“Sunvault” anthology brings the solarpunk genre to a wider audience

Iowa State’s MFA program in Creative Writing and Environment produces authors, poets, and playwrights well-versed in what the program refers to as “the environmental imagination.” But for two students, exploring this idea meant setting out to advance a whole new genre.

After learning about solarpunk in a Tumblr post that gained popularity last September, now second-year student Phoebe Wagner came to fellow second-year Brontë Wieland with an idea.

“Phoebe approached me and asked me if I wanted to put together an anthology of environmental science fiction,” Wieland said.

“Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation” was born out of this conversation.

Solarpunk is an emerging genre focused on working toward a better environmental future in science fiction as well as the associated positive solutions. The “-punk” suffix refers to its association with countercultural ideology.

“There’s also a lot of social justice that’s also associated with it,” Wagner added. “This idea that you can’t take environmental justice away from social justice, that they’re just sort of woven together.”

Phoebe Wagner is creating spray art as a Kickstarter reward for
Phoebe Wagner is creating spray art as a Kickstarter reward for “Sunvault” backers. (Courtesy of Phoebe Wagner)

Wieland and Wagner turned to Kickstarter at the recommendation of their publisher, Upper Rubber Boot Books, and leaned on their own previous experiences with the platform to make it successful. One of their major goals was to raise enough to pay every author whose work they decided to publish in “Sunvault.”

“It also seemed right that something like solarpunk that’s so based in community is also funded by the community,” Wagner said.

In less than a month, “Sunvault” reached its initial goal of $5,000. By the end of the funding period, 236 backers had helped them exceed their goal to the tune of $6,121.

“Having the Kickstarter funds allowed us to be generous so we were able to up how much we were paying for art,” Wagner said.

With solarpunk being such an unexplored genre, Wieland and Wagner were both worried and excited about the kind of submissions they might receive, as well as how people might interpret the genre and how they as editors would select the stories that would help define and embody solarpunk for a wider audience.

“We wanted to be able to give authors the chance to expand that without necessarily breaking the genre,” Wieland said. “I think we did a pretty good job; we’ve taken it interesting directions.”

The pair promised backers and fans on their Kickstarter that submissions would open as soon as they reached their initial funding goal. But in addition to open submissions, they also solicited work from some of their favorite authors, including A.C. Wise, Nisi Shawl, and Daniel José Older.

“Probably our most exciting one was Margaret Atwood,” Wagner said. “We don’t have a Margaret Atwood story, but Atwood did email back our publisher and say that she liked the idea. So we were very thrilled about that.”

Brontë Wieland “exercises his limerick muscle” completing rewards for “Sunvault” backers. (Courtesy of Brontë Wieland)

In the two months where submissions were open, “Sunvault” received more than 200 submissions, of which around 35 stories, poems, and black and white line art pieces were chosen for the final anthology.

The anthology is due to be published in May, but in the meantime, many backers of the Kickstarter have some unique rewards coming their way as a thanks for their contributions. Wagner is creating several spray art paintings, while Wieland is writing around 30 personalized limericks.

“Limerick is a fun form, and I think Kickstarters usually work better when they have something a little bit different in them,” he said. “I was excited to get a chance to exercise my limerick muscle.”

Throughout what will turn out to be an 18-month journey from conception to publication, Wieland and Wagner both learned valuable lessons about the publishing process.

“[We’ve been] writing copy for the Kickstarter and creating our website and doing social media, and we’re currently proofing the entire book at this point,” Wagner said. “That’s been a unique experience. And working with a publisher and soliciting authors is not something you generally get on your own, so that’s been a really big learning experience for me.”

“Now we’ve got a pretty good idea of all the legwork that goes into it,” Wieland added.

And as for a second volume of “Sunvault”?

“We’ll see,” Wagner said. “Probably some of it will depend on [the] response and if Upper Rubber Boot offered and said, ‘we would really like to put out another one,’ then I think we would definitely both be involved. But we’ll see.”

•   •   •

This post also appears at The Cardinal.

Header photo courtesy of Brontë Wieland and Phoebe Wagner.

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How I used “Lord of the Rings” to get into college

Did you know that your SAT essays are right there, scanned and posted on the College Board website, just waiting for people who graduated high school years ago to log in and relive the best 25 minutes of their lives?

I sure did!

In honor of the new SAT expanding the length of the now-optional essay section to 50 minutes in order to accommodate a longer prompt, I thought I’d share these excerpts from my two 2007 SAT essays. I believe they conclusively prove my demonstrated Lord of the Rings obsession trumped my GPA, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars in helping me get into college.

Also, I don’t think context is necessary, do you?


March 2007 (with bonus Harry Potter):

“Literature has shown countless times that one should not set smaller goals if one will be displeased with the results. One should try to achieve a goal with an optimistic outlook, like Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series. Both characters exemplified their drive to achieve their respective goals. Sam was able to think about destroying the One Ring throughout the journey, and his optimism led Frodo to ultimately destroy the Ring. Harry Potter kept the destruction of Voldemort in sight as he, almost subconsciously, achieved smaller goals while keeping the largest one in his mind. Optimism is key in achieving large goals, whether one’s imagination permits it or not.”

October 2007 (with bonus Beowulf):

“If one researches some of the most recently recognized films, one will discover that history plays a large role in crafting these epic tales. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is a prime example. Not only is it based on a book, but a myriad of the costumes and battle items forged for the battle sequences were based on Anglo-Saxon and Norman mail and swords. Director Peter Jackson knew that he had the task of creating Middle-earth for the very first time, but instead of treating his viewers to novel costumes, he told the employees at Weta Workshop to research the 12th and 13th century’s clothing and mail and design the costumes for ‘Lord of the Rings’ based on those pictures and descriptions. Although perfected, Jackson’s attempt at creating an original view of Middle-earth failed as he chose to mirror the Anglo-Saxon battlewear. However, one cannot assume that Jackson duplicated every aspect of the Anglo-Saxons; J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the novels, borrowed material heavily from Beowulf. The monster Grendel, for example, is an almost exact manifestation of Tolkien’s character Gollum. Shunned by his family, Gollum delves into the mist and becomes an unfathomable representation of a human gone mad.”


Now that I think about it, these read so much like posts on Shit My Students Write and lol my thesis that I’m surprised I didn’t get zeros on each of these essays. At least it wasn’t as bad as what I wrote/pictures I drew on my AP Biology exam, I suppose (purposeful vagueness and/or harkening to inside joke lost to time entirely intended).

Final Sentences

This mess is inspired by this McSweeney’s post, in which the author reproduces final sentences of essays they wrote in college. Ever-so-creatively, I’ve done the same here. They are somewhat in chronological order, from freshman year in 2008 to graduation in 2012.

A few things that are worth mentioning: (1) I apologize in advance for the likely errors in the French sentences; (2) trying to guess for which classes these essays were written could be a fun game; and (3) I attended a Catholic school for the first three semesters of undergrad. Enjoy!


I am proud to be here and eager to begin my college education.

The fact alone that I may act independently of them is reason enough for me to want to live without them.

She breaks from my grasp and dances into the next chapter of her life without vertigo.

It is this symbiotic relationship that is the foundation of my entire association with my parents and I take pride in maintaining my part of this valuable connection.

Based on this evidence, it is obvious that China should invest more into its space program.

It is only then that the answers to the unrequited questions will expose themselves.

It is not pleasant to ponder this, so we should merely hope for the best in Obama’s campaign — and hope for the worst in the aftermath of the Palin disaster.

Overall, America will focus its attention on the common good, and following the election, has great potential to advance culturally and socially as a country.

It is in these lines where one understands that the entire sonnet is a compliment to the speaker’s beloved and that his peace should entirely resolve any issues with the situation.

However, this mixture of metrical patterns helps the poem flow in a more colloquial, almost childlike manner.

The pain of death that plagued Jesus between his death and resurrection are what elicits the angel’s appearance and his rise into heaven.

At my next poetry reading, I will not enter expecting it to follow a certain set of guidelines; I will instead sit comfortably and wait for the environment to demonstrate its full potential.

From sorrow, the hope for the journey to a better place upon death emerges and the grieving process that is all too necessary in order to live is finally assuaged.

Just as the association between the speaker and his surroundings is not altogether clear upon a brief glance of the situation illustrated, the personal connections between the speaker and his natural surroundings and the speaker and the people on the ferry are not evident without detecting the similar vowel sounds within each key word associated with this major correlation between the living and the inanimate.

Where “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” communicates the hope of a new beginning, “Sailing to Byzantium” conveys the inevitability of the end of the thoughts and emotions that drove the first poem, death.

The speaker’s self-deprecation, driven by his self-created surrounding darkness, eventually causes his downfall.

Without a belief in oneself, one’s outward qualities may not be truly embraced by others.

The answer as of yet eludes me.

Albeit simple, it is indeed simplicity that governs life and we must live simply in order to best experience life.

This is not to discount Descartes’ entire philosophy on the subject (i.e. by calling it crazy), but it does not make sense on its own.

If death brings the pleasure that one could not realize in life, then death is yet another neutrality: it does not put one at peace, it is merely a final fix for one’s lifelong struggle with pain.

But who am I to judge based on my own beliefs?

Perhaps he is leaving it up to those who come after him to complete his philosophy for him, so that if his philosophy follows through and his soul returns, he may look upon the world and its beliefs and finally be at peace.

Although I believe myself to be somewhat tolerant of organized religion and its tenets, an argument like this is impossible to accept with its multiple exasperating flaws.

Nous adorons aller au cinéma, danser, passer la soirée ensemble, et rigoler beaucoup.

Ma chambre à coucher à Gonzaga est plus grande que ma chambre à coucher dans le logement de ma famille, mais je ne partage pas de chambre à coucher dans le logement de ma famille, et je partage ma chambre à coucher avec ma camarade de chambre à Gonzaga.

C’est génial !

This motion blindness is not a terribly common phenomenon, with only one good case being presented in published literature, but awareness of it may allow doctors, like Dr. House, to better diagnose patients and allow them the proper course of action.

This ironic conclusion reinforces the apparent normality of CIPA patients and prevents many others from understanding their massive internal differences.

“And,” Bereta reminds us, “there is always Ninja Warrior.”

Make checks payable to “GU Choral Music” and note “GU Choral Activities” on your check’s memo line.

“Trust, commitment, and love. Have these, and you will get through life.”

The director provides necessary tools; all people must do is recognize and apply them to their lives.

Students remember its final words long after orientation and wear their Creed shirts bearing the message that unifies Gonzaga: “I choose to be a member of the Gonzaga Community. I am a ZAG. I am a Bulldog. Together, WE ARE GONZAGA!”

Perhaps a “Second Industrial Revolution” is upon us, but with it comes ignorance of all that is real and worship of artificial intelligence in all its human-driven glory.

Whether the problems driving its supporters are merely unknown to the world or unbelievable, it must either demobilize some other way or face defeat.

The super rich will always exist, for they are who inherently define all who fall below.

Although Dwayne’s initial problems were family-based, the love his relatives have for him could be the only thing he needs to get better.

Judging by the bleak turn that the songs and the plot take as Berlin falls to the Nazis, the master of ceremonies’ final “Good night” is perhaps our only indication of the events to take place after the final curtain.

This is a choice left up to the viewer, perhaps the final question remaining at the end of this thrilling film.

A shifted perspective of the Dickens novel, one that favors Oliver and his allies throughout, is what this film used to its vast advantage.

Neuroscience and music therapy are an important pair in the field of medicine, especially in rehabilitation, and scientists should investigate this relationship further in order for more breakthroughs to occur.

Until globalization effectively “modernizes” the rest of the world, these differences will continue to affect decisions referring to sex and reproduction.

Though correlations between aggression and being of a certain ethnicity or gender exist, the causation of these is still up for debate, and neither of these reasons should be the sole motive for explaining aggression.

Le passage en Haïti sera apprécié par beaucoup de gens et je serai satisfait.

J’espère que votre compagnon appartement est meilleure que la mienne.

Voir le film deux fois !

The age at which a child attends preschool is a vital time for establishing a rudimentary awareness of basic skills that will remain with them for their entire life.

Though it remained undiscussed, we were both aware of one fact: we would never be alone at the bottom of the pack again.

I’ve never known him to stray when he has the chance to learn something new.

I sat down on the couch and began to write…

And as I’m helped up off the ground and taken to an ambulance, my heart pounds and I feel guilty that mine can and his can’t and I want to give some of my heart pounds to him, I can live on just a few a minute, please no I was joking don’t take my life too

DeLillo’s simple tweaks, such as adding the hijackers as affected characters, incorporating art as a coping mechanism, and providing untrustworthy psychological stressors, illustrate in great detail the effects of “the culture of the easy edit” and how a few minute details can shake up an individual’s views of a horrific event.

Indeed, “what world is this” in which love can endure but not truly exist?

As irrelevant as this work is, so too is it a failed attempt to help the country heal from the September 11 attacks.

The push for “perfection” must continue if the human race is to succeed, even if it means giving natural selection a push in the right direction.

This increases external validity and provides an opportunity for expansion in the field not only of music therapy, but of trauma therapy as a whole.

Knowing that there is a place where no new bad things can happen induces immense relief in the client and makes them not only more likely to return to therapy, but also more comfortable in their lives outside of therapy.

And in the end, this class as a whole is leaving me stronger, more scholarly, and with insurmountable knowledge that will facilitate my triumph over my anxieties for years to come.

The decision was purely my own, and I chose the option that would not involve possible negative involvement by my professor.

The only part of this article that was altogether comforting was the reference to “future research” at the very end, something that will hopefully follow very soon.

Now I embrace my differences, and do relish the extra sleep I can get because it does not take me an hour or more to get ready in the morning.

However, if research on this were to be conducted, it would surely fill in many of the holes left by the current research, including the possibility that researchers today are accidentally misgendering children in research.

In a logical society, lies like these would not be able to sustain themselves.

Farmers and consumers alike could see a real positive change if the runoff problem was addressed at the federal level.

It is an extremely treatable condition, but only if doctors and patients alike are willing and able to work through the appropriate treatment.

Protecting the bobolink means protecting Iowa.

Quel journée !