There's nothing new about solarpunk. Somebody brings that up on Tumblr at least once a month: optimism has always been a sci fi value, there have been plenty of movements pushing for more of it, eco-spec and postcyberpunk etc etc etc.
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. In this case, it's people who want reassurance that there's a community for fiction that takes complexity seriously, that's paying attention to the crises of the world right now, and that doesn't just hole up and wait for zombies.
And 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.
I've been digging through a pile of old Analog, Aasimov's, and Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines that I've picked up over the years. Most of them are from the 80s. I was thinking about the reprints that places like Clarkesworld and Escape Pod have done, and how cool it felt to hear old SF brought into the present, and I decided I wanted to take a look around. I don't want to just pick something obvious, so I figured I should look in places where there isn't already going to be a digital copy freely available, and who people with an interest in solarpunk won't have already read in large numbers. (So, like, no Kim Stanley Robinson, no Ursula Le Guin.)
Most often, I'd flip to story after story in these yellowed old magazines, read a few paragraphs (sometimes even just the blurb at the top) and think "Nope," but sometimes I found stuff that really fascinated me. Stuff that carried me the whole way through.
One of the things that excites me about solarpunk is the acknowledgment that SF/F has a history of implicit or explicit colonialism, and a desire to fight back against that. This aspect is one that I definitely see in these older fictions: I like a lot of what they're doing, but they're pretty uncritical about expansion and exploration by humans being an awesome idea.
That said, these stories have ideas floating around in them, often not even presented as being a challenge to a status quo, but the status quo of the story in the first place, that feel revolutionary compared to the present day. Sometimes it feels like the past knocking on my brain's door and shouting "Hey, you know you don't have to assume it'll be like that forever, right?"
It's been exciting digging through my old magazines while thinking about solarpunk, and I'm looking forward to doing it a lot more. It may even result in a reprint issue or two at some point.
And if y'all know any cool old stories that you think don't get enough credit for what they've accomplished, let me know. I'd love to dig them up and give them a read.