The word “solarpunk” refers to a genre of speculative fiction informed by equity, community, optimism, and – frequently – the natural world; think Frank Herbert’s Dune and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Solarpunk Magazine is a bimonthly publication featuring idealistic short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and art. As editors write on the magazine’s website, “the time has never been more urgent for an explosion of utopian stories to light a path forward out of the darkness into which humanity has dug itself.”
This is a magazine about hope, informed by its subtitle: “Demand utopia.” Here, you’ll find stories about blimps powered by chlorophyllectrics (“Tillandsia” by Josie Kallo, Issue #2) and harmonious settlements rich with plant life (“The Last of the Mbahuku Tribe” by Oyedotun Damilola, Issue #1). You’ll also find nonfiction pieces, including “Utopianism: An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson.”
Justine Norton-Kertson is co-editor-in-chief, along with Brianna Castagnozzi. Norton-Kertson enjoys poetry that captures the aesthetic of solarpunk in a lyrical way and explores themes “like radical hope and harmony between technology and nature.” They prefer fiction populated by characters compelling enough to fall in love with. “A solarpunk aesthetic is important too, but that’s the packaging for the juice, which is the characters and thematic threads,” Norton-Kertson explains.
Tone, editorial content
Editors at Solarpunk look for pieces that depict cooperative, sustainable communities and futuristic technologies that work in conjunction with nature. They’re passionate about work that dismantles the cultures of white supremacy and patriarchy and depicts a more balanced sharing of wealth.
The July 2022 issue is a celebration of speculative fiction written and edited by BIPOC creators. The issue includes Jeremy Nelson’s “Sweet Water from Salt,” a story that Castagnozzi says captured readers’ imaginations. “The main character is fleeing corporate seizure and a wicked thunderstorm on his late parents’ boat, all while attempting to preserve its precious cargo: bees and beehives,” she explains. “[The plot] joins heritage, inheritance, rebellion, and entomology in one fantastic survivalist story.”
Norton-Kertson points to Brazilian author Renan Bernardo’s story “Look to the Sky, My Love” (Issue #1) as the type of piece the editors like to publish. In one scene, the protagonist waits in line with another character at a party. Bernardo writes:
While we waited in line, Alana told me how thirty percent of all party-generated energy in Quadrilha da Perpétua came from the feet stomping on the ground, all the frisking and rhythm translated into energy and dignity for all the surrounding communities. And she told me how it could reach seventy percent if the party itself was able to trim its energy expenditure, and how so many possibilities could come from that.
“The story does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of hope and optimism, particularly with its theme of the power of celebration, that are the hallmarks of solarpunk,” Norton-Kertson explains. “As well, it illustrates the futuristic, art nouveau, clean energy aesthetic of the solarpunk genre.”
Past contributors include poets Gabriela Avelino, Vanessa Jae, and Marisca Pichette; fiction authors include Otancia Noel, Sarena Ulibarri, and Endria Isa Richardson.
Elizabeth Sutterlin has published in the magazine – a nonfiction piece titled “Solarpunk and She-Ra: How Netflix’s She-Ra Reboot Invites us to Imagine a High-Tech, Just, and Sustainable Future” (Issue #3). Nina Munteanu’s “Why Eco-Fiction Will Change the World – from CliFi to Solarpunk” appears in Issue #1, as does Lindsay Jane’s “Helping Your Garden Transition with Climate Change.”
Castagnozzi is eager to publish T.R. Siebert’s poem “Choice” in the November 2022 issue, devoted to lunarpunk (think solarpunk but more spiritual and introspective). In it, the poet describes a decision faced by the narrator. “They may join their sisters in a beautifully monstrous transformation and live powerfully in the ocean, or they may continue to live as a human,” Castagnozzi explains. “The imagery of the starlit seas fits well with our visions of lunarpunk, as does the narrator’s sense of agency.”
Norton-Kertson notes that Solarpunk looks forward to publishing the magazine’s first solarpunk story for middle-grade readers, written by J. Dianne Dotson, in 2023. “It’s a really sweet story that leans on into the lunarpunk aesthetic and takes place in a utopian world,” they say.
Advice for potential contributors
Check Solarpunk’s website for upcoming themes; Issue #5 (deadline Sept. 13) focuses on solarpunk labor, while Issue #6 (deadline Nov. 8) focuses on lunarpunk. The magazine hosts a monthly microfiction contest with a monetary prize for the best story of 250 words or fewer, adhering to that month’s theme. (Check the website regularly for an updated list of contest themes.)
Editors would love to see more creative nonfiction submissions related to solarpunk themes and the fight against fossil fuels. They’re not interested in academic pieces full of jargon or political rants. “For fiction and poetry,” Castagnozzi says, “emphasize joyful, hopeful, or otherwise positive endings.”
They’re committed to publishing pieces by marginalized writers; they encourage potential contributors to identify themselves in a cover letter as BIPOC, LGBTQIA, neurodivergent, or disabled, for example. “We love to amplify voices from marginalized communities that are most impacted by climate change and other global problems,” Norton-Kertson writes on the magazine’s website. “In fact, it’s one of the key characteristics of solarpunk.”
Solarpunk Magazine at a glance
“An online publication imagining a better world through optimistic speculative literature.”
Reading periods: See website for reading periods and themes.
Length: Prose up to 7,500 words; poems up to five pages.
Genres: Fiction, nonfiction, poetry.
Submission format: Through Moksha.
Contact: Co-editors Justine Norton-Kertson and Brianna Castagnozzi at [email protected],
Melissa Hart is the author, most recently, of the novel Daisy Woodworm Changes the World. melissahart.com