A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado.
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.
Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.
Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.
|Publisher:||Soho Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Chana Porter is a playwright, teacher, MacDowell Colony fellow, and co-founder of The Octavia Project, a STEM and fiction-writing program for girls and gender non-conforming youth from underserved communities. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is currently at work on her next novel.
Read an Excerpt
Tips for Throwing a Dinner Party
at the End of the World
Relax. People may think they want to indulge, get too drunk, incapacitate themselves with weed, but really they just want to appreciate this fragile moment while the outside world falls down. Your party should facilitate this easeful enjoyment, not lead loved ones to panic through overconsumption. Be present. And remember, you don’t know what’s happening in the morning, so while an orgy might very well be the perfect thing, you don’t want to spend your last night on Earth trying to cajole your friends into a particular kind of revelry. Be present. Clean your apartment until it sparkles. Shower, of course, and anoint your body with fragrant oils, but then wear your most beloved sweatpants. Make a wide selection of delicious food, high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Serve wine but also a lovely selection of herbal teas. Juice spritzers, in fancy goblets, will allow your guests to hydrate while feeling opulent. Remember, if someone starts crying, don’t try to shut them down or change the subject. Be present. Eventually, the conversation will flow to other things—typically, to The Past and How Great It Was, Even Though We Didn’t Know It at the Time, and The Future, that shimmering, mercurial beast, constantly breaking our hearts.
When the aliens first made contact, Trina and her not-yet-wife, Deeba, threw one of their famous dinner parties for a select group of friends. It wasn’t difficult to keep the guest list small. Everyone was too nervous to travel far, the subways and buses deserted but for the most intrepid or desperate travelers. They invited two beloved couples who happened to live close by, and who wondrously had never met. Emma and Mariam came first, with two types of hard cheeses, three types of olives, gluten-free rice crackers, tubs of spicy hummus. Emma was French and Mariam was from Cairo, so they both really knew how to put together a cheese plate. Their little party was completed by Katharine and Laura, the friendly, easygoing lesbians from Tennessee. They came with copious amounts of alcohol (one can always depend on the lapsed Christians to bring the bar): pale ale for the butches, and drinkable red wine. Introductions were made, drinks were poured, cheese and olives exclaimed over. After a half hour of breezy conversation, Deeba brought out a tureen of her famous fish stew, finished with black pepper and a squeeze of lime. Trina passed around homemade loaves of bread, her one party trick. It was so easy to make, and yet everyone thought she was a magician for adding yeast to water to flour and waiting. The women sopped fragrant soup with crusty bread. A
generous feeling swirled around them like a melody, like a scent. The essence of a perfect dinner party. How have we never met before? they asked again and again, but what they were really saying was, How have I only just begun to love you?
Throwing a dinner party was all Trina and Deeba could think to do. They had already filled the bathtub with clean water and made sure all of their flashlights had new batteries. They kept checking their most reliable sources on Twitter, as well as Al Jazeera, The New York Times, The Guardian. Every source said to keep calm, try not to panic, and to stop it with these suicide pacts. Unbelievable, the newscasters kept saying, it’s unbelievable. That word had been ringing in Trina’s head all day. But what was believable about this world, about her government, about what they were doing to the planet and each other? Furthermore, what did Trina believe in with total certainty? That the sun rose in the morning? That the sky was blue? These aliens could say that the cosmos was being carried on the back of a great platypus and she’d have to believe them. What was more mutable than her own perceptions? Katharine raised her wineglass. Her toast became the answer to Trina’s unspoken questions. At the time, Trina thought this was a coincidence.
Katharine spoke warmly, as if she were telling a long joke. “Lately,” she said, “I’ve felt as if I’ve been living in the wrong timeline. I’ve become numb, like I’m watching my own life as a movie, that is, when I’m not filled with rage or tremendous grief or crippling depression.”
Deeba hooted and cheered. Emma’s brown eyes twinkled in the candlelight. “Every day, I wake up embarrassed by my country and what we’ve become—”
“Ugh,” groaned Mariam. She took on the tone of a newscaster. “Now, more than ever . . . In these trying times . . .” Trina laughed and slapped the table.
“Let her finish!” chided Deeba.
Katharine cleared her throat. “As I was saying! I’m embarrassed by what we’ve become, and by what we always have been and have never addressed.”
“Hear, hear,” said Emma, raising her glass.
“But tonight,” Katharine continued. “Looking at your beautiful faces, I can finally, safely say that I have no idea what’s coming! I don’t know if this is the end of life as we know it, or the beginning of a grand adventure, or perhaps both. All I have is my uncertainty. And really, that’s all I’ve ever had. Everything else was a lie.” She took a long swallow from her glass. “So cheers, babes. To tonight.” The women clapped and toasted, whistling. Katharine took a half bow and sat down. Laura slung an arm around her wife and grinned. Trina looked across the table at Deeba’s round, brown face. Her cheeks were warm with wine, as pink as the inside of a rose. I know that I love you, thought Trina. And that’s enough for me. From across the table, Deeba winked.
After dinner, the women lounged on the floor and got a bit stoned. And then someone decided it would be fun to take a bath. They would soon realize that The Seep had already infiltrated their city’s water supply. They were already compromised, already bodily hosts to their new alien friends. It was through that connection they could hear one another’s thoughts, feel the same emotions, overlaid with the all-consuming adage that Everything Will Be All Right, No Matter What. The softest invasion had begun.