5 Books and Stories Exploring Utopias That We’re Dreaming About

With ROOM issue 47.1 UTOPIA open for submissions, some of our editorial team for this issue sat down to discuss our thoughts on utopias and what they mean to us. But utopia(s) are nebulous, contested subjects, realms, and times. 

As Terese Mason Pierre says in the interview, “The classic answer is that utopia is meant to represent an imagined, perfect, fictional world. But as I get older and much better at crafting questions, I understand that even that meaning is loaded. What does “perfect” mean? Perfect for whom? How was this “perfect” world built? What does this “perfection” include and exclude? And if this supposedly “perfect” world does exist, who or what is stopping us from achieving it?”

Here are five writings we’re currently obsessed with that explore utopias and these questions:


1. Emergency Skin by NK Jemisin

“We realized it was impossible to protect any one place if the place next door was drowning or on fire. We realized the old boundaries weren’t meant to keep the undesirable out, but to hoard resources within. And the hoarders were the core of the problem.”


2. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”


3. Augur Issue 5.1 “Joyful Imaginations” 

“This, this is a birth. Only possible through their mouths and hands that had done the same as me. Over sink, sweet toothed, messy. We are connected and always have been. That’s what they had been trying to teach me. That I don’t have to go back, only forward.” 

-from “Mango Maker,” by Cleopatria Peterson


4. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

“I thought that life was truly an accident among accidents in the universe. The universe was an empty palace, and humankind the only ant in the entire palace. This kind of thinking infused the second half of my life with a conflicted mentality: Sometimes I thought life was precious, and everything was so important; but other times I thought humans were insignificant, and nothing was worthwhile. Anyway, my life passed day after day accompanied by this strange feeling, and before I knew it, I was old.”


Image: “Cloud Dragon Skies” © Frank Wu, 2005

5. “Cloud Dragon Skies,” by NK Jemisin

“Long ago, our ancestors looked at the sky and saw gods. Their ancestors saw only stars. In the end, only the earth knew the truth.”

Submit to Room 47.1 Utopia by July 21.

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