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Now this book is a bit of a departure. Not only because it's my first 'proper' run-in with Solarpunk - the aesthetics are familiar, but I had not engaged with the mindset, or the fiction before. But also because of fact that, in a collection containing predominantly stories by established, published authors I fail to recognise most names – fascinating, as Spock would have put it!

But it's even more of a departure given the sequence I read this in, coming straight of the dark tail end of Peter Watt's blogging ('Peter Watts is an Angry Sentient Tumour'. Recommended, if pessimistic about the times we live in) and straight into stories which, by definition, are positive in outlook, optimistic to some extent, based in cooperation, and sometimes plucky to the point of reminisce of some of Eric Frank Russell's stories. A disorienting and jarring change, trust me.

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters is the 2nd book in a series by World Weaver Press; the first one is called Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers (also edited by Sarena Ulibarri) – not sure if there are more of these in planning, or which settings or seasons they would cover! But I'm planning to seek out the Summers book now, and might well be interested in more, should my reading time allow...

But back to the Book at hand – it kicks off with an Introduction by the editor, introducing us to the general idea of Solarpunk as well as the criteria for the selection of stories - climate change, unpredictable weather, greenhouses, alternative living arrangements, cooperation et al. But it also talks us through some of the stories, and the mindsets and tropes visible.
This might be about living in areas where humans could not before Global Warming, or about more extreme weather patters. It could be about abolishing Winter entirely, or about going back to the good old days of having 'proper' winters (don't get me started...). Or, in some stand-out cases, about having glasshouses where winter is preserved (now, how's that for a reversal), or about embracing winter on an artificial ice sheet created for a year-end party at the North Pole, some kind of icy Burning Man (great story that, too!).

The approaches of the stories vary greatly, from re-purposing and survival in a post-apocalyptic world all the way to large scale geo-engineering. And whilst the quality is consistently high I found that some concepts and the storytelling weaving around them were, in my opinion, heads and shoulders above some more pedestrian efforts (it's a collection, after all. And your opinions and tasted might well be entirely different to mine!).
Every story has a short biography of the author at the end, giving some more detail and background; I felt that, whilst interesting in themselves as I was not familiar with the authors, that these didn't really add anything to my understanding or enjoyment of the stories themselves.

But enough of this – below are capsule reviews of the individual stories; so if you want to avoid spoilers stop here, and go get the book, it's worth your attention!

Wendy Nikel – Wings of Glass
Cooperation in a post-eco-collapse world. And the first case of 'I want more' with the first story. A splendid start to the book.

Holly Schofield – Halp's Promise
This could nearly be a continuation of the first story in terms of setting and approach, with more of a coming-of-age slant. All good!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan – A Shawl for Janice
Post-eco-breakdown story, around a future bird count, and a transgender girl participating, going to her family's roots and trauma.

Sandra Van Goethem – The Healing
Rather heavy-handed simile of systemic health issues in an ecological city, set in yet another post-eco-breakdown Earth, which is going through a healing period...

Steve Toase – The Fugue of Winter
A story of music and beauty in a world struggling for survival, and the price worth paying for it. And maybe even a story of what makes us human, a civilization. Deeply affecting and suffused, somehow, in sadness, despite the positive spin on events 9and the overall aim of the collection).

Heather Kitzman – The Roots of Everything
A love story set in a post-searise and post-Earthquake Easter Seaboard. Abendones, and re-settled, but really that's just backdrop to the story. Maybe a bit too drawn out for my taste, but impressive and affecting.

Commando Jugendstil and Tales from the EV Studio – Viam Inveniemus aut Faciemus
Fictionalised life, telling how the command pulls together to save a village cut off in deep snow with its heating out of action. Commando Jugendstil (10/10 points for the name!) is a real-life Solarpunk collective, EV Studios “a posse of emigrant Italian writers”, bringing the vision of the Commando to life in writing and comics.

Tessa Fisher – Recovering the Lost Art of Cuddling
Not half as cuddly as the title suggests, with the protagonist nearly getting herself killed in a Blizzard after venturing out to save a neighbour without heating. Good storytelling. Also – author describes herself as 'possibly the world's only openly trans lesbian astrobiologist'. It has a certain ring to it, no?

Jennifer Lee Rossman – Oil and Ivory
Climate Change Weather Extremes vs age-old migration patterns, and indigenous livestyles vs eco-destroying resource extradition – I loved the story, despite some heavy-handed similes and the forced, abrupt ending. A writer to look out for.

Thomas Badlan – Orchidaceae
Trying not only to keep the genetic richness of the world alive from the vault in Svalbard, but also to trying to re-populate it after the end of the global ice age which followed global warming: has humanity really learned anything? Affecting, and very very real question. I would have answered it differently...

Lex T. Lyndsay – The Things that Make It Worth It
Putting personal conflicts behind oneself, and make it snow, for the first time in 100 years, for the centennial of the Green Revolution which blew away the old structure – the things that make it worth it, eh? Neat story.

R. Jean Mathieu – Glâcehouse
A longer story, set in a world with runaway climate change, which preserves native special (and winter, snow, et al) in huge cold houses (see title for clever naming!). And about Gallic snootyness towards a smart-arse, know-it-better student. Very entertaining.

Brian Burt – Snow Globe
A tale of outsiders and derring-do in a setting of sovereign tribal territory around Lake Superior, with floating cities in a loose association of (native) nations.
From an award-winning SF writer – and I'd love to see more stories set in this world!

Jerri Jerreat – Rules for a Civilization
A future school in Toronto, properly messed-up weather, and a teacher trying to deal with a class bully. Maybe a touch inwards-facing and self-indulgent, but great and absorbing storytelling.

Catherine F. King – On the Contrary, Yes
Two stories, intertwined. A space traveller, visiting the Earth the abandoned as doomed in the far past. And a local girl, competing in the local, eco-focused community in the annual ice-carving festival for the first time, taking over a family tradition from her Grandmother.
Interesting, absorbing and affecting, set in a world I'd love to hear more of.

Andrew Dana Hudson – Black Ice City
There's no fixed ice sheet at the North Pole anymore. But human ingenuity fuses one together for the New Year's celebrations – some kind of Burning Man festival set on ice instead of the desert. And interspersed with very realistic political wrangling about how to heal Earth and move onwards.
Grand storytelling and imagination; and I'd love to know what the author is smoking ;-)

Overall, I hear you ask? Great stuff, I guess. Some of it can be repetitive given the restricted topic, and the positivity and cooperativity swings between refreshing and annoying depending a bit on how it is handled, but this comes recommended, both for style and content, but also for being a bit different.


More by Sarena Ulibarri

Title: Solarpunk Winters
Editor: Sarena Ulibarri
Series: Glass and Gardens
Series Number: 2
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Publisher URL: http://www.worldweaverpress.com
Publication Date: 2020
Review Date: 200301
ISBN: 2940156531141
Pages: 265
Format: BN/ePub
Topic: Solarpunk
Topic: Winter

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

 

 

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