“Sun in the Heart” (short story) by Roberta Spindler
English Publication History: Solarpunk (World Weaver Press, 2018)
Original: Portuguese (Sol no Coração), 2012
Translated by Fábio Fernandes, 2018
Synopsis: Increased solar activity has caused humanity to cower in its fury with both Mankind and nature diminishing. Rather than concede defeat, a way to cope was created in order to harness the sun’s power on the personal level: solar tattoos with nanotechnology. Nourishment and repair are accommodated, yet the expense and nostalgia of food are strong. Laura and Lúcio’s son Élio is one of the last in his class to undergo the tattoo surgery, and though the boy is excited by the prospect, his father has regrets that stem from his family’s large sacrifice and his own minor sacrifice, both of which weigh heavily on his shoulders.
Analysis: Rites of passage have a formal social connotation, but the commonality of the same rites is plain. Rather than seeing such formal occasions such as Bar Mitzvah, quinceañera, baptism, or even boot camp, other rites of passage can be seen as almost banal: first mobile phone, first driver’s license, first first legal drink, first time living on your own, first vote, first pregnancy scare, etc. Each of these and more, obviously, serve as small transitions to what we define as Life, the shared experience of adulthood, responsibility, and independence.
Élio’s rite of passage into the shared human experience of the future causes Lúcio to reconsider his own initiation, one which transports the child into the adult, the past into present, and dependence into independence. Though Lúcio sees the benefit of the solar tattoo, history is dear as nostalgia gets the best of him.
Review: This, the shortest story in the collection, serves a deeper message than most of the longer stories. The science of the solar tattoos is briefly mentioned but is ultimately downplayed by the more emotional aspect of the story, which analyzes a father’s pride with regret, and hope with nostalgia. Rite of passage stories will always have an emotional tug of war within, and this story is no exception, which provides a stronger pull than the other stories in the same collection.