of next year.

Check it out, and pledge if you want to get your hands on a copy of the anthology as soon as possible. There are still a bunch of special rewards left, including limericks and paintings. (I think I'm the first person to choose a pledge that includes one of Phoebe Wagner's spray art spacescapes, which are really cool.)

006: Flash Fiction Issue!

Issue 6 of Solarpunk Press is here! This month's issue is a Flash Fiction special -- we've got two stories for you:

"Last Day" by Brandon Crilly

"Looking Across the River from Two Directions" by Scott Szpisjak


You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and the eBook is available right here for pay-what-you-want. You can also get this issue in print for $5 plus shipping right here.

If you like what we're doing here and want to help support us so we can keep putting out this kind of content, consider supporting Solarpunk Press on Patreon.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

You know what's a constant fountain of cool projects that are, to varying degrees, totally solarpunk? Kickstarter. It's where I got my solar puff, where Reading Rainbow got brought back, and just scroll through the most funded projects in almost all the categories, like half the projects could be defended as solarpunk.

And we love supporting cool projects, and since we're both broke, there's nothing we can do that's more helpful than signal boosting! So we're going to start featuring projects as they come around that we think Solarpunk Press readers might be interested.

And the first one we want to higlhight is "Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin," a documentary about an author who I admire immensely. Anyone who's into solarpunk should definitely check out her work: it's amazing, and she's done incredible and groundbreaking things with politics in science fiction.

Arwen Curry, the creator of the Kickstarter page, has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for most of the projected cost of this project -- $600,000 out of $800,000 -- and the Kickstarter has already met its initial goal of $80,000. The plan was to use Kickstarter and seek other grants, since NEH won't release the $600k until she's raised the other $200k.

But since she blew through the first goal so quickly, now she's looking to hit the whole amount -- $200,000 -- from Kickstarter, which would allow her to stop worrying about other funding and get started on the film. 

There are 14 days to go, and she's at about $156,000. The lowest reward tier is $10 and $25 is the first one at which you get to see the movie as part of the package. Some of the really huge limited-availability rewards are still available, too.

005: Without Walls, by A. Gislebertus

Issue 5 of Solarpunk Press is here! The story is "Without Walls," by A. Gislebertus. You can get it for free:

in text right here,

and in audio right here.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and the eBook is available right here for pay-what-you-want.

If you like what we're doing here and want to help support us so we can keep putting out this kind of content, consider supporting Solarpunk Press on Patreon.

004: The Squeaky Wheel, by Sara Kate Ellis

Issue 4 of Solarpunk Press is here! The story is "The Squeaky Wheel," by Sara Kate Ellis. You can get it for free:

in text right here,

and in audio right here.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and the eBook is available right here for pay-what-you-want.

If you like what we're doing here and want to help support us so we can keep putting out this kind of content, consider supporting Solarpunk Press on Patreon.

Hand-cranked mountain bikes

An interview with Mike Augspurger, inventor of the One-Off Handcycle

The Handcycle has two wheels in front and one in the back, and the rider rests on their knees and on a chest support. Image from the One-Off Handcycles website.

The Handcycle has two wheels in front and one in the back, and the rider rests on their knees and on a chest support. Image from the One-Off Handcycles website.

By Faith Gregory and T.X. Watson

Mike Augspurger is the founder of One-Off Handcycles, a business that makes Handcycles for disabled people to ride on rough terrain.

“Up until recently I built and sold custom titanium bikes frames, and then after that I built and sold my own design for an off-road Handcycle, which is for people in wheelchairs,” said Augspurger. 

Augspurger’s Handcycles usually weigh around 50 lbs, weight varying on wheels, seating and various components, and tend to be about 70 inches long. The frame is made of chrome moly steel.

“It’s a generally three-wheeled vehicle that’s arm powered, we like to think of it as the equivalent of a mountain bike for people who are in wheelchairs,” said Augspurger. 

The handcycles are designed for rough terrain, but they also work on roads and bike paths. 

The invention's story

“I was always into off-road motorcycles, and then off-road bicycles," said Augspurger. "Also when they first invented mountain bikes I was really into that. And I was an owner of a titanium bike frame company in the Boston area called Merlin Metalworks, which was one of the first brands of titanium bike frames.” 

Augspurger became fast friends with his neighbor Bob Hall, who was the first person to enter the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair, often thought of as the grandfather of wheelchair racing.

“I learned from Bob about all these various kinds of wheelchair sports, and I always thought if I were in a wheelchair, what I would want is an off-road Handcycle. And I knew that they didn’t exist, so it was kind of compelling to make my own design,” said Augspurger.

The Handcycle Augspurger designed has two wheels in the front and one in the back, using rear-wheel drive, as opposed to having one wheel in the front and two in the back, using front wheel drive. This is to maximize control at high speeds and sharp turns for the rider.

Augspurger had local wheelchair athletes test them out to make sure the models actually work for people with disabilities. He said disabled people think of things to test on the Handcycle that able bodied people wouldn’t even think to try.

The hardest part of designing the Handcycle was how the rider would steer and crank with their hands at the same time.

Augspurger designed a chest support for the Handcycle, because a lot of paralyzed people aren’t just paralyzed from the waist down, but from the stomach or mid chest down, so they couldn’t be sitting up while riding. 

Augspurger had one of the wheelchair athletes come over to test out the chest support while riding the Handcycle. He had attached the support with hose clamps.

“(To steer the Handcycle) you had to keep cranking, reach up with one hand and adjust the steering. I knew it was a big problem, and I didn’t have the answer, but when he’s riding around, the hose clamps weren’t tight enough, and the chest support thing swung over to the side. and I thought ‘oh, I wonder if I could use that to steer with.’ When it moved to the side I thought I could have cables on there, and that’s how it works, is you steer it with your chest with this pivoting chest pad. That’s actually probably the biggest innovation, to steer with your chest because your hands are busy.”

Augspurger's design is the only kind of Handcycle that’s not a recumbent, a wheeled vehicle where the rider lays on their back and pedals. 

In 2006, Augspurger sponsored the first ever off-road Handcycle race in Colorado. Eleven athletes competed, all on his Handcycles.

There were 10 years in between when Mike made his first design sketches for his Handcycle -- which has been structurally almost the same since the beginning -- and when he actually had the resources to start working on it.

"I subscribed the the wheelchair magazine and every month I would sort of panic, get it out of the mailbox and look through, because I expected somebody else was going to beat me to it. And then, twenty years later, I think, 'God, I wish somebody else would make these.' For ten years I'd think, 'how many of these do I have to make?' I'd rather make them better, or make a slightly different version, instead of just taking orders and making the same thing again."

The problem with athletic equipment for people with disabilities

Ausburger is no longer in business, but a few other business sell models based on his designs. He said all of those organizations has offered to pay him licensing fees, but currently he isn't asking any of them to pay for their permission to use the patent. When he gets requests now, he sends people to Jake O'Connor, and his company Reactive Adaptations

He said it's common for athletic equipment for people with disabilities to just disappear as soon as the first company to make them stops producing them. 

"There was a water ski for a while that you kneel on, it built up into a whole sport ... but the people who were making the water ski stopped and nobody else would do it so the sport just died."

More information on One Off Handcycles can be found at oneoffhandcycle.com including photos and videos.

We want your solarpunk flash fiction!

Hey folks!

For our March edition, we'd like to publish solarpunk flash fiction under 2000 words, which means we will be publishing multiple pieces!

Submissions guidelines and procedures will remain the same, save for the word count. We really want to see what y'all create in the solarpunk universe!

Go to solarpunkpress.com/submit to enter your piece -- we look forward to reading your stories!

Editorial: The problem of organizational inertia

In February 2013, Charles Stross wrote a blog post called Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship. In it, he described a problem with systems of power in the 21st century. Extremely simplified, it went like this:

  • Organizations will always out-compete individuals in pursuing control of a large system
  • Systems within an organization for choosing representatives and actions will trend towards those that preserve or expand the organization, even when that goal contradicts the stated goals of the organization
  • Therefore, over time systems will trend towards all supporting a closely similar set of behaviors and values that optimize for organizational survival, and organizations that ideologically set out to resist that will either change to conform or disintegrate


Stross lays it out in much more careful, intelligible detail, so I recommend checking that post out.

I think about that blog post a lot, and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple years now. I tried to wrap my head around that problem, wondering if a reform movement could possibly achieve humanitarian goals, and if so, how they could organize in order to be effective.

I think there are some good examples of this. I think Occupy Wall Street accomplished a lot, totally reshaping the dialogue surrounding distribution of wealth in the United States, and having made its mark, disintegrating rather than being nudged toward Stross’s beige.

And I think solarpunk has this capacity: being flexible, being genre and aesthetic and politics and movement, refusing to take on any official “definitive” version of the concept – we have our goals in mind, and as a community nothing’s stopping us from melting away from one misguided process and re-congregating around more nuanced, effective ideas.

Now, though, I’m the editor of a publication. We have much more concrete processes that we’re tied to, we have structural commitments. Faith and I have an extreme amount of control over the organization, but we’re navigating the “beige” problem from a whole new angle.

And I feel it, leaning into my decisions. The biggest one I’ve noticed so far: We’re not going to run SPP as a charitable organization, because under US law a 501(c)3 corporation, the status we’d need to have, can’t have political opinions; the alternative is to just be a political campaign, and we’re not that.

Faith and I both have bad nights sometimes when we lose sleep worrying that somebody’s going to point out some critical flaw in solarpunk that’s beyond our ability to accept, address, and continue, improved from the experience. It would mean the morally right thing to do would be to shut down Solarpunk Press, a project to which we’ve devoted time, energy, passion and love.

That hasn’t happened, as far as we’re concerned, and since we both know we have this material bias we’re a bit hyper-self-critical when it comes to the ethics of solarpunk. (I think the biggest problem area right now is the inclusion of people of color, especially Black writers and activists, and finding a comfortable relationship between solarpunk and Afrofuturism.)

We hope that any issues with solarpunk will be on the scale that allow the movement to accept criticism and change in response, and we believe that will continue to be the case. We aren’t ready for the alternative, because there’s really no way to be ready for that. But we’re conscious of it, and we’ll keep doing this only as long as we believe it’s a right thing to do.

We sincerely hope y’all will call us out if we’re screwing up.