Solarpunk Magazine, ed. Justine Norton-Kertson & Brianna Castagnozzi. Issue #7 (Jan/Feb 2023). Online at solarpunkmagazine.com or $6.00.
Reviewed by Storm Blakley
Solarpunk Magazine describes itself as a “bimonthly online publication of radically hopeful and optimistic science fiction and fantasy.” In this issue, I found a recurring theme of family, solidarity, and what we owe one another through tales of helping and supporting one another, across a great variety of worlds and times.
The opening story is “Bushbaby” by Han Whiteoak. It paints a picture of a near future, when technology is failing and nature is assertively reclaiming the world. Babies born after “the growth”, as it’s called, are strange, different, as if they’re more suited to this new world than the old. Our protagonist is a new parent, struggling with not only the fears and perceived inconveniences of this new world where apple trees spring up in the roadway overnight, but also all the fears and concerns of being a new parent, let alone one in this most unprecedented of times. I thoroughly enjoyed the accurate depiction of how annoyed city folk would view this upending of the status quo, and how they’d be suspicious at first.
J. Dianne Dotson’s “Midnight Serenade” spins a tale of a night-based society, on a planet where the sun is too hot to bear. This story follows a teenage girl, distressed at the thought of her family’s imminent move to a frontier town, far from the city. It’s not the move itself that bothers her, but the knowledge that she’ll miss out on something she’s been looking forward to for many years. Her struggle, and her parents’ reactions to it as best they could, made me smile. Seeing parents taking their children’s struggles seriously, treating them with compassion and understanding, was wonderful.
“Our Cousins’ Keepers” by Marshall J. Moore shows us a new world, and the refugees from Earth building their first settlement on this watery planet. Alongside the humans are dolphins, who have been brought along as equals on this journey. This story focuses on not just our future, but our past; how to avoid the mistakes we’ve made, and how we’re responsible to help keep each other on the right track. I often ask myself this same question, what we owe each other, and this story did it quite well; in the end, we are all in this together, and as such, we’re all responsible for one another, as well.
The first poem of this issue is Angel Leal’s “Machines Under Maintenance.” This lovely poem of trust and love made me smile. We’ve all felt broken and rusted, and needed a loved one to help get us back on our feet again. Of course we then, when they begin to crumble, are more than happy to return that favour. This really resonated with me, and I feel that it’s very topical for the state of the world today.
Last, we have “Notes from the far” by Yuliia Vereta. This poem follows the perspective of an aging robot, searching for a place to power down. I really liked this piece, the reflection on aging and kindness to strangers, on trying to do good for as many as possible with the last little time we have at the end of our lives. The optimism even in the face of imminent shutdown really appealed to me, and the last line in particular left an impression.
This issue of Solarpunk Magazine keeps its promise; radical optimism and hopefulness, which was nice to see, in this current era of media, saturated with grimdark themes and stories. I recommend this issue, as each story and poem made me smile, and I look forward to reading more from this publication in the future.