The Dreams of Queer Utopia combines 13 different takes on the theme, compiled by editor and Finnish comic artist H-P Lehkonen and Paju Ruotsalaine from artists all over the world (but mostly Finland). It’s a pleasant read, and while heartrending at times, refreshingly hopeful and pure.
Cover by Sara Valta
There’s a good range of visual and thematic approaches in the short comics compiled in The Dreams of Queer Utopia. Art highlights include a joyful nature and colour soaked scene from Jiipu Uusitalo and a whimsical infographic-style short from Anni Hô. Lehkonen conceived the project after a question on Twitter about what kind of future queer people would like to see elicited some interesting responses. It’s a really important question, with of course a range of answers, but some of the themes that emerge can make us think about what we really mean by that word ‘Utopia’.
Work from Niko-Petteri Niva and Jakke
I think for some it’s loaded with a shiny, 1960s sci-fi vibe, while for others it’s pastoral and more of a return to Eden idea. We’re certainly used to a range of exciting Dystopias in current cultural output, and it seems like an assumption now that the best way to critique the world around us is to imagine it falling apart. Imagining things going right is in itself a somewhat radical act, and some of the writers here weren’t quite able to do it, focusing more on what is WRONG with the now – and of course there is plenty wrong. For a lot of LGBTQ+ people, just imagining living a fairly pedestrian existence, free from prejudice and oppression, is utopian in itself. As Apila Pepita puts it in their striking allegorical comic “Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to hide who I am?” And as Lehkonen bemoans in the introduction, the othering of certain identities makes it strangely hard to see the very everyday ambitions and interests of people that sit outside the norm.
Work from Apila Pepita and Jiipu Uusitalo
Concerns about equality and freedom are far from the only issues addressed by these artists though, many also tackle themes around ecology, politics, science and models for communal living. True utopias perhaps, need to be as ambitious as dystopias are monstrous. In Siiri Viljakka’s piece, her character Meg says ‘In my utopia we’re not scared of the future. I want our kids to live in a world without worries and anxieties of rampaging bigots and climate crises.’ In my favourite utopian vision – the last in the book by Niko-Petteri Niva – the ‘Garden of Life’ shows happy skeletons living in a post-capitalist society where ‘all labour has meaning’. From pastoral idylls, to space operas, to more contemporary visions of simple polyamorous happiness, this collection is a small glimpse into what could be, if we are only brave enough to imagine it. And fight for it. Obviously.
You can buy this book from Queerwebcomic.com
Contributors: Jakke, Nam-Ke, Arielle Jardine & Pii Anttonen, Rachel Pang, Calvin Arium, Apila Pepita, Jiipu Uusitalo, Siiri Viljakka, Harun, Ted, okenki, Anni Hô, Niko-Petteri Niva, H-P Lehkonen, Paju Ruotsalainen, Sara Valta
Review by Jenny Robins