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.

Editorial: Appropriating Poverty

I recently completed the class phase of “Writing the Other,” a writing workshop about how to write about people different from you (which is most everyone) but specifically people who are from different cultures and ethnicities, sexualities and gender orientations, religions, and abilities, which they shorten to be ROAARS. It was taught by K Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl, and the original book that the class is named after was written by Nisi and Cynthia Ward. 

One of the things we talked about was the appropriations of actions, styles and activities that came from a need to survive.

For example, historically (and in the present), people have been shamed for having to grow their own foods and create their own clothing because they cannot afford to survive in a classic capitalistic model. But an idea like Solarpunk can take activities and make them seem cool because it’s better for the environment and actively spits in the face of capitalism.

And these activities are cool, and more people should do them if they can. However, it’s important to realize the context in which these actions are framed. 

People with privilege (archetypally but not limited to the white middle class) are much more likely to be praised for their small family gardens and homemade clothes than a poor black kid going to a public school whose clothes and food look different than everyone else’s. While one person will get praise for taking the time to grow their own vegetables and create clothes, the other can experience bullying and alienation for doing the same things out of the need to survive. 

As stated above, I’m not saying this means solarpunks who have privilege can’t do these things, but we need to be aware that not everyone can do these things safely in the places they live, and also to not underplay the cultural references implicit in low-cost styles. We need to make these spaces and activities safe for everyone and not just do them ourselves.

It’s also important to not shame people for wanting to aspire to capitalistic modes of consumption in a capitalist society. Using things like washing machines and cars do not necessarily fit the idea of “perfect solarpunk,” but most people want and use these things because it’s harder to not have them when you have to work non-stop for your living, and you don’t have the time to hand wash your clothes or the energy or ability to bike or walk to work (or the proximity, for that matter). And often it’s desirable to retain some of those functions: Overall we may need to come up with less environmentally expensive ways to do laundry, but the answer isn’t “Everyone washes stuff by hand again now.”

[Other editor’s note: The washing machine is an amazing example for this, and Faith isn’t the only one who’s thought of it. Check out this 10-minute talk by economist Hans Rosling, “The Magic Washing Machine,” for an excellent breakdown of one aspect of this point.  -- Watson]

A similar issue is had with the idea that people with low income can afford to be vegan, or that solarpunks have to be vegan. Veganism is not an easy thing to accomplish when you struggle to pay for and find time to feed yourself -- it’s not accessible to everyone. I’m a vegan, and I’m in poverty, and maintaining that diet is one of the higher energy endeavors in my life -- and I live in an extremely vegan-friendly area. Also, not everyone can survive on a vegan diet, depending on their allergies and ability, with the substitutes available to them. Is factory farming evil? Absolutely. Do we need to treat animals better? Of course! But shaming people for things they cannot do is not a good way to make change. Pushing better policies and protections for agribusiness is the way to make change.

The issue of taking on practices deliberately that other people are forced into, that other people may be struggling to escape, is difficult terrain. On one hand, these practices can be meaningful symbolic gestures, part of the cultural steps towards sustainability, liberation, and empowerment. On the other hand, thoughtless efforts to use the markers of an oppressive system to unmake themselves often mostly just harm the people who are scraping by on extremely fragile edges of the status quo. (The example of the changing market price of Quinoa comes to mind.)

My point is not “It’s wrong for solarpunks to reject brand name fashion” or “home gardens are a bad idea.” My point is that it would be wrong for solarpunk to aim down, criticizing the life choices of the 99 percent, when that energy and passion can be spent infinitely more usefully targeting the institutions that sustain toxic practices and fight against systemic reform. (Reform and/or revolution to be discussed in a future editorial.)

Solarpunk Press print edition available for preorder!

The issues available are:

  • Riley Marigold and the Winged Lizards of Tel Aviv by Kayla Bashe
  • The Daisy Haunt by Claudie Arseneault
  • Out of the Storm by Ian O'Reilly

They'll be available until December 7, when we'll be closing the preorder, printing them up and sending them out. (We're trying to make sure we get it done in time for folks who want to order it for a Christmas present.) (Also, if this goes well,* in the future we'll be making sure to have it available often enough to make the deadline for other gift-giving holidays.) 

We're going to sell up to 50 to manage the amount of envelope assembly we'll have to do if this blows up, but if this does go that well, it pretty close to definitely won't be the last time we put these up.

*Don't worry: By "if it goes well," we mean "If it turns out to be something we can manage from an administrative level with the staff and time we have," not "If nobody buys these we'll never do it again."

Leigh Alexander on the "Intimacy Economy" -- signal boost

Leigh Alexander's recent article, Good Morning, User! Welcome to the New Intimacy Economy (originally posted on Medium but linked here from New York magazine's website) struck me as important both to the position of solarpunk in the world as it exists, and to the way we run Solarpunk Press and what we're trying to do. (That is: trying to be accessible, but trying not to act like a fake-friend-company.)

Pretending at closeness is really the only way forward for anyone who wants to make money on the internet. As such, watch as organizations pretend, with increasing intensity, that they are individuals. Start counting how many times platforms, services, and websites entreat you in human voices, with awkward humor, for money. Watch as the things we expect to be invisible, utilitarian, start oozing emojis and winky-smileys. Even Silicon Valley, global epicenter of whitewashed empathy voids and one percenter sci-fi wank fantasies, is going to pretend it cares about you. Especially Silicon Valley. Ugh.

Changes to the Patreon

It is 11 p.m. and I should be asleep and not writing this post, but I was too excited to not tell y'all about a change we just made to the Patreon!

Our $5 rewards (A/V Club, Grammar Vigilante and Visions of the Future) were a little difficult to manage, so we've rolled all three into one reward called "Digital Bonus Party." Basically, you get all of the early release content for $10 an issue, plus the "Lobbyist" perk. 

You can check us out here!

001: Riley Marigold and the Winged Lizards of Tel Aviv, by Kayla Bashe

Our first release date is here! Woo! *Celebratory party popper*

... Ahem. 

Episode 1 of Solarpunk Press, "Riley Marigold and the Winged Lizards of Tel Aviv," is available for free, 

in text right here,

and in audio right here.

Trigger warnings are available for those who need them on both of those pages. We hope to soon have iTunes and ebook availability.

The zines have shipped!

The zines have shipped! End post. Just kidding. 

I just mailed our print edition zines to our Everything Bagel Patreon supporters, and I'm super excited to find out what they think! 

They're pretty cool, they've got the cover art by Vondell on them (which you're gonna see on the ebook and web edition as well.)  Coming up with the exclusive content was pretty fun, I'll probably talk about it more once it's out so that I don't spoil anything. 

We're also going to be doing a tumblr give away with some of the zines, tbd soon how many and when.

So yeah, just wanted to update y'all with what was going on. Check us out at solarpunkpress.com/patreon if you want. Otherwise stay tuned for the free version to come out, as well as our podcast.

Stay punk

How to do a short fiction podcast for the first time

Step one: Turn on the recorder

Step two: Look at the page

Step three: Scream internally

(Our narrator for the first podcast, Nicole, would like to add that as an alternative to step three you could say half of the first line, incorrectly, and then swear.)

Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad. Recording a short fiction podcast, and reading the first story, was a very cool experience. It was nerve wracking because I felt responsible for the proper portrayal of these characters -- I wanted them to be perfectly real and whole and I never wanted my voice to crack while they were saying a line.

But I realized that, like with a lot of art, you really just have to let go as much as you can and see where your intuition takes you. At times I needed to be coached by Nicole to formulate characters (one of the character's voices was based off of Marcie from Daredevil), but we got through it, giggling and swearing, and created something to be proud of.

I'm really excited for everyone to read this story, or to listen to it, if you so choose, because it's a really wonderful piece, and it was a pleasure to record the audio version and learn more about the characters by doing so. 

 (Note from Watson: They did an amazing job on the podcast, and I edited out all the swears.)

Coming soon (and already here) -- support options!

Our Patreon page is going to be launching very soon, we're nearly finished getting all the details together. 

In the meantime, we finished setting up our donate feature through Squarespace! If you wanted to lend us some support, but aren't interested in any of the backer perks in our Patreon and don't want to make it a recurring thing, this is the perfect option for you.

Click here, or on the button in the sidebar:

Donate

New "About Solarpunk" page

The idea of Solarpunk has been briefly covered on the About page of our website, but Watson and I want to provide a resource page for people who may not know as much about the origin or developing ideology behind Solarpunk.

Both of us had been writing about Solarpunk for months before we'd even thought of starting a magazine. We wrote through our tumblr, watsons-solarpunk (well, it's Watson's -- I contribute), so we're pulling and compiling posts from our blog that we find to be informative.

We'll be adding to the About Solarpunk page as we continue to pull together our past resources, as well as other sources that contain valuable information about Solarpunk.

In the meantime, we've launched the page here.

Animation test: The Little Cloud Room

We’re thinking about doing some animation in our Patreon video, which is currently in the works. I decided to make something quick to figure out whether I can actually do animating, and how much work it would be. This took about an hour, and is five seconds long. So that’s not great. On the other hand, I was also learning the process during that time, so it might go better with the actual video.

watch The Little Cloud Room on YouTube

Coming soon: Solarpunk Press on Patreon!

We're getting ready to launch our Patreon campaign for this project. We're really close. We think we've settled on the final prices for the various donor levels (after several weeks of "No, we can probably make that cheaper") and we've confirmed the apparent feasibility of the stuff we want to do.

The first thing you can buy on our Patreon page is influence! Backers are going to have access to polls, which we'll use to guide the direction of the future of the site. 

We'll definitely be open to, and be listening for, feedback from everyone who's following Solarpunk Press, however you're doing it, whether or not you can afford to pay, and obvious public opinion trends will be taken seriously. But we're planning on collecting hard(ish) data on what our backers want, because (a.) we want this project to be at least somewhat democratic, without exposing ourselves to vote brigading or other mass trolling, and (b.) the opinions of those of you who are willing and able to give us money are the opinions that determine the financial sustainability of this project, and we want to make sure our backers know that your voice is being heard.

Ray of Sunshine backers will get one vote, and Lobbyist backers will get two. Backers at $1 and up also get each issue's e-book edition for free.

The next level up is various kinds of early access. We got this idea from CGP Grey's Patreon (warning: the reward's title is a casual Nazi reference) -- he releases his videos to some of his backers some time before their official release, in a mutually beneficial relationship: backers get to see the videos before everyone else, and they can warn Grey if they find fixable errors in the video, before he uploads the version he can't back down from.

We're planning on trying this out with a few days' advance release. Of course, this will only work if people don't leak the content, but we have confidence in the moral integrity of the Solarpunk community not to prematurely leak stories that will shortly be available for free for everyone.

Grammar Vigilante backers will get the text edition early, while The A/V Club backers will get the audio early. Both are invited to let us know about errors. (Even if it's stuff we can't fix -- we can always at least learn from our mistakes.)

The last kind of early access is Visions of the Future. These backers get drafts of each issue's illustrations, as they become available to us, and get to see the final art early. If and when we're working on design or merchandise changes, they'll get preview art of that, too. 

Early content backers also get two votes, and all backers will get access to forums for polls as well as the content of their reward package.

Finally, the biggest reward package we offer is the Everything Bagel. This one comes with all three early access rewards, plus 3x voting power.

And, it's the only reliable way to get the Solarpunk Press print 'zine.

These will be 90s style paper magazines, stapled together and filled with completely exclusive editorial content, doodles, and notes. 

Now, don't get us wrong: we want these zines to spread around. You can collect them, but you can also share them with your friends,  leave them on trains, photocopy them and hand them out, etc. They'll be released under a CC-BY-NC-ND license, so as long as you aren't changing or profiting off them, it's fair game.

And there will be other ways to get it. If you're an author, we're going to give you some of yours. We'll probably do a giveaway with a few every issue on Tumblr. Chances are we'll be carrying some around after printing, so if you get lucky and know us in person, you might just be able to ask for one. But the only way you can be sure is by getting an Everything Bagel subscription.

Also, this reward tier is limited to 100 backers. So, there's that, too.

If and when we get around to merchandise, Everything Bagel backers are also going to be eligible for giveaways to receive demo products and stuff.

Each issue will have a max of two print runs: If you sign up by two weeks before the release (so, for issue 1, that's September 21) you'll be in the first print run and should get your 'zine by the time the story releases. Anyone who signs up after that, and gets billed for the magazine but didn't make the shipping deadline, will get magazines printed and sent out after billing, so they should arrive around mid-month.

We're still pulling the materials together, but we wanted to get this update out as soon as we're sure we can do everything in it.

Ambitions

There are lots of things we want to do on here. It has been a continuous effort in the preparation stages of this project to restrain our imaginations and focus primarily on things we can hope to accomplish. 

It's possible we'll only ever get to do what we've set out to do so far: 12 episodes across 1 year. But in the event that we get to keep going -- in the event that we get to expand -- we have a lot of thoughts on what we could do next. Our Patreon supporters will have access to polls that we'll use to guide the direction of the podcast* -- we won't ignore suggestions posted elsewhere, of course.

Increase frequency of episodes

The earliest we'd likely be able to start this is in June, in the month of episode 9, because college. More likely we'd be getting ready to do it starting year 2 -- although if it turns out this whole running a magazine thing turns out to be a lot easier than we expected (or y'all donate a TON of money and we can quit our day jobs) we might get started on that sooner.

Raise author pay

One of our big ambitions if this project works out is to raise our rates to be a SFWA qualifying market. For one thing, writers work hard to create this work and we believe that they deserve to be paid well for it. For another, paying more money and being a SFWA qualifying market will attract more submissions, and submissions from more established authors. This serves the dual purposes of this magazine: our straightforward goal, to bring you the best fiction possible; and our Machiavellian scheme, to steer the direction of science fiction, and thereby the world, towards narratives of sustainability, collective action, and the dismantling of oligarchical power structures. *evil laugh*

Produce parallel news & editorial posts and podcast

Between the two editors, we have way more experience working with news media than fiction. (Total between us as of writing: 2 associate degrees in journalism, 2 years professional journalism experience, ~5 years student journalism & editorial experience, 1 year paid web editor experience.) And since the main interest areas of solarpunk are areas that could use a significant improvement in reporting -- science, environment, and counterculture politics -- we think we could do some really good work here.

That said, if we took this on, producing as much news per month as we do fiction content would be a lot more work, and probably a lot more expensive, and we don't know for sure that anybody's very interested in that. This is one of the kinds of projects we'll only pursue if we meet or exceed our funding goals, and get a lot of support for it in the supporter polls.

Of course, like all of these goals, it's not a "Start this year or never" kind of thing. Maybe it'll get easier with the advent of new technology or organizational structures in the next few years, and we'll be able to take it on with less effort. Maybe it'll get support from the community only after we've met other priorities, like getting more stories out and paying our authors pro rates. 

Assemble a year 1 print edition

We'd really like to be able to do this one. Even if we end up not having a second year, it'd be cool to be able to wrap up the year with a physical volume of the complete publications of Solarpunk Press.

My back-of-envelope calculations have led me to believe that I have no idea how to estimate how much it costs to print an anthology, so whether that's on the table will be determined as we do more research. 

Whatever else y'all think is cool

You want comics? Merchandise? 45 minute live discussions on abjection as a framing device for the alienation between the people and the state? You got it! 

By which we mean you can tell us. In the polls and forums. If you're a supporter. And we'll try our best to do what we can towards those goals.

Polls for Patreon supporters will run at least monthly, and we intend to add popular write-ins and discussion topics frequently, so we hope going forward into year 1 (and hopefully beyond) we'll get a nuanced idea of what y'all want from us and how we can provide it.


* To be really, really clear: we are not making our final decisions based exclusively on these polls; some things may turn out to be harder than we expected when start planning, some combinations of things may be impossible -- we don't want to disappoint anyone by having them discover after giving us money that their vote wasn't binding.