Cover of the book "Utopian Possibilities", white text on a grey background. The book lies on a wooden table.
Image by Judy Backhouse

Utopian Possibilities

Last week, I attended a book launch at the University of Porto. Not only was it fun to go inside the grand Retoria da Universidade do Porto, it was also a book that I have been looking forward to reading for some time.
I met the editor, Liam Benison, some two or three years back, through Just Write Porto and from him learned of the existence of Utopian Studies. It is testament to the divisive nature of academic disciplines that I studied Smart Cities (which have a decidedly utopian bent) for almost ten years without encountering this literature, despite having actively sought collaborations across disciplines.
Utopian Possibilities: Models, Theories, Critique, is a collection of 38 short essays, organised into nine parts. The editor sets out to "explore the power of the utopian imagination, and to submit old and new utopian models and discourse to analysis and critique." 
The essays consider themes as diverse as art, architecture, technology, privacy, hygiene, and spirituality, and how they have inspired and been addressed in utopian visions. Some authors analyse real-world utopian experiments which attempt to create ideal societies, and others invite us to consider how established institutions, such as allotment gardens, may contribute to utopian possibilities. There are also utopian responses to the pressing topical concerns about capitalism, climate change and intelligent computers.
Two pages of the book "Utopian Possibilities" showing part of the table of contents.
As someone actively trying to create utopias in my stories, this is a rich treasure-trove. I am delighted to have—accumulated in one place and neatly referenced—a hoard of utopian ideas, stories, experiments and cautionary tales to draw on. I've been greedily turning the pages.
As well as ideas, there are tools for testing my utopias, spotting pitfalls and improving them. For example, a typology of utopias reminds us that utopias are simultaneously proposals for better worlds and critiques of unsatisfactory worlds and that utopias explore changes at both the personal and societal levels. Other essays explore the tensions between diverse people and how one person's utopia might be another's dystopia. Figuring out how to build better worlds that accommodate difference is part of the challenge, and the fun. 
This is going to be a wonderful resource for my fiction and I am most grateful to Liam and all the other authors.