Green Dreams

Solarpunk, anyone?

Visions of Futures-Past

One of the things I love most about being a fiction writer is that I get to explore other worlds; the depths are limited only by my imagination. Of course, my imagination is driven largely by my real life interests, and these shift and change over the years as I grow older and <ahem> wiser.

My first novel, The Timekeepers’ War (Bedlam Press, 2014) is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland known only as The City. When I first started writing this book–in a Starbucks coffee shop outside the Staples store I worked as a cashier–in 2003, the world was loving the sexy hi-tech futures of movies like The Matrix and Minority Report. I was fascinated by a darker vision, though. What if we’re hovering on the brink of the end of the world?

Post-Apocalyptic Nightmares

These questions gave rise to The City, the vast and sprawling skeleton of a once-great metropolis much like those futuristic worlds that pop culture was swimming with at the time. Centuries of brutal civil wars and an unforgiving climate have made life on the surface of The City next to impossible. The elite classes long migrated to the Ursaarian Empire–a safe-haven of towers and bridges strung up far above the ground level. My main characters–Ghost and Lynch–struggle to navigate the anarchic “rules” of life on the surface while trying to bring down the oppressive regime that keeps them there. With the help of The Timekeepers–an enigmatic group of scholars who seem to know more about The City and its past than it should be possible to know–they plot another war.

At the time that I started writing The Timekeepers’ War I was a broke student, mulling over ideas about class systems, extreme poverty, life on the fringes, and of course, the looming threat of global warming. This is the primordial ooze that birthed The City, and they are still questions that linger in my mind.

It’s no coincidence, I think, that around this same time post-apocalyptic fiction had a kind of Renaissance. Zombie movies burst onto the scene, obliterating sparkly vampires in their flesh-eating wake, with 28 Days Later (2002), Resident Evil (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004), and its comedy counter-part Shaun of the Dead (2004) gave rise–pardon the pun–to the insanely popular Walking Dead series (2010-…). Even without zombies, futurescapes took a turn for the bleak with Children of Men (2006), I am Legend (2007), and The Road (2009).

I’d love to claim I was ahead of the curve, with my finger on the pulse of the world zeitgeist, when I started writing The Timekeepers’ War. Really, it just goes to show you how everyone was starting to get a bit nervous about the way the world was going in the early 2000s. Now that I’m writing Book Two in The Timekeepers Trilogy, I’m noticing another shift in pop-culture narratives. I noticed it in my own writing first.

SolarPunk Dreams

I wrote about the rise of the SF sub-genre, solarpunk, here. At first I was thinking about the importance of positivity in fictional futures when the reality of our impact on the environment is looming large on our consciences. Science Fiction has the power to make people see possibilities–dark or hopeful–and envision the world as it could be. When we think about all of the various ways we consume fictional media–in books and movies, digital photography, fantasy art, even music like Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid concept album–it becomes undeniable that the future is a part of how we experience NOW.

Predictive Pasts

We are influenced by our own visions of the future. Throughout human history, people have been turning fictional dreams into reality. In 1865, for example, Jules Verne wrote From Earth to the Moon which, in retrospect, is eerily similar to the real moon landing in 1969. The food replicators envisioned for the “Star Trek” series’ has become a reality with the advent of 3D printing technology, which can replicate using anything from plastic, metal, and glass, to the bio-printing of skin tissues for medical purposes.

Check out Science Alert‘s “15 Wild SF Predictions About Future Technology That Actually Came True” for more examples. Or do a quick google search for other historical predictions that weren’t quite as crazy as people once thought they were. The barrier between reality and make-believe is tenuous indeed. How much of modern technology was inspired by the over-active imaginations of our favourite SF thinkers over the years?

Green Dreams

In Book Two of The Timekeepers Trilogy, I am exploring some exiting new developments in The City. Now that the oppressive Ursaarian Empire has fallen, the Timekeepers are on a mission to rebuild. It’s a whole new world to Ghost, who has known nothing but underground tunnels and surface-side ruins for her whole life. With the Timekeepers in charge, she explores huge glass-domed neighbourhoods and towering greenhouses alongside solar-powered manufacturing sectors. It seems like a perfect world. But how much freedom is she willing to give up for the safety of a future with the Timekeepers? The shifting political landscape reveals that there is always a price to pay for security.

The Fictional Gardener

In the past few years, since moving to a property with a large vegetable plot, I have become very interested in different methods of gardening. Learning how to work with the environment in order to develop fertile earth without chemical intervention is a fascinating process. A large-scale shift away from traditional farming practices has changed our local agricultural landscape, and there are some amazing experiments going on in permaculture techniques.

I’m dipping my toes into the future of agriculture in this novel, but it’s really whet my appetite for further exploration of the SolarPunk genre. I don’t do hard SF, so don’t expect any detailed schematics on how any of my fictional greenhouses work. But I can’t wait to share with you some of the visions for the future I have, and to shine a little light into the darkness of The City.

Don’t worry, I’m not going fluffy on you. There is plenty not-right about this optimistic new regime. And as Ghost knows, there is always something lurking beneath the surface…

Share Your Dreams and Nightmares

What have some of your favourite depictions of fictional futures been? Give me the dark, the light, and the terrifying! Have you read any SolarPunk? Who are you favourite architects and concept artists dealing with the futuristic green spaces and agriculture? I’d love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “Green Dreams

  1. Cool post. I’m about to release a cyberpunk tale of my own. Science fiction is great for projecting current issues into the future. I tried to have some good things mixed in with the bad stuff, while still producing a good product.

    1. Awesome! I was just catching up with your blog this morning. I can’t wait to read your cyberpunk story! I have a habit of dwelling on the bad, at least in my older stuff, but I’m having fun experimenting with a bit of optimism this time around!

      1. I think it makes my SF work more realistic. We want to point out the bad things in our world, but need some hope that a few answers will come along in the next 100 years.

  2. I recently introduced my son to Ray Bradbury- Fahrenheit 451 specifically. I had forgotten about the seashells that everyone had in thier ears- basically earbuds. It was first published in 1953. Seeing the future he predicted, with people so immersed in mind numbing programs- the walls became TVs, the programs interacted with the viewer. And no one noticed that a war had even started. It’s not just a future without books that is scary- a future with a populace with numbed brains- but it’s no longer the future. And that is really frightening.

    1. I need to re-read that one! I remember 1984 having a few uncanny predictions, too. Like television.

      Once upon a time religion was called “opium for the masses,” which was replaced by television, and now the internet. We seem to be slowly divorcing ourselves from reality. It’s no wonder we miss so much. The dystopian “future” is already happening!

  3. Hi ya, there was a greenhouse type film called silent running back in the 70’s it’s really different and has it’s dark side too. But I am Legend took the dystopian to place few have been as well. I’m not really sure where my worlds lie.

    1. I am Legend is a fantastic novella if you haven’t read it! The movie was pretty good, too.

  4. I offer Brave New World, 1984, and Animal Farm in my English course. They all have in common dystopian elements and the theme of trying to create utopia that never quite goes according to plan. They are all good examples of social criticism.
    In addition, I’ve read The City of Saints and Madmen, The Marrow Thieves, Dry (By Barbara Saspergia, a Saskatchewan writer), Anathema, and Ridley Walker. Then there is the Atwood trilogy starting with Orax and Craik. I would highly recommend any if these.

    1. I have read all of the above except for The Marrow Thieves, Dry, and Anathema, but I think I have them sitting in my TBR pile!

  5. A little late to the party but I really enjoyed reading this! It seems we have a lot of similar interests. I’ve actually just finished my MSc in Geographic Information and Climate Change and have been interested in growing food and permaculture for years. It all definitely works its way into my fiction, although I tend to write fantasy rather than sc-fi. I find that fantasy works best when it affords a way of looking at our own world through a different lens.

    1. I agree! I found my interest in climate studies really piqued once we bought our own property and have been trying to get a handle on homesteading. It’s definitely shifting the narrative in my writing away from the doom and gloom and into the realm of fantastic possibilities! I think the world is right to be alarmed at the state of things, but there is a lot going on that gives me hope, too. I look forward to exploring some of the less dreary potentials, especially now that I have kids and can see how bright and motivated these younger generations are.

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