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Future Feeling: A Novel (Paperback)
June 2021 Indie Next List
“I loved this novel about trans queer belonging, found families, and our need to be connected and understood no matter how advanced we become. Also — succulents and witchcraft!”
— Nikki Siclare, Newtonville Books, Newton Centre, MA
An embittered dog walker obsessed with a social media influencer inadvertently puts a curse on a young man—and must adventure into mysterious dimension in order to save him—in this wildly inventive, delightfully subversive, genre-nonconforming debut novel about illusion, magic, technology, kinship, and the emergent future.
The year is 20__, and Penfield R. Henderson is in a rut. When he's not walking dogs for cash or responding to booty calls from his B-list celebrity hookup, he's holed up in his dingy Bushwick apartment obsessing over holograms of Aiden Chase, a fellow trans man and influencer documenting his much smoother transition into picture-perfect masculinity on the Gram. After an IRL encounter with Aiden leaves Pen feeling especially resentful, Pen enlists his roommates, the Witch and the Stoner-Hacker, to put their respective talents to use in hexing Aiden. Together, they gain access to Aiden's social media account and post a picture of Pen's aloe plant, Alice, tied to a curse:
Whosoever beholds the aloe will be pushed into the Shadowlands.
When the hex accidentally bypasses Aiden, sending another young trans man named Blithe to the Shadowlands (the dreaded emotional landscape through which every trans person must journey to achieve true self-actualization), the Rhiz (the quasi-benevolent big brother agency overseeing all trans matters) orders Pen and Aiden to team up and retrieve him. The two trace Blithe to a dilapidated motel in California and bring him back to New York, where they try to coax Blithe to stop speaking only in code and awkwardly try to pass on what little trans wisdom they possess. As the trio makes its way in a world that includes pitless avocados and subway cars that change color based on occupants' collective moods but still casts judgment on anyone not perfectly straight, Pen starts to learn that sometimes a family isn't just the people who birthed you.
Magnificently imagined, linguistically dazzling, and riotously fun, Future Feeling presents an alternate future in which advanced technology still can't replace human connection but may give the trans community new ways to care for its own.
About the Author
Joss Lake is a trans writer and educator based in New York whose work has been supported by Queens Council of the Arts, Women and Performance Studies Collective, the Watermill Center, and Columbia University. He runs a literary sauna series called Trans at Rest. This is his debut novel.
A Harper's Bazaar Best LGBT Book of the Year
An O, The Oprah Magazine LGBTQ Book That Will Change the Literary Landscape Next Year
One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year
An LGBTQ Reads Most Anticipated Book of the Year
"Set in a klieg-lit technicolor near-future, Lake’s antic debut novel tells the story of two trans men who have to rescue a third from an emotional purgatory called the Shadowlands, where he was banished after a hex went astray." —The New York Times Book Review, New & Noteworthy
"If you’re looking for a book that ties together millennial hustle-culture ennui, magic, trans identity, and influencer culture (plus about a dozen other themes), look no further than Joss Lake’s debut, which is sure to stay on your mind long after you’ve finished the final page." —Emma Specter, Vogue
"This fantastic debut centers trans characters and friendships in ways that will have you laughing, reflecting and relating. Set in the near-future, Lake imagines a queer hero’s journey that is vivid, imaginative and immersive." ––Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
"This is a taste of what it means for a novel to give zero fucks." —Hillary Kelly, Vulture
"There’s a lot going on in this zippy debut novel, where author Joss Lake conjures a near-future America stuffed with trippy technological advancements, queer magic, and regular old human dysfunction . . . Reading Future Feeling feels like watching a marathon of the Melissa Joan Hart version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch while on a pharmaceutical dose of psilocybin. To be clear: I mean that as a compliment. It’s an original, trippy caper." —Kate Knibbs, Wired
"Why can't real life be as vivid and glistering and riotous as it is in Lake's novel, in which Bushwick dog-walker Pen Henderson goes on an epic journey to save Blithe, a young trans man that Pen and his friends accidentally hexed via an Instagram post of an aloe plant? The answer to these questions, of course, is that maybe real life can be as magical as the one Lake describes—as long as we work toward dismantling our preconceptions of who we're supposed to be, rather than who we actually are. If it's Joss Lake's world, we'd all be better for living in it—it'd certainly be more colorful, and we'd all have really incredible names." —Kristin Iversen, Refinery29
"Future Feeling’s title announces the formidable force that emotions hold in this futuristic world . . . Like 94 percent of real life, it’s high stakes and big feelings about minor-seeming stuff." —Maggie Lange, The Cut
"I wanted to read a book that was smart and a little bit pissed off but not so cynical that it wasn’t also luminously, optimistically enthralled with the world and all the ways we might figure out how to live inside it. Future Feeling is that book . . . The book is not utopic, but it is filled with tenderness—a reminder for its readers that these days a real appraising eye sees not only decline but connection and potential as well." —Ari Braverman, The Believer
"Part sci-fi, part fantasy, part trans Brooklynite millennial saga, Future Feeling revels in its own chaos . . . This book is fun: hexes, moonlit rituals, a pet plant named Alice the Aloe, and well-placed critiques of gender, capitalism, and the alienating nature of advanced technology all abound. I’m still not sure how to classify Future Feeling—but defying neat categorization is kind of the point." —Mira Braneck, The Paris Review
"Future Feeling is a rambunctious novel full of hilarious, sly language games—but also advanced technology close enough to our own to feel relatable, dream-like flights of fanciful imagination, and an overarching concern with how trans and queer folks might form communities with one another . . . Reading it feels like falling through a bunch of fever-dreams strung across the landscapes of New York and LA, shared among famous and non-famous queers. At moments cruel, at others funny, it’s a worthwhile read that strikes at something of the now." —Lee Mandelo, Tor
"A trans man armed with the power of self-reflection embarks on a hero’s journey . . . akin to a queer millennial version of The Alchemist, complete with proverbs and personal growth . . . This is a modern allegory with a unique voice—searching, questioning, vulnerable, witty." ––Kirkus Reviews
"Set in the near future, Lake’s quirky, chaotic debut follows trans man Penfield Henderson as he wrestles with his self-destructive impulses and stumbles his way toward finding a queer community . . . This coming-of-age journey through the surreality of gender will please readers seeking speculative queer fiction." ––Publishers Weekly
"I devoured this funny, charming book of trans friendships and sly cultural commentary; a story about what truly matters for those of us lost in the maelstrom of identity and media. Here’s how unable I was to put it down: I accidentally dropped it in the toilet, fished it out, and kept right on reading." —Torrey Peters, author of Detransition, Baby