Joss Lake’s debut novel “Future Feeling” tells the story of three trans men who are caught in a digital hex gone awry. I spoke to the author about imagining a future with trans men at the center and what he hoped to express through this surreal adventure in the multidimensional trans experience.
Marks-Joseph: I believe “Future Feeling” is a story that plays many roles and serves multiple purposes: a love letter to the trans community, an example of the kind of caring that those in positions of power and ‘access could queer community, a welcome invitation to people who question their gender or try to imagine a world where they come out or transition and find community. Why did you write this book?
Lake: I wrote the book to reconcile, or at least deepen, the tensions between what confines us and what might free us, in terms of trans identity, media, relationships, past, and selfhood. I was also drawn to this character, Penfield, who has a rather myopic way of looking at the world at the beginning of the book. I wanted to immerse him in a narrative universe where he could find new ways. I thought a lot about adulthood and what defines this stage on a deeper level. What came out was attention – learning to take care of yourself and others in a generous way, instead of following a linear path to some type of family structure or financial success.
In the book, the curse that triggers action seems to function as a commentary on influencer culture in trans spaces. Pen’s antagonistic feelings towards Aiden, a trans influencer, are visceral and relatable, and I loved that you maintained the sense of pushing and pulling between awe and frustration as their relationship developed. Was there a specific moment that inspired you with this concept?
When I was in transition, the most accessible space to search for other trans people (aside from friends and locals in my town) was on social media, and as a writer – and nobody – I was drawn to and completely exasperated by the performance I saw. It was difficult to reconcile the facades that I walked through with the internal complexity that I experienced around the transition. I wanted to explode this distinction, between inner and outer worlds, and that was part of what energized this project. Of course, it’s much more complicated than “social media is bad”; I understand the urge to flex, both physically and in other ways, and wanted to give the characters space to explore their many desires.
How did you decide where to draw the line to make “Future Feeling” linked to the present time and where to go to the future? I especially liked the availability of holograms on Instagram’s book version and fashion following NASA funding, as I was surprised to read that Black Lives Matter was still an ongoing fight.
I wanted to be realistic about the speed of human evolution and the nature of time. There have been major changes in technology over the past 10, 50, 100 years, leading to easy optimism in linear progress. When we look deeper we often find that there have been radical and liberating rulers and thought patterns throughout time and that even as our technology does develop, our society is quite vulnerable to reactionary thinking about it. otherness, especially when it comes to people of color in the United States
“What cis people don’t know is that trans people often have the same ridiculous questions about ourselves as you do, but are just more motivated for a deeper investigation.” I wondered, reading this line, who did you write with as an audience? What do you hope this will be for trans readers, compared to cis readers?
I think the book is generous, and my goal is not to exclude a cis audience. In fact, while trans people often carry a lot of cultural weight around issues of transition and authenticity and gender roles, all of these messy concepts extend to individual experiences. I certainly wanted the space to explore the nuances of the lives of these specific trans characters, but in a way that hopefully would illuminate or relate to the same dilemmas many readers have about how to live and how. to be and relate to others.
I would love to hear the story behind creating a character who is a trans man separated from his parents under China’s previous one-child policy. It was an absolutely overwhelming moment for me. However, I did not find any information on a similar situation when I searched for it. I was hoping for essays, reports and at least one VICE documentary! What inspired this choice?
At one event, I heard a writer share how she and her partner adopted a young girl from China and how they made dumplings together to celebrate her culture. I had read about the trauma of transracial adoption and I couldn’t help but imagine the child going back over those well-meaning moments with a lot of resentment and confusion. As a transracial adoptee, Blithe has aspects of his life and past that Pen and Aiden cannot fully understand or support, and as a white writer I wanted to model by giving this character a space to be. understand outside of a white community or context.
Why the decision to make Pen a dog walker and especially for the rich? He felt delightfully anti-capitalist in his outspoken and often hilarious exposition of the rich, with the grass catchers for dogs peeing on lawns and detailed reports of their dogs’ stools. Am I reading too much?
Pen’s portrayal as a dog walker is definitely anti-capitalist and also reflects the reality of expensive cities like New York and LA, where artists often have jobs in the service industry and there is a clear separation between their ‘hours. work ”and other aspects of their lives. Making Pen a dog walker also helped her develop her “skills” to become an operator (Pen’s dream job: a futuristic trans mentor). He has to learn to separate himself from the alluring nature of other people’s lives, smells and interiors, and we see him erect more of a border around himself as he goes from dog walker to Rhiz Operatrix.
See a full review of Joss Lake’s “Future Feeling” here.
Find out more in the June 9-15, 2021 issue.