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.

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: 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.)

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!

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.

Solarpunk Press submissions are open!

It's Monday, July 27, and the button on our Submit page works now. We have no idea if anybody's waiting on the page to drop off stories that we'll be able to start reading right away, or if it'll be a little while before we start seeing submissions, but we're excited to get started!

We're looking for optimistic near-future science fiction -- you can learn more about what we plan to publish, or submit a story, on our submission page here.

Notes on the creation of the banner and logo

I'm pretty proud of the banner and logo I've got at the top of the page right now. They might be a little busy, and we might replace them with something put together by a more experienced graphic designer in the future (even if that's just me, later, when I have more experience). But for a launch, I'm really happy with this.

I didn't document the whole process, but I do have a few separate phases I can show off.

This is the first completed design. It's what I planned on putting at the top of the page, before I discovered that Squarespace doesn't provide an option for removing the text in the banner. 

The font is OpenDyslexic, which I picked because I think the combination between accessibility and more organic-looking shapes in fonts designed for dyslexia makes for a very solarpunk combination. (That's actually one of the first few things I wrote about solarpunk, back in September, before I even had a separate solarpunk Tumblr.)

The stained glass look is because one of the first big aesthetic memes of the solarpunk community was stained glass windows made of transparent solar cells. The yellow bits in the middle are chopped up chunks of a photo of a stained glass window by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and the wood is a strip of a public domain photo of some untreated wood, adjusted in brightness and contrast till it looked stained and sliced up into four strips.

The other stained glass I made myself, in separate Photoshop files: render clouds, then liquify and squiggle, then messed with a bunch of  levels until I felt good about how it looked. With the green, I also adjusted the brightness and contrast a few times between cutting it up so there'd be more variety among adjacent chunks of glass.

I wanted to make the text a more consistent color, that really stood out, and I also couldn't figure out how to make it transparent but keep the stroke. So I made it light-ish blue -- the exact color I used for the blue accents in the web design here -- and added the water pattern overlay at like 30 percent opacity. (I could definitely open the file to give this info with more detail, but, y'know, that's like five clicks.)

Once I figured out that I wasn't going to be able to use it with the separate text like that, I went in to try and make it work as a background. I started getting ready to begin the laborious process of figuring out how the heck I was going to get the outlines off the text, when I remembered that the "fill" slider in blending options exists. So, I dropped that down to zero, and I had my letter frames. (I left the water pattern on to add a bit of consistency to the texture of the letters.)

After that, I got to cleaning up the insides of the letters. This took a very long time, because pretty much every single piece of yellow or green glass poked into one of the letter's shapes. I hadn't bothered to trim the pieces under the letters, because they were covered up. And since every piece of glass was a separate layer -- and since it's only occurring to me right now as I write this that I could have saved this as a new file, merged them all, and done it in one go -- getting that trimming done was a lot of work.

The color in the background of the letters just comes from two more copies of the very-back layer, which also provides the glass pattern for the blue and the yellow-rim. I trimmed them so they fit their correct sections, then adjusted the hue/saturation using colorize until they pretty much matched the glass they were connected to.  (I do realize the irony of using a font designed for extra-readability then trying as hard as I can to make it invisible against its background.)

With all that completed, the image still conflicted too heavily with the text overlaid on the website. So I changed all the black lines to 42 percent gray (because that's what color overlay happened to already be set to, for some reason) and added a glow effect I learned on Tumblr to soften and blur the image a little bit. And (as of writing) that's the one at the top of the page now!

To make other one at the top of the page, and also on our social media accounts, I went back to the first one. It was just a matter of resizing and changing the text, pulling one of the pieces of wood way over, cropping it to a 1x1 square, then doing again what I did with the glass the first time.

Intro to Solarpunk Publishing

Welcome to the homepage Solarpunk Press, the first (we think) solarpunk web magazine. (Or welcome to a link to it, if you're seeing this on Tumblr.)

We're not putting out any actual episodes until October 5, which is a while off. (78 days!) During that time we'll be accepting submissions (starting next Monday) practicing recording and editing audio for podcasts, setting up our Patreon, and just generally getting ready to launch.

We'll be keeping the site updated in that time with what we're doing and how it's going, including samples of audio practice using public domain fiction.

We're interested in feedback, and we're really excited to get going!

Best wishes,

T.X. Watson and Faith Roses Gregory