Today is the release of a project I worked on in 2019-2020 both as a scholar and as a fiction writer. Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures, edited by Joey Eschrich and Clark Miller, features my short story “Solarshades,” as well as stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, S B Divya, and Deji Bryce Olukotun—plus accompanying essays and art. The project was a collaboration between the Arizona State University Center for Science and Imagination and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In early 2020 we gathered in Denver with ASU and NREL energy scholars and visual artists to brainstorm stories about the future of renewable energy in unique urban landscapes. This ‘narrative hack-a-thon’ process produced four fictional looks at how energy shapes and is shaped by the geography and communities of Chicago, Portland, San Juan and San Antonio. Cities of Light is a free ebook available for download now.
Here’s a sample from my story “Solarshades.”
On cloud-out days, when that listless Pacific smother hung low over Portland, and the house batteries chirped their plaintive ten-percent forebodings—the grid no help at all—Kismet clambered onto the roof to see the lit-up glitter of the Clackamas County line: a trash-strewn no-man’s land cutting through brownfields, fallow-forests, and cemeteries. A little crack in the law that neither Happy Valley nor Pleasant Valley wanted to deal with.
Kismet didn’t envy the refugees, undocs, and homeless who pitched their tents and parked their RVs in the interstices. But seeing their pyramids of warm glow, hearing their music, whiffing their smelly foreign food—all while his games were forced off and his showers ran cold and his cousins ate dry cereal and squabbled over flashlights—on those days he couldn’t help but feel a little drip of resentment runneling into his soul.
It’s a story of a Green New Deal and its discontents. Can can encounter with state-seeing AR glasses change his perspective and help him organize for energy amnesty in his community before he’s drawn into his brother’s world of hate and small violence?