Narratology, Ecocriticism, Science Fiction, Energy Humanities
As the critical work by scholars from the Petrocultures Research Group has proven time and time again, it is almost impossible to think of or even find a contemporary cultural object that is not in some sense connected to fossil fuels, adheres to a certain petro-aesthetics, or suffers from petromelancholia (LeMenager). The latter describes a rather paradoxical affective mode that on the one hand griefs over the loss of cheap fossil fuels which has enabled our comfortable Western lifestyle, while also fuelling the conscious need for alternatives to sustain the kind of living that the petroleum industry has enabled for us. Science fiction (often more explicitly than ‘traditional’ genres) tries to subvert petrocultural influence through its alternative world-making. This should especially be so for Solarpunk, an upcoming genre in speculative fiction, which focuses on worlds that feature clean and renewable energy resources, set in futurist eco-utopia’s—through which it defies our contemporary societal structures. The hypothesis of this abstract is that, despite its best efforts, this defiance of petro-aesthetics fails and petromelancholia will seep in (cf. LeMenager; Crownshaw). Using Erin James’ method of econarratology, this paper will look for those (narratological) traces of petromelancholia within the Solarpunk storyworlds of "Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation by Phoebe Wagner".