To me, one of the most fascinating parts of the Solarpunk genre have been the discussions around technology and utopia; specifically, how we as humans can use technology to put us back into harmony with nature, rather than destroying it. The characters in “Grover: Case #C09 920, ‘The Most Dangerous Blend’” are placed in a world that has had to face this question and is still struggling with the answer. In the background of the story there is a world that has underwent a third world war. Our fascination with changing the weather led us to be able to manipulate it, which in turn, led to war and our own mass extinction. Now, twenty years later, people are picking up the pieces of society.
However, that’s not the focus of the story; the story is a murder mystery that takes place at a weather manipulation facility. Our victim was torn apart by a large machine used to change the path of hurricanes, and the people in the story are often more concerned with deadlines and coffee rations than big issues. The technology changed so that we could still exist with the effects of climate change, but why didn’t we change more with it? Why didn’t we finally put our metaphorical big boots on, get to work, and build a utopia out of the wreckage of the old world?
In short, we are human; we are the real toads in our imaginary gardens, to very loosely quote the poetry of Marianne Moore. We are often petty and short-sighted. We have ideals which we fight for, we have some days we won’t leave the couch, we love things, and we hate things. We’re not good or evil, we’re just complicated, and no amount of technology is going to change that. That might make a traditional utopia out of the question; and maybe it is, as without conflict, I think we’d get bored (doesn’t every good story have a conflict?). However, to me, if we end up with a world where we have made our mistakes, we have paid for them, and yet somehow, we managed to climb out of the wreckage of civilization, make a new civilization, and we are back in a place where we have kept our soul — as ugly and toad-like as that soul might be — we’ve won. The world I created is hopeful, not perfect, and as we move into an uncertain future, staring down climate change, I hope we manage to create a hopeful, if imperfect, world.
Though, personally, I hope we don’t need to go through another mass extinction to get there.