You Hexed the Wrong Influencer. Now What?: Future Feeling by Joss Lake Review

Future Feeling by Joss Lake

Available on Bookshop.Org*
Genre: Near Future Sci-Fi/Contemporary Fantasy (I’d call this slipstream!)
Recommendation: Borrow

Joss Lake’s debut novel, Future Feeling, begins with Penfield Henderson hacking into the Gram of Aiden Chase, a perfectly sculpted influencer who posts his abs alongside vaguely inspirational sayings every day. However, the hex meant for Aiden goes awry, leading another trans man into the Shadowlands (a place that trans people travel through as they work through their transition). The world itself is a new future version of ours, albeit with color-changing mood readers and holoprojector technology.

Many of the issues feel urgent, particularly in this contemporary moment. It covers beautiful people on social media inciting feelings of self-doubt and the inability to get over something that you really out to get over. In addition, it has several moments that feel painfully self-aware of current conditions. There are moments where Pen, Aiden and Blithe finally find comfort in their masculinity, only for an operatrix of the Rhiz reminds them not to get too comfortable and complacent. After all, masculinity is a tool of oppression (at least according to the operatrix).

This commentary is interesting to me, because I feel like one of the difficulties of trans identities (at least in the current moment) is how few people there are to teach you how to be trans. As a white trans person, I came to my identity without really understanding beforehand what it meant to experience cissexism in the world and my initial transition was done without much social support. However, once I started getting connected to other trans people, I learned how to navigate oppression and understand the wide variety of experiences. In this book, the Rhiz is trying to imagine a more widespread and common version of these almost-familial relationships between trans people.

In this way, Future Feeling is in the same vein as utopian works of speculative fiction, or at least alternate future works. It acknowledges the shortcomings of online interactions (since much of Pen's discomfort and difficulty with Aiden lessened once they started interacting in person).  As someone whose social world changed drastically during this pandemic, I feel like online spaces have made it harder to genuinely interact with interact with each other, and it's not a true replacement for in person communities. I've seen enough cruelty meted out when the harm to the other person wasn't visible.

Fittingly, this book is about relationships within communities, including how to make amends when you harm people within your community. Aiden and Pen are ultimately thrown together because Pen was trying to harm Aiden, but harmed Blithe instead. Having to directly interact with Aiden forces Pen to come to terms with what he did and Aiden’s humanity. Engaging with the Rhiz, an organization meant to connect trans people, also means that the main characters are both supported in their needs and reminded to support others within their community.

As much as I can wax poetically about the deeper meaning of this books and its take on transness, it's a wonderful read if you're into a technicolor future and characters trying to undo harm that they caused.

Pick It Up If:

  • The phrase “Sending muscular love and light from NYC” makes you want to hex an influencer
  • Surreal LA vibes that lean into our current influencer culture, with all its hustle and flamboyance
  • Books that are ultimately about how we can have better relationships, with a focus on community or friendships

Representation Notes:

  • White trans man main character
  • Additional secondary trans characters, including a Chinese transracial adoptee main character and a large organization of trans people
  • Author is a trans man

Content Warnings:

  • Explicit sex scenes
  • Drug use by main character
  • Depression of secondary character as a major plot arc

Not Sold? Check Out Other Reviews:

Next Week's Review: Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh (Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country)

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