Mitchell, Larry. “The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions”, illustrated by Ned Asta, Nightboat Books, 2019.
“The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions” is a queer utopian text written by Larry Mitchell with lush illustrations by Ned Asta. It was originally published by Calamus Press in 1977. The story is part-fable, part-manifesto. Set in 1977, Ramrod is an empire in decline, we meet communities of the faggots, the women, the queens, the queer men, and the women who love women who are surviving the ways and world of men. It critiques capitalism, assimilation, and patriarchy and remains relevant today, forty years after its original publication. This new edition from Nightboat Books includes essays from performance artist Morgan Bassichis, who adapted the book to music with TM Davy in 2017 for a performance at the New Museum, and activist filmmaker Tourmaline.
Writer Larry Mitchell created an “astounding, dangerous, oppressive, and fantastical world” in “The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions” but there is so much more inside the book’s pages along with playful, erotic illustrations by Ned Asta. The idea came from Mitchell and Asta’s life in communes (such as Lavender Hill in Ithaca, New York), the book is of another era and gives us a blueprint to create chosen family and world-making unlike existing institutions.
In Ramrod, beauty is currency and sexuality is survival. More important than both of those friendship which usually involves some degree of sexual intimacy. State agents struggle to enforce heteropatriarchal discipline as their kingdom crumbles around them. The faggots, the women, the fairies and the queens have each other for love, sex and inspiration. They have the natural world where they live and have “music, the body, feelings, cities in which to be, believe, touch, dance, dream, fuck, and grow.” This was the liberation vision of Larry Mitchell from another time and another consciousness.
The book reminds us that we are held accountable for how free we are being in our lives, and then we are invited, no, required! to open even more to our own power, our own pleasures, our own revolution. The book has become a cult classic of pleasure activism that reminds is that we all need to be free. It is a fantasy made up of connecting vignettes, each only a page or three long. The perspective is outside/adjacent to violent/oblivious straight society. All sorts of people make an appearance, and there is no mention of sickness, plagues or AIDS.
Here is the queer beginnings story that all queer people need. In this fantastical tale we learn of the origin stories of queer people. It projects a utopian ideal for how we can fight back against heteropatriarchy. Mitchell challenges this and instead presents a future in which queer people, women, and other marginalized people can finally live in peace and free from the opinions, stares policies, and ideas of those who hold power. New futures are attainable and beautiful and worth fighting for even in the face of bleak and dark realities.
Mitchell shares some unspeakable truths about queerness, queer freedom and joy and shows that it is only possible to be free if we leave realism behind. In just over one hundred brief pages, this is a critique of the world, war, patriarchy, the state, and medico-psychiatry, in a way that feels it self-evident.