Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal

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.

“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

“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 Dalí painting.”
—Readasaurus Reviews

“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

Interview with Chana Porter

Chana Porter’s novel, The Seep, was published in January 2020 by Soho Press.  The Writer caught up with her as she began the new decade with a bang:

GC: Tell us about your new book! 

The Seep is my first novel– a fraught, emotionally driven exploration of grief and loss in an utopic future, created by a gentle but paradigm shifting alien invasion. I began it as my MFA thesis at Goddard, under the guidance of Nicola Morris, Rachel Pollack, and later John McManus.  

GC: What about your thesis is Goddardly?  

Over my two years at Goddard I narrowed my focus to studying complex futures in science fiction, particularly focused on feminist and queer leaning books. My long paper was a comparison of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Delany’s Trouble on Triton, through the lens of Foucault’s writings on heterotopia. Sounds rather academic, but I really relished studying the paths that had already been trodden. It helped me place my own work in a larger cannon, and then I could actually make something different, something new, by really understanding what already came before me.  

GC: What about the Goddard process had an impact on your own creative process?  

I’ve always been a wide and voracious reader, but the annotations as part of the MFA thesis were invaluable to me. The 2-3 page papers which focused on a single aspect of each book greatly helped me understand the mechanics of writing. I’m a very intuitive writer, and I could study something in another person’s work before I could understand it in my own. That’s good advice– write from your gut, then hone your critical thinking skills enough to actually see what you’re doing.  

I also can’t stress enough how similar the advisor/packet process is to having an agent, at least for me. My agent and I meet for lunch every once in a while because we like each other, but all of the real editing work is done over email. Learning how to receive notes and integrate them into my work remotely was something I developed at Goddard. It’s served me very well.  

GC: How do you, as a writer, respond to the world around you?   

My greatest life lesson at Goddard was from the previous head of the MFA Paul Selig, who reminded me that I can’t go through life as a bifurcated person, showing only one side of myself in hopes to blend in or to fit a certain situation. I bring my whole self to what I do now– warts and all. And this means telling people that I care about them, and that I care about the world. I am no longer trying to play it cool or be detached and witty. I use my platform as an author to talk about the things I care about, like environmental racism, climate change, prison abolition, the wage gap.  

GC: What advice would you give an emerging writer or prospective Goddard student? 

Goddard is an excellent program which meets the writer where she is. I think it’s the best place to write the book your soul is ready to write. You certainly put in what you get out. The teachers are wonderful, the student body diverse in every possible way.  

As for general advice for writers– emerging writers should commit to and enjoy the process of writing. It’s a deep process of engaging with your own heart and mind. Everything comes up, and there are myriad opportunities to dig deeper, to see clearer, and to commit to loving yourself more fully. I can’t imagine a more worthwhile way to spend your precious time.  

GC: What’s next for you? 

My second novel is almost complete! I’m on a book tour with The Seep right now, with upcoming dates in Seattle 2/21 in conversation with Goddard professor Rebecca Brown and Portland, OR on 2/25. More dates this spring– you can see them updated at chanaporter.com/the-seep  

Later this summer, my play We Are Radios will be presented in workshop setting with Shotgun Players in Berkley, CA, August 3 & 4.

Chana Porter

Chana Porter

MFAW, Vermont 2015

Chana Porter, writes the NY Times, “uses incongruity and exaggeration to suggest some midnight-dark truths about human life and endeavor.” She is an emerging playwright, speculative novelist, and education activist. Her plays have been developed or produced at The Flea TheaterPlaywrights HorizonsThe Catastrophic TheatreLa MaMaRattlestick Playwrights TheatreCherry LaneThe Invisible Dog,  & Movement Research. Houston Press writes “Porter’s type of risky storytelling is, well…. like a lion’s roar in an all too often timid jungle.” She is a MacDowell Fellow, a New Georges Audrey Resident, a Target Margin Artist-in-Residence, and the recipient of Honorable Mention for the Relentless Prize. She is currently writer-in-residence at The Catastrophic Theatre in Houston. Chana is the co-founder of the Octavia Project, a free summer writing and STEM program for Brooklyn teenage girls and non-binary youth. She has taught her embodied creativity course Writing from the Body at University of Houston, Fordham University, Hampshire College, Goddard College, Weber State, and with Sarah Lawrence’s Global Classroom. Her debut novel, The Seep, is was published by Soho Press in 2020.

Also by Chana:

Part of the 2016 La MaMa Puppet Series
Conceived and Directed By Randolph Curtis Rand
Written by Chana Porter
Puppetry by Benjamin Stuber
An Eric Borlaug Production

On the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s creation, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, Phantasmagoria assembles a swirl of puppetry, biography, and storytelling into a market of ghosts…The dead walk among us.

The Catastrophic Theatre presents the World Premiere of LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR by Chana Porter. Directed by Tara Ahmadinejad with Original Music by Andrew Lynch. Video production by Full Media Jacket.

Chana Porter takes us back to the early ’90s in a suburban planned community, the first of its kind in America, for a subversive, mischievous, and oh-so-familiar (or is it?) look at childhood.  

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