Solarpunks interviewed: Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro
Many thanks to the generosity of Abraham Martinez, editor of the digital weekly sci fi, horror and fantasy magazine “El Ojo de Uk”, for supplying this 2016 interview!
It seems a great time to publish it again as the Brazilian anthology “Solarpunk – Histórias Ecológicas e Fantásticas em um Mundo Sustentável“, which played a massive role in getting the Solarpunk movement off the ground in 2012, is about to be translated from Portuguese and published in English by World Weaver Press. I for one can’t wait to get into it!
Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro is a Brazilian sci fi writer, editor and the anthologist that curated that precious first Solarpunk anthology, which also includes one of his works. He has published several novels and novelettes and won a few prizes for his work.
Abraham Martinez – Where does the idea of “solarpunk” came from?
Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro – Well, after the success of our steampunk short fiction anthology, Vaporpunk (2010), Draco’s publisher Erick Santos Cardoso invited me to organize a second anthology, also retrofuturistic in tone, but a bit more advanced in time, for its stories should take place in the beginning of the internal combustion engine age. He said that, if that second anthology also succeeds, there will be a third, not so much retrofuturistic as the previous ones, but one whose stories speak of self-sustaining (green) energy sources. So, our concept of a punk trianthology – that is, a trilogy of anthologies – was born. In fact, published in 2001, Dieselpunk was the first anthology on that new subgenre of retrofuturism in the whole world. And, one and a half year later, we launched Solarpunk (2012: digital; 2013: press), an anthology where we employed that “solarpunk” concept in a broad sense, for the short fiction narratives we chose to include spoke of several kinds of sustainable energy and not only the solar one.
AM – Why is it important to talk about “a brighter future”?
GL-R – Because many readers seem to be tired of those old dystopian plots. Perhaps, it is right time to write about greener and more inspiring futures, timelines not troubled by so much pollution, overpopulation, famine, mass extinctions and global warming. Stories and novels about fairly wise characters living in a rather mature civilization. Please, notice that I am not stating that shall not exist conflicts, dilemmas and human drama in those fictional solarpunk civilizations, because, in literary terms, aseptic utopias use to be rather dull. Thus, the authors’ challenge in the solarpunk subgenre is to build an interesting & loving piece of original fiction inside a greener future history.
AM – In space opera and cyberpunk there is always a “messiah” or “chosen one” as main character in the stories. Is solarpunk different? Why?
GL-R – While we do not have enough solarpunk fiction yet to plot an against-Messiah trend of sorts, I am prone to agree with you about the absence of Messianic characters in solarpunk narratives. Why is it so? In my opinion, that absence occurs because, in solarpunk fiction, characters don’t need to fight in and against their dystopic worlds. Or, maybe, because solarpunk authors usually enjoy building her/his fictional world from a more optimistic standpoint.
AM – The idea of a sustainable, equitable and fair future sounds like utopia. What does the solarpunk genre needs to root in the collective imagination?
GL-R – Ecological and fantastic narratives in a self-sustaining world (notice that it is the very translation of Solarpunk’s subtitle) are not necessarily dull like the standard utopia. Of course it’s easier for an author to build her/his plot on a cliché dystopic background. This is so easy that a great deal of the fantastic readerdom is sick of that kind of narrative. So, I think that the relevance of solarpunk narratives resides perhaps in their ability to present conflict and drama in an intelligent and fascinating manner within a self-sustaining future world.
AM – When will we have Solarpunk: Histórias ecológicas e fantásticas em um mundo sustentável translated to Spanish?
GL-R – A very good question, indeed. Unfortunately, I am not able to give a definitive answer, because, while both Draco publishing house and I, as anthologist, would love to see Solarpunk published in other languages, we know that is not easy to convince, say, a Spanish or a Hispanic American publisher to bet her/his money on this solar-powered underdog. However, the more we talk/write about this anthology, the more the people know about it and, in so doing, we increase its meager chances, right?
***The image used is the cover of the 2012 Solarpunk – Histórias Ecológicas e Fantásticas em um Mundo Sustentável anthology***