UTF: The Hopeychattybits –Sarena Ulibarri

Momotempo · Unsee The Future: The Hopeychattybits – meeting Sarina Ulibarri

Timo Peach meets artists, solarpunks and changemakers re-imagining the stories we think we're in.

In the second of this ten-part series, Momo meets the speculative fiction writer and Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press.

A figure at the heart of solarpunk storytelling, she has assembled some of the most iconic anthologies of the genre, she is also story reviewer for Imagine 2200, searching for “climate fiction for future ancestors. When writers from different backgrounds envision the future, the tales they tell expand our ability to imagine a better world.” 


Writer of acclaimed shorts like The Spiral Ranch and many other scifi and fantasy narratives, she says “Solarpunk is a world you might actually want to live in – it’s a hopeful future.” And she exorts her writers to: “Be bold, be brave. Write the future you want to bring into existence.”


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Notes from the show



“The invitation was always to read these stories and then go write your own.”


“Solaprunk is not one thing. Just like climate change is not one thing it means something different in every different place it affects. Climate change  will affect all of us but it will affect us all in different ways so Solarpunk as a visa of a future in which we live with climate change and adapt to it has to come from multiple voices. Every place has a different story and we need those different stories to built a complete picture of this future.”


“It not just the diversity of the writers but the diversity of the editors that’s important.”


“The muse won’t leave me alone. It comes from everywhere. Writing is a compulsion for me.”


“A lot of technology and ideas we use in Solarpunk exist now. Renewable energies and green technologies and social structures that already exist and we just project it in to a future where its more mainstream than it is at the moment, or more accessible than it is right now.”


“It’s not so much: This is a solution, you should build this. It’s more a thought experiment. It’s supposed to be generative, not a pat solution.”


On preachy or expositional world explaining:
“It’s probably the hardest thing to do as a Solarpunk writer, the world building. It’s the most challenging thing about Solarpunk. I see writers struggle with it a lot and the more didactic stories, the more preachy stories don’t make it through. You just have to show the world through the characters, is the key. Exposition is a trap, even if I agree with you.”


“Another key is: Make it look cool.”


On transition as a source of drama.
“I don’t believe in utopia because people live there. And there will always be people with unmet needs. The question is: How are those unmet needs different to those of today? That’s where the drama can lie. There will always be unmet needs, and the transition is full of potential for stories.”


“I’m not going to push an agenda on people. I don’t believe the whole world will go vegan. If there’s a way to raise meat that’s sustainable, then that can be part of the Solarpunk world.”


It’s hard, its been hard over the last few years to write, especially anything set in the near future. Because the future seems more in fix now than ever. But there’s always opportunities to tell stories that aren’;t being told through the mainstream media. There is potential to see the best of humanity as well as the worst.”


On the pressure to write:
“The source of my inspiration? It’s when characters won’t leave me alone.”


“I have a folder of cut scenes from the novel I’m writing that is as long as the novel.”


“Editing is reading and not just accepting but seeing what it could be.”


On spiritually in Solarpunk.
“One of the founding texts of Solarpunk, I think, is The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk, published int he early 90s. It’s one of those that the shelvers of the bookshelves don’t know what section to put it in. ..The premise is there are four sacred things based in the elements – earth, air fire and water – and you have to get in balance with those before you can access the fifth sacred thing, which is spirit. Then you will be able to access magic and speak to your ancestors and that kind of things. I consider this one of the founding Solarpunk texts and I think it’s imbued with spirituality.”

“I think there is a lot fo potential for spirituality in Solarpunk, if you can distinguish it from religion because that’s so divisive, and maybe that’s why so many Solarpunk rwriters shy away from it.”


“When I fist heard the term “Solarpunk” there was this clicking – and I just thought: That’s it! I’d always wondered what the difference was between 21st century writing and 20th century and I think Solarpunk is a big part o that.”


I think the difference is breaking out of some of the colonial mindsets of 20th century writing and including more voices that tell stories form different perspectives and though different structures that’s not just the standard hero’s journey – nothing wrong with it but it’s not the only way to tell a story. I think we’re seeing that. And just in science fiction the preoccupation with 20th century scoff was nuclear warfare, it was a cloud hanging over very thing. In the same way I think climate change hangs over us now.”


On Imagine 2200 writing competition:
“Everyone has good ideas. Even the stories that are not so well written I was so impressed with the ideas that people had and their visions for the future.”


“Solarpunk is a movement of artists, writers and activists who are interested in changing the trajectory of our world for the better. We envision a future of sustainability and community which the problems of our time have largely been solved, meaning both environmental and social justice. It may not be a perfect world but it is moving towards those solutions.”

“There is no king of Solarpunk. Anyone who shares this vision can take part in it. Whether you are just imagining it or taking steps to build it. Hopefully a little of both, because if it stays all in the imagination then we’ve failed.”



Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors.




Edited by Sarena Ulibarri, from Worldweaver Press.


by Starhawk.



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