The Seep

The Seep

by Chana Porter


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 “A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and don’t see our own world. Mesmerizing.” 
—Jeff VanderMeer

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion.

Trina FastHorse 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

An ABA Indie Next Pick for February 2020
An Open Letters Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Book of 2020

Praise for The Seep

“A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and don’t see our own world. Mesmerizing.”
—Jeff VanderMeer, award–winning author of Dead Astronauts and the Southern Reach trilogy

“The standard canard is that utopian settings are boring, monolithic, didactic, and make for bad fiction. How lucky we are to have Chana Porter to blow such nonsense out of the water with this moving and beautiful book.”
—China Miéville

“The psychedelics are coming! The psychedelics are coming! What if becoming one with the universe was as easy as drinking punch at a party? It turns out that after enlightenment, we still squabble with our partners, worry about fashion choices, and drink too much booze. A great speculative work combining first contact tropes, techno-utopian fantasy, gender theory, and ayahuasca fan fiction, Chana Porter's The Seep imagines a brave newer world by rewriting the question of the ancients: If all things return to the one, where does the one return to? Porter's dazzling trick answer updates Zhaozhou's: the bar.”
—Eugene Lim, author of Dear Cyborgs

“With its wonderfully fraught utopia, the likes of which you have never seen before, The Seep defies not only the recent glut of dystopias, but the long-accepted categories of fiction. An entire universe gets packed into a slim page-turner, in which the search for meaning carries on even after our greatest desires are met.”
—Robert Repino, author of the War with No Name novels

“In a time of dreary dystopias, Chana Porter's The Seep is that rarest of books: a genuine utopian hope of salvation. While the novel accomplishes this through an alien intervention, its message is not simply one of blind optimism, but a complex portrait of people struggling with change, fear, and ultimately hope. Porter shows us that the end of the world is easy. The beginning of the world is the real challenge.”
—Rachel Pollack, award-winning author of Godmother Night

"The Seep is an alien life form that comes to inhabit humanity in Chana Porter's quasi-utopian, surreal fantasy . . . A love story, a story of loss." 
A Novel Idea, KRCB-FM 

“Unlike anything you’ve ever read.”

“Speculative fiction rarely depicts alien invasions as benevolent, but Chana Porter’s delicious first novel does just that . . . The Seep is a glorious interrogation of human feelings and relationships and how they shape who we are.”
—Amy Brady, Literary Hub

Ms. Magazine

“One that you need to add to your TBR . . . A reflection on grief and moving on, what it’s like to be alien, and what it’s like to be alienated . . . An interesting meditation on othering, love, loss, and grief.”
—Book Riot

“[A] deeply impressive debut novel”
—Open Letters

"A novel that’s rapturously moving and as haunting a tale of love, loss and grief as you’ll read this year . . . If you’re like me and looking for some sort of escape this quarantine, this is as perfect a book as you could imagine." 
CriterionCast Book Club

“Porter’s gripping, subtly hopeful work of literary speculative fiction is shaped by remarkable world-building elements and acute observation of human frailties and impetus.”
Booklist, Starred Review

 “In Porter’s surreal, introspective debut, a benevolent alien invasion leads humanity into a utopia, exploring themes of grief and discontentment within a seemingly perfect world . . . Readers will delight in the eerie disquietude and optimism of this well-calibrated what-if.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“An intoxicating takeover narrative, its promises as appealing on their surfaces as they are frightening in their implications . . . The Seep is a daring paean to human vulnerability and a bold speculative inquest into what makes life worth living.” 
—Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

“This surreal debut takes on themes of utopia, identity, love, and loss, while readers are pulled into a full experience through Porter’s fluid prose. This unusual story will linger long past the last page.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“Porter’s surreal novel puts a new spin on alien invasion.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Reminiscent of Sheri S. Tepper and Ursula K. Le Guin, especially with the themes of female empowerment, LGBT+ identity, and explorations of what it really means to be human as explored from the lens of an entity that is not . . . What could have been dark is lightened by some humor and a surrealistic, fantasy-like environment that swirls around you like a Dali painting.”
—Readasaurus Reviews

“This is an entirely surreal reading experience that explores identity—queer and racial, self and inherited—in an organic and necessary manner. A must-read for everyone.”
—Avery Peregrine, Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park, WA)

“I honestly don’t know how to review this book. Any attempts I would make to describe it, and the post-existential questions it poses, would not do it any justice. If you like political science fiction, or just weird stories, pick up this book. It reads incredibly quickly, and keeps a hold of your thoughts long after you put it down.”
—Left Bank Books (St. Louis, MO)

“A unique take on an alien invasion. The Seep makes everything better, but does it? The Seep helps you see the inner-connectivity of all life, but at what cost? What happens to your individuality and free will in a world where there is no conflict? A great book about how we define ourselves and our humanity.”
—James Wilson, Octavia Books (New Orleans, LA)

“What I love most about The Seep is that it’s two parts questions to one part answers. It does a great job of clearing up certain gray areas, and it actually gives some answers to the hard questions it asks—but it also leaves area for speculation and thought. The Seep will leave you begging for more, and I can’t wait to see what Chana Porter whips up next.”
—Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books (Punta Gorda, FL)

Publishers Weekly

★ 11/18/2019

In Porter’s surreal, introspective debut, a benevolent alien invasion leads humanity into a utopia, exploring themes of grief and discontentment within a seemingly perfect world. The Seep, a well-meaning, symbiotic alien entity, causes hierarchies to breakdown, enhances technology beyond humankind’s wildest dreams, and functions as a mind-expanding drug that eliminates human mortality and grants people the power to transform their appearance at will. When Trina Goldberg-Oneka’s wife Deeba decides to reexperience her life from babyhood, Trina, a 50-year-old trans woman who remains suspicious of the changes wrought by the Seep, refuses to transition from the role of wife to mother, ending their relationship. Trina shakes her subsequent alcoholic depression just long enough to take on a “vengeful quest” to confront a former friend whom she fought with years before over identity politics, and to save a lost boy from the effects of the Seep. Porter employs profound compassion and gentle humor to convey Trina’s fear of change and distrust of complacency. Readers will delight in the eerie disquietude and optimism of this well-calibrated what-if. Agent: Sarah Bolling, The Gernert Company. (Jan.)

Library Journal

★ 11/01/2019

DEBUT Aliens have come to Earth and brought about an era of contentment and bliss. The Seep has connected everything, and the world as it once was no longer exists. Still, some do hold onto pieces of themselves as autonomous, free-willed beings, including Trina Goldberg-Oneka, an American Indian trans woman. While Seep-tech has expanded Trina's career as a doctor, she sees the effects that living fully in the Seep had on those around her. Now her wife, Deeba, has chosen a restart of her life, being reborn as a baby. Consumed with grief and anger, Trina wallows emotionally and physically until a chance encounter with a young boy untouched by the Seep sets her on a journey that will cause her to face her past, her emotions, and everything the Seep has given and taken from humanity. VERDICT This surreal debut takes on themes of utopia, identity, love, and loss, while readers are pulled into a full experience through Porter's fluid prose. This unusual story will linger long past the last page.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641292153
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/08/2020
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 377,635
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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.

Customer Reviews