Today’s post is a guest post by Claudie Arsenault, editor of the upcoming anthology Wings Of Renewal. It’s a collection of solarpunk dragon stories — and hey, any interesting spin on dragons has my full attention! But what was the inspiration to combine eco-positive science fiction and dragons? Take it away, Claudie!
The Inspiration Behind Wings of Renewal
Ever seen an image so stunning you just had to write something about it? Read about a new technology that sent your mind spinning with possibilities? I think most writers have felt the thrill of sudden inspiration at one point or another, the solid desire to produce fiction, right there and then, based on something heard or seen.
Solarpunk does this to me all the time. Might be why I love it so much! There’s something about the Art Nouveau aesthetics, the incredible sustainable techs, and the marvelous gardens attached to it I just can’t get enough of.
So today I wanted to present three of the inspirations that went into Wings of Renewal, a solarpunk dragon anthology I curated with my friend and co-editor, Brenda J. Pierson.
- The Great Green Wall
Let’s start with a cool, currently-occurring African initiative, shall we? The Great Green Wall is a project to plant a long and wide line of trees all along the Sahara’s southern edge. Its goal is to prevent further desertification, and to help communities in the area. The initiative goes well beyond planting trees and includes programs on ecosystem management and the protection of local heritage. As a whole, it seeks to mitigate climate change and improve food security for the local communities. The picture is of China’s very similar initiative, called the Great Green Wall of China.
And I mean, when you look at it, the Great Green Wall is huge undertaking by eleven African countries (Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Chad), aiming to create a more sustainable and stable world for the communities involved. You hardly get more solarpunk than that! It’s no surprise, then, that defending the Wall against a terrible forest fire is at the center of Fighting Fire with Fire.
- Darkling Beetles and water condensation
Did you know some beetles can condense dew onto their body and get their daily hydration from it? That’s how the darkling beetles manage to live in the desert! Now give this to a creative writer, and suddenly it’s not a tiny beetle with this ability, but a huge dragon! How much water could one create? Seven? A dozen? Enough for sparkling oasis with a thriving ecosystem? Why yes! That’s the setting in Lost and Found.
Solarpunk isn’t all about adding greenery to the desert. A lot of it revolves around making cities sustainable and accessible living places. 3D printing is a huge part of ‘accessible’ as it allows prosthetics to be created at low costs and high speed. And nothing says these can’t be beautiful and badass! So as a personal fan of everything 3D-printing can bring to a solarpunk universe, I was thrilled when the protagonist from Summer Project not only had prosthetics, but worked in a shop building some.
If you haven’t heard of E-Nable, watch this video! It explains how the organization uses volunteers with 3D printers all over the world to bring cheap (as in, low-cost) prosthetics to people who couldn’t afford it otherwise.
- Dragonsight, by Donato Giancola
The last is not so much solarpunk inspiration as a painting at the center of Wanderer’s Dream, one of the last short stories featured in Wings of Renewal. But it’s a perfect example of what I mentioned at the beginning: sometime an image has a story, or a setting is too charming to refuse. And that’s what happened with Dragonsight and Maura Lydon.
So those are some of the inspirations that went into Wings of Renewal, but there are way too many for me to fit all today! I mean, what about vertical gardens? Beekeeping? Tree-shaped solar panels? Everything else I’m forgetting? Between, stunning aesthetics, world-changing goals, and sweeping technologies, solarpunk has all the inspiration you need.
In the land of Aligare, aemet folk have strict rules about cutting trees — trees being the plants closest to goddess Verdana. But other types of plants are fine to cut branches off of, as long as the cutting is done respectfully and for a good reason. There are aemet artisans who use their plantcasting to coax shrubs into specific shapes. Why carve wood — and end up with waste pieces — when you can cooperate with the plant and get the exact shape you need?
When aemets need to comb their hair (which is thicker and waxier-textured than a mammal’s hair would be), they often use combs made from branches. Bramble vines and rose branches can be used as is, but their thorns make more effective brush bristles when they’re cultivated all on one side of the branch.
The craftsperson encourages the plant into shape, often making the end of that branch into a decorative flourish. Then the branch is cut off (with apologies and thanks given to the plant, and plantcasting used to heal the wound). The thorns are secured with a bit of glue or sealant, and their points are filed slightly blunter. Any additional decoration is simple: some twine, wire or beads. No paints that would cover up the plant’s gift.
Since plantcast brushes are made with such care and reverence, they’re often given as gifts on special occasions, or as thanks for a particularly meaningful favour. They’re simple but valued items you might find lying around an aemet’s home.
- The structure of Aligare homes (heidicvlach.com)
- Flashback post: How I used light and dark magic in the Aligare world (heidicvlach.com)
- Flashback post: A magic spell by any other name (heidicvlach.com)
Sometimes, the most memorable part of a fantasy story is a strange object. When a character handles an unusual tool or wears a strange garment, it can really make it clear that we’re talking about a foreign place.
So in the development of the Aligare world, I realized I wanted a distinctive object. Not necessarily something the main characters carry around, but some local fixture that wouldn’t exist on Earth. So I worked in some chromepieces.
A chromepiece is a sundial-like fixture made of stone or metal. It focuses a point of light onto a flat face, so the light can be compared to inlaid colour chips. The Great Gem’s light changes colour according to the time of day, so this colour-matching serves the same basic purpose as determining the sun’s position in Earth’s sky. (The “chrome” part of “chromepiece” is from the term chroma, meaning purity or intensity of colour. It has nothing to do with the metal chromium, although a chrome chromepiece is entirely possible.)
But is a chromepiece really necessary? Couldn’t Aligare folk just look at the sky to determine its colour, or look around at their surroundings? Sure they could. Unless someone wants to know the exact time — and Aligare folk usually don’t — the chromepiece is mostly just an excuse to gather in one place.
That’s because each chromepiece is a unique art piece matched to its town or village. Each one is distinctively designed, often depicting a plant or some other elemental form. So a chromepiece is like the flagship symbol of its community, and when you want to get the latest news, where else would you go but the center of the community? When folk are looking to chat, they hang around their town chromepiece on the polite pretense of checking the time of day, or meeting someone at a certain colour of light. As an added bonus, the chromepiece is often placed near the local mage or leader’s home — which is another source of news, events and gossip.
So the town chromepiece isn’t a central feature of Aligare stories. It’s mentioned occasionally, in passing, as a minor detail of town landscapes.
Daylight sat in a pebble-size spot on the town chromepiece face. This moment was the colour of goldenrod blooms, earlier than Rose would have guessed but she knew what time-stretching power a person’s worries could have.
Remedy, a story of Aligare, Chapter 5
But it’s still a part of folk’s lives.
- Magic and minerals: a magical match (heidicvlach.wordpress.com)
- Determining a target audience (heidicvlach.wordpress.com)
- How lifespan affects the fantasy viewpoint (heidicvlach.wordpress.com)