Katie's Reviews > Bloodchild and Other Stories

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
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Aug 20, 11

Read from July 30 to August 05, 2011

Are they good? Yes, they're good. That I could talk for hours about each story made them relevant, striking, and layered to me. In short, great fiction.

Does that mean I enjoyed them? Eh....

Butler has a lot to say about social responsibility. If you want to live among people, you have to pay a tax. If you expect to be happy for yourself, you must learn how to be happy for others. I suspect Butler is a wiser, more selfless person than I'll ever be, but there's something her ragingly self-destructive altruism that makes me want to plug my ears and go "lalalalalalalalala." She would probably tell my I'm fighting my destiny to spoonfeed orphan tentacle babies or something.

Bloodchild = 8/10. Damn. Good. Story. Damn. Great-okay nevermind it's fugging disgusting. Kid witnesses a horrific birth and realizes the alien who wants to butt plumb him might not be as nice as she seems. It's more complicated than that, but if you remember anthing other than "the blind probing of her ovipositor," your book is missing a page.

The afterword stresses this is not a slavery story. Butler went on to stress in multiple interviews this is not a slavery story. I call bullshit, and suspect Butler resisted the interpretation on the basis of people reading into her race. A story about humans living in preserves, ignorant of the outside world, and unable to have discourse about their own reproductive future is slavery. T'Gatoi subdues the family with narcotics, manipulates Gan into accepting the inherent contradictions of his situation, curbs defiant behavior.....It's not racial, but it is imprisonment. Butler has always said the story was about "symbiosis" between two species, but whatever power Gan gains over T'Gatoi is lost when manipulates him into saving his sister from the same fate. How is this a love story again?

If anything, it's a nice parable on gender roles. The horror of Gan getting a bellyful of eggs or giving birth is, well, only horrifying because he's a man prized for procreation. Well played, Butler. Not as horrifying as this being a "paying the rent" story, but still.

The Evening and the Morning and the Night = 6/10. A girl and her beau deal with being genetic time bombs. What the title means....I dunno, live life day to day? Skewed more towards the realistic than Bloodchild, but where the fuck did that ending come from? Scent? Really? Olfactory cues are the one thing keeping highly disturbed psychotics on good behavior?

Near of Kin = 5/10. A woman sorts through the debris of her mother's life while chatting it up with her dad....uncle. Duncle? Not a spec-story, and not terribly interesting.

Speech Sounds = 8/10. One of the best dystopia shorts in sf....until the ending. Most end-of-the-world stories end well (where else can you go but up?) but this felt too much like authorial kindness. Boyfriend shot in the face? Here's two kids to feed and wipe. Feel better now?

Crossover = 4/10. A woman walks home from her shitty job to find her killer boyfriend waiting for her....or her dead boyfriend....or make-believe boyfriend or....something.

Positive Obsessiob & Furor Scribendi = 3/10. Two essays, one autobiographical, both forgettable. Neat that she still mentions Clarion.

Amnesty = 9/10. A translator tries to convince six applicants that the aliens who tortured her are no worse than their own kind.....that and how to say "can I take your order" in alienese. More enjoyable than Bloodchild, with as much subtext.

The Book of Martha = 7/10. God wants Martha to fix the universe. Martha makes God the most disgusting tuna sandwich ever penned to paper. Good luck, God.
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