Brenda Vale has been a leading exponent of alternative technology and green architecture since the 1970s. This essay situates her only novel, Albion (1982), within a genre of libertarian utopian literature which includes William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890), Ethel Mannin’s Bread and Roses (1944), and Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974). Albion surveys a broad range of energy sources, including fossil fuels, wind power, solar power, wood burning, nuclear power, hydroelectricity, and methane, thus comparing at one remove several real world choices and, equally significantly, some of their social consequences. This essay uses the theoretical framework of Murray Bookchin’s social ecology to explore links between energy generation and consumption and human well-being in Vale’s novel. It argues that, inspired by 1970s countercultural ideas, Vale advocated the implementation of liberatory technology as a means to support both the social ecological principles of social justice, decentralization, and direct participatory democracy and to achieve ecological sustainability. Albion therefore constitutes an attempt to think through the social and environmental challenges that continue to confront humanity with increasing urgency in the present day.
Hunt, S. E. (2015). Power to the People: Renewable Energy in Brenda Vale’s Albion and other Literary Utopias. In P. A. Farca (Ed.), Energy in Literature: Essays on energy and its social and environmental implications in twentieth and twenty-first century literary texts. Oxford: TrueHeart Press