This week we explored the post-apocalyptic solarpunk After the World Drowned by David Harris in which we portray a group forging a paradise in a world after the waters have risen so only the highest points, whether natural or technological, are still above water. We are Mara, a crafter and weaver who set out on her own to escape her overlarge family; Dobbe, a warrior from an amphibious species who finds humanity fascinating; Ernestine, a refugee from a wealthy family who grew up in high-rise hotels and wants to spread beautiful design around the world; and Stuart, an older man who still remembers the time before the cataclysm and fears his age has left him unable to compete with the younger generation for scarce resources. Will we be able to forge this Ideal into the community we all need?
In the first Act, we learn that Stuart used to be a technician and taught his old community about how to use the remains of technology from the before times, using solar cells for power. He also names the long-bodied herbivorous lizards on the island, whose bodies sway as they run, swingbacks. He appreciates the leadership Jade offers the Ideal because she applies it so gently and with such empathy. Mara is frightened to discover someone she remembers from the raids on her family is a member of the Ideal, but she doesn’t know how to respond. She remembers how hard it was to leave her family, but with so many, it seemed necessary. Mara throws a stone in frustration and hits one of the swingbacks, which only fills her with guilt and regret. Ernestine keeps her sketchbook of designs a secret, afraid that people will see her work as frivolous and a waste of time. Ernestine gets into conflict with Mara when the latter discovers Ernestine has draped over a log a blanket Mara wove. They go back and forth about why she would do that, Ernestine explaining that she just thought it looked nice, beautifying things, but Mara concerned how it will rot in the rains. Dobbe has trouble assimilating to the human community, missing her old friend and sparring partner, Penny, so she latches onto the first human who pays her any attention, the same raider who Mara fears. The violence in their pasts is one of the things that draws and binds them together.
In Act 2, Stuart admires the broad-leafed ground cover that grows all over the island, dominating the underbrush, but chooses to live near the shore, facing east so the sun wakes him each morning as it rises. Mara leads us to building our houses in trees to avoid the ever rising waters, and retires one of her weaving materials, a native vine, as it becomes scarce from over-use and the encroachment of the broad-leafs. Dobbe takes comfort from the fighting staff she brought with her from her days as a warrior, and carries it with her whenever she goes off to her secret place to practice and recenter herself. A dispute arises in the community when one of the Ideal tries to adopt Dobbe as a pet, not understanding how humiliating that would be. Dobbe doesn’t take kindly but refrains from violence and allows the human to apologize without bringing the rest of the community into the conflict. Ernestine grows frustrated by the lack of a proper indoors once she discovers macaques eating our stores of fruit. She vows to find a way to use the combined skills of our diverse group to solve this problem. Her solution is a watertight room, sealed but carefully balanced, so it floats on the rising waters.
In Act 3, we see Dobbe adapting to living on land, sunning herself on the rocks away from everyone, but also learning not to lean on violence or power to deal with problems. Ernestine doesn’t stop with her floating room, which is sustainable and works with nature to create interior spaces, and goes on to lead us all to compost in the space the Ideal cleared long ago. Once the soil develops, she plants seedlings to restore the land to its previous state. As the Ideal continues to expand, in order to no longer take up the land, Stuart uses his technical knowledge and Ernestine’s floating design to help us expand out into the water instead of across the land.
In the coda, we each reflect on what makes us hopeful for the future. Dobbe finds hope in how she has managed to find peace living together with another species, proving it can work if you stay open-minded. Mara feels glad to be useful and sees our rustic utopia as the natural result of everyone working toward a single, clear goal. Stuart thinks it’s not just the goal, but the spirit of cooperation rather than competition that explains our success. Ernestine is the most ambitious, believing the floating rooms are a technology that can be used to reclaim the floors below the water’s surface in structures like the high-rises she grew up in.