Gasoline Dreams

Waking Up from Petroculture

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Pub Date 28 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 30 Apr 2022


A graphic novel that confronts our habits, narratives, and fantasies head-on to help
break our petroleum dependency

What if the biggest barriers to responding to climate change are not technological or governmental but, rather, cultural? In other words, what if we ourselves could help to enact change through a deeper understanding of our petroleum dependency? In a provocative graphic format that draws widely from history, critical theory, and popular culture, Gasoline Dreams explores and challenges the ways fossil fuels have shaped our identities, relationships, and our ability to imagine sustainable, equitable futures.

As our rapidly warming planet is pushed toward ecological collapse, we might often feel helpless or paralyzed by the enormity of the challenges confronting us. However, reflecting upon the cultural dimensions of our predicament helps reveal the great potential for social transformation inherent in the multiplying crises. Author and artist Simon Orpana engages with contemporary scholarship in the emergent field of Energy Humanities to confront the habits, narratives, and fantasies that support our attachment to fossil fuels. By revealing the many ways petroculture repeatedly fails to deliver on its promises of “the good life,” Gasoline Dreams calls us to the difficult work of waking up from the fantasies that inhibit us from working toward a global transition to renewable energy.

Written in an engaging graphic format that makes relevant historical, cultural, and political analyses of global warming and petrol dependency important to a wide audience, Gasoline Dreams refutes the progress narratives that depict contemporary, energy-intensive societies as the inevitable product of human history. By revealing the contingencies, coercions, and compulsions this myth disguises, the book allows us to imagine truly progressive alternatives. Rather than casting climate change as a problem for technological elites to solve, the book confronts the everyday realities that reinforce our dependence on fossil fuels, offering a space of hope and engagement from which concerned people can work to build a more sustainable future.

On the threshold of the single greatest transformation the human species has yet faced, Gasoline Dreams challenges us to start living, working, and dreaming differently to become less culturally dependent on petroleum.

A graphic novel that confronts our habits, narratives, and fantasies head-on to help
break our petroleum dependency

What if the biggest barriers to responding to climate change are not technological or...

Advance Praise

"His thickly textured line-work, dense paragraphs of hand-written text, and high-octane arguments have the vibe of a Xeroxed anarcho-environmentalist zine from the 1990s."—Publishers Weekly, Comics Book Review

"Gasoline Dreams: Waking Up from Petroculture by Simon  Orpana (Sept. 7, $15.95 trade paper, ISBN 978-0-8232-9772-6) rallies for  a shift away from climate-destroying reliance on fossil fuels, using a  graphic narrative to convince readers that happiness in contemporary  life doesn’t require gas-guzzling."—Publishers Weekly, Fall Announcements

"This is an important book! We are floundering up to our necks in oil and Simon Orpana explains how we got here, the dire consequences of our dependence on fossil fuel, and posits ways forward to get out of the pool. It’s in-depth, academic and playful and examines petroculture through multiple cultural lenses coupled with visually inventive imagery, creating an incredibly readable book.”—Joe Ollmann, author/artist of Fictional Father

“When I began reading Gasoline Dreams, I was immediately mesmerized. Our fossil fuels, in all of their smoggy reality, have never been so clearly interwoven with the abstract systems that maintain their hold on our lives. At once personal and in conversation with theories of the Anthropocene, Orpana’s Gasoline Dreams is a landmark work in nonfiction comics. Like Guy Delisle, Ebony Flowers, Sarah Glidden, and Joe Sacco, Simon Orpana uses the comics medium to represent our reality in all of its complexity. Gasoline Dreams transforms the major insights of the environmental humanities into a moving account of how urgent it is to transition from fossil fuels, right now.”Daniel Worden, author of Neoliberal Nonfictions: The Documentary Aesthetic from Joan Didion to Jay-Z

"Anyone trying to understand how settler states, petroculture, and climate change shape everyday life as well as movements that imagine what the world might look like in a post-oil future needs to read this powerful book by a brilliant theorist, storyteller, and artist."—Shelley Streeby, author of Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism

"His thickly textured line-work, dense paragraphs of hand-written text, and high-octane arguments have the vibe of a Xeroxed anarcho-environmentalist zine from the 1990s."—Publishers Weekly, Comics...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780823297726
PRICE $15.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 26 members

Featured Reviews

This is an interesting sociological take on a fossil fuel society among other hot political topics. Because of the type of book it is, people will love or hate it but it's creative and will get conversations started.

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Ahhhhhhhhh. I’m torn with how to proceed in reviewing this. On one hand I thought the information given was so good. It was interesting, terrifying, and relevant. It was well researched. It had an urgency to it. It was a labour of love. The imagery was also really lovely. The illustration style fit well with the comic. But I had a hard time following sometimes because the pages felt over busy. It may have been the blurriness because it is an ARC but between blurry pages and over crowding there were many pages I felt I was missing the images or the message.

I still recommend people have a look at it. It has a lot of great information.

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Thank you to Fordham University Press and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Gasoline Dreams by Simon Orpana is an innovative blend of graphic novel and academic research. Gasoline Dreams is about people's reliance on petroleum and how our culture depends on it to survive. According to the description, this book "explores and challenges the ways fossil fuels have shaped our identities, relationships, and our ability to imagine sustainable, equitable futures." This book will appeal to fans of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and its slightly more academic sequel, which mixed images with academic prose and concepts.

Overall, Gasoline Dreams is innovative, because its content is purely academic, but none of the pages are fully text. Instead, the author uses black and white images and graphics in the style of a traditional graphic novel to tell the "story," illustrate metaphors, and explain more difficult academic concepts. I took off 2 stars, because I found the book difficult to understand at points. Although I consider myself an educated person, there were section where I did not know what the author was talking about, and the images did not help. For example, the section on A Quiet Place and Stranger Things was difficult for me to relate to the book's topic of "petroculture." If you're intrigued by the description, or if you're a fan of academic graphic novels, you can check out this book, which is available now!

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Well researched review of our oil dependent society with descriptions of what the solutions might be to global warming. Since I am not a movie buff some of the comparisons to well known movies could have been left out but overall I enjoyed the book and feel it makes very valid statements about our petrochemical dependent society..

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This book was different than any book I've read before and I really enjoyed it because the author did a wonderful job of helping educate me without making me feel like I was being educated. I believe in Global Warming and do my part to help combat it but this book made me realize I could be doing more than what I already am doing and it really put things in perspective. I think a huge reason the author succeeded in doing all of this so well was because of the direct imagery that was provided. Graphic novels are a wonderful way to capture someone's attention and put things in a perspective that the reader can relate to because when our minds see images we try to find direct comparisons from the images to our own lives and in every image I was able to find something that I could relate to. The book wasn't boring which I know can be a big concern when it comes to reading about real world issues and a huge part of this was because of how well done the images were and how they kept me hooked into the story. Overall I think this is an important read and if you're hesitant about it just jump on in because I promise you won't regret it.

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Gasoline Dreams does a great job finding a balance between entertaining and informative. There is so much information packed into this little book but it doesn't feeling overly weighed down by academic language or endless complex facts and figures. The information is presented in a very straightforward and accessible way which is so important at a time when information about climate change and the impact of humans is everywhere but also very hard to digest and put into practice.

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I've just finished reading this book, and I think there was some excellent research shared within the graphic novel format. As an academic, I appreciated the citations within the reading, and I liked that the authors included research from a variety of fields. This book's nontraditional approach to our society's reliance on gasoline in a graphic novel featuring both the scientific impacts (esp. via climate) of our gasoline dependency while also spending substantial time investigating how gasoline usage has influenced our history and culture. was interesting and impressive. Examining the influence of gasoline on popular culture movies/books, politics, and our culture, the book provides a holistic view of our gasoline dependency, and the book encourages us to make changes to other energy sources.

That said, it often felt as if this book was both too much and not enough. There were so many academic areas that were explored (science, humanities, politics, etc.) in relationship to petrol that it felt draining at times. Yet, there were times when a deeper investigation into this material would have been helpful. It also seemed as if some pages had too much text for a graphic novel, and I found the random bolding/font changes to be distracting.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Fordham University Press for this eARC of Gasoline Dreams: Waking up from Petroculture by Simon Orpana in exchange for an honest review. This graphic novel is jam packed with research and direct quotes from climate scientists and activists. Orpana does an excellent job of arguing the inherent premise that American culture is completely entrenched in petroculture (i.e. the excessive use of fossil fuels and gasoline energy), even breaking down the impact of that relationship on popular culture (movies such as A Quiet Place). This is a DENSELY packed book to read. I am used to flying through graphic novels in no longer than an hour, but found it difficult to engage with this material, and it took me several sessions to complete reading. There was so much text and so many other neat tidbits within the graphics on each page that my eyes became quite distracted and overwhelmed. I also found the tone of the book to be relatively gloomy. Informative, yes. But this was not the book of hopeful solutions and proposed sustainable changes that was alluded to in the book synopsis. Overall, this is an informative book, I simply wish it was more accessible to a larger audience.

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This book has pictures, all in black and white, and lots of writing and sayings in the pictures. The author takes on the issues we face with certain cultural issues such as climate change. We are urged to take a look at our habits and see what we can do to change. It's an interesting book with a lot to take in. It's a bit heavier than other graphic novels I read but very interesting. Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC.

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