Literary Fiction by People of Color discussion

Wild Seed (Patternmaster, #1)
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Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Tomorrow is November 1 and we will begin the discussion of Octavia E. Butler's groundbreaking work, Wild Seed. If there is no one else who has strong feelings about leading this discussion, I will lead it because this is a book that was transformative for me. This was the first book I read by Octavia Butler, and I had never read anything remotely like it before. (This was back in 1980.) I would love to know the reactions of others when they read Butler for the first time. We'll start tomorrow, but I wanted to mention, for those who had difficulty in finding this book, that it is included in the volume Seed to Harvest that includes Butler's whole Patternist series - Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay's Ark, and Patternmaster. That book may be easier to locate.

Here is Butler's New York Times obituary:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/01/boo...

If you have never heard Butler speak, you can hear her on YouTube. Here's a good one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgeyVE...

There's a ton of information about Butler here:

http://octaviabutler.net/

I'm excited about this discussion! Happy reading!


message 2: by Toni (new)

Toni (mshoni) | 41 comments I combed through my shelves and found a copy of Seed to Harvest! When book hoarding works! LOL


Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments I finished Wild Seed over the weekend and cannot wait to discuss it with the group! This is the second book I've read by Butler. (Kindred was the first, and I thought was phenomenal.)


Risa | 7 comments I finished Wild Seed about 2 months ago. I can't wait to discuss with the group.


Lady K | 11 comments I started reading Wild Seed this morning and so far so good. I'm totally drawn in. This will be my second book by Octavia Butler, the first being Kindred. That book was awesome and I hope this book will be too!


Sarah Weathersby (saraphen) | 261 comments I just got to Book II, but I'm doing NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org) this month. I'll finish during my procrastination times.


Renee (reneebergeron) | 75 comments This book is not available on the Kindle, so I was unable to read it. I have not had time to try and find it in paperback... boo. I might miss this discussion, and I dearly love Ms. Butler.


Risa | 7 comments To piggyback of off what Wilhelmina said about Octavia Butler's being transformative for her, Kindred literally changed my life after I read it. It was the type of book that changed the way I think, feel, and see the world. I loved it.


Adrienna (adriennaturner) | 555 comments This is not my first read by Octavia Butler since my dad is a syfy junkie and in 2007, I read her first book in the Xenogenesis series called "Dawn" and didn't get to the second book in the series since this was just an okay read for me.

This is another book I see with a series--that the synopsis sounds intriguing and ready to read. I got the book a couple days ago but had to finish another read since I'm in three online book clubs (including this one) and a reviewer. I will be reading it this week.

My friend advised me to read Kindred by her back in 2007/08 and will get to it eventually too!


message 10: by Jean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jean | 140 comments I have been trying for years to take a closer interest in speculative fiction. I have read several and a couple were good reads, however, when I read Wild Seed, I could not put it down and I milked it for all it was worth. Butler, made a believer out of me.


Continualknowledge | 41 comments I will say I was a little skeptical when I first picked up Wild Seed, wasn't sure I was ready for science fiction. I never read this genre. But ever since reading Kindred in high school, I've been an Octavia Butler fan. So like many of you, the book was awe inspiring and impactful. Looking forward to the discussion since I've finally finished a book.


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Having first read this book 30 years ago, I am thrilled that I am enjoying my reread so much. 30 years ago, speculative fiction was dominated by white males. There were a few brilliant women - Ursula K. Le Guin comes to mind right away - but to my knowledge, Samuel R. Delany was the only prominent African American science fiction writer, and I wasn't aware of his work until later. When I read "Wild Seed", I could hardly believe what I was reading. I had never encountered characters that were even remotely like Doro and Anyanwu. To see the acclaimed Black women speculative fiction writers today - Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K. Jemisin, and Karen Lord, among others - is so exciting for me and is, in my opinion, a part of Butler's legacy. I was a major Octavia Butler fan and I was heartbroken that we lost her much too soon.

Please continue to share your thoughts about Butler and her works while everyone is catching up on reading. Since this novel is divided into 3 books, I would like for us to spend the first week or so on Book 1 - Covenant - 1690. To begin, what were your initial impressions of Doro and Anyanwu?


Renee (reneebergeron) | 75 comments I have read Kindred (one of my all-time favorites!), Fledgling, Parable of the Sower and the Xenogensis books.

So far, the only one I did not care for was Parable of the Sower. I do have the next one, Parable of the Talents (I think?) in paperback.. but, not sure if or when I will ever get to it.

Wild Seed has long been on my list to read, and I am so bummed that it is not in ebook format. Also, we only have one bookstore where I live, and it is not there. :-(

Wilhelmina, the first Butler book I read was Fledgling, quite by accident, about 2 years ago. I remember after I finished it, I was so excited because I thought it screamed sequel. I was so bummed when I found that Ms. Butler had already died and there would be no more.


message 14: by Rosie (new)

Rosie | 3 comments I read a lot of speculative fiction back in the 70s, including Octavia Butler's work and eventually gave up reading in that genre. These books are not 'literary fiction' in my opinion. Like all genre books they are repetitive in format & often theme as well, and as a result, they become predictable reading. Although I admired Octavia as a person and felt her writing was certainly competent, I never felt her work offered anything new to the field. But please note that I would say the same is true for most speculative fiction writers.


message 15: by Nicole (last edited Nov 02, 2011 06:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments @ Rosie. I completely disagree. I think Butler's works are absolutely the highest calibar of literary fiction. Michael Chabon once wrote that "entertainment has a bad name" because people have a narrow defintion of what it means. I think the same is true of science fiction or whatever we are calling Butler's genre. I think the genre is almost besides the point. She tells a compelling story and her characters are psychologically complex. To me, it doesn't matter if the protagonist is an alien or an ordinary woman. Both Anyanwu and the protagonist in Kindred are women dealing with subjugation and the tyranny of powerful men and oppressive societies. I also think Butler's writing style is lean and fluid. Beautiful, complex, and compelling storytelling--the mark of great fiction.


message 16: by Nicole (last edited Nov 02, 2011 06:02PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments Wilhelmina wrote: "Having first read this book 30 years ago, I am thrilled that I am enjoying my reread so much. 30 years ago, speculative fiction was dominated by white males. There were a few brilliant women - [aut..."

I could tell that Doro was going to be trouble and I was concerned for Anyanwu who seemed a bit naive. I think she knew she had no choice but to go with him so she kept rationalizing to herself why it wouldn't be so bad. I found it very similar to the protagonist's thinking in Kindred--each time lowering the threshhold of what she would tolerate.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 1 comments Just ordered a copy. Will join in discussion as soon as it arrives.


Sarah Weathersby (saraphen) | 261 comments I never thought Octavia Butler's books fit the Science Fiction genre, even though the copy of Wild Seed that I'm reading says "Doubleday Science Fiction." I always thought her work was more social commentary than science.

Tananarive Due is my favorite "Supernatural" Author. I have read all of her African Immortals series. I was surprised and delighted to find that Octavia Butler published this book of African Immortals before Ms. Due was born. Ms. Butler's spirit lives on.


message 19: by William (last edited Nov 03, 2011 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

William (be2lieve) | 1239 comments Mod
I plan(ned) to pick up a copy of Wild Seed from the library tonight but all available copies are listed as shelved in the Teen section, which I imagine is somewhere between YA and childrens. I've read 2 of the Parables and Kindred and enjoyed them but I'm not particularly fond of most YA SF. Those that have finished, is it because Butler has another YA protagonist or does the novel read undercooked YA SF?


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments I don't even have a clue as to why this book would be in the Teen section, Bill. I just checked my library system and all copies of this book, as well as Butler's other books,are in the Adult section. That's certainly where I would put them. Strange.


Adrienna (adriennaturner) | 555 comments Not sure, I just requested it from the library but wasn't paying attention what area it was in.


Adrienna (adriennaturner) | 555 comments I'm still trying to get into T. Due; so far, I love L.A. Banks in the supernatural/paranormal section.


William (be2lieve) | 1239 comments Mod
@ Mina. Its been awhile but the Parable heroine was a teen right? Perhaps that was the librarians thinking when choosing where to put Wild Seed.


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Maybe so, but that was a very lazy librarian. The protagonists here are as far from teenagers as you can get!


message 25: by B. (new) - rated it 4 stars

B. (booksnobwannabe) | 1 comments I read Wild Seed in August and I am slowly getting through the entire series. Cannot wait to hear everyone's opinion of the book!

Can I suggest we do the entire series or is that doing too much? LOL


Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments B. wrote: "I read Wild Seed in August and I am slowly getting through the entire series. Cannot wait to hear everyone's opinion of the book!

Can I suggest we do the entire series or is that doing too much..."

Let's do it!


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Our monthly selections are chosen by poll, but if group members want to continue the discussion of the rest of the series at the end of the month, you are very welcome to do so!


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments Sarah wrote: "I always thought her work was more social commentary than science."

Nelly wrote: "Both Anyanwu and the protagonist in Kindred are women dealing with subjugation and the tyranny of powerful men and oppressive societies."

Does anyone have an opinion yet about these two statements? I know that many people are still reading, but the dynamics between Doro and Anyanwu are present right from the beginning of the book.


Adrienna (adriennaturner) | 555 comments Not reading yet. Had to do a review. I hope to get it on within a week or so.


Hazel | 191 comments I've got an old copy somewhere. I'm going to try to find and read it this weekend. I may be a little late to the discussion, but I'll be around.

Like some of you, I hold Butler in high esteem. Hers were the first sci-fi books I read where the protagonists were credible black women. I found Zenogenesis and the Parables thoughtful and thought-provoking and Octavia was my hero.

Oh, and I consider the split between literary and genre fiction spurious. :-)


message 31: by Rashida (new)

Rashida | 264 comments Well, I found Butler when I was a teenager. I think I started with Parable of the Sower and from there devoured Every. Single. One. of her books. Some, multiple times. But, try as I might, I can't bring details to my mind for the discussion. Her work has transcended into one big feeling for me. I know that I have her themes and plotlines completely absorbed into my being. But, I think it's time for me to start rereading.


Karen | 16 comments William wrote: "I plan(ned) to pick up a copy of Wild Seed from the library tonight but all available copies are listed as shelved in the Teen section, which I imagine is somewhere between YA and childrens. I've r..."

Hi William, here in DC the new approach is to create a Teen Space in the main and new branch libraries. So anytime they have enough copies of an adult book that's also popular with teens, like "Push" or "Kindred" they will shelve some in the teen section. (Don't worry, Octavia Butler is not Stephanie Meyer.)


William (be2lieve) | 1239 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "William wrote: "I plan(ned) to pick up a copy of Wild Seed from the library tonight but all available copies are listed as shelved in the Teen section, which I imagine is somewhere between YA and c..."

I live in PG work in DC and borrow from both systems. In PG she is in Teen and Adult in DC. Go figure. But I did notice that almost ALL SF titles were shelved in the teen section in PG.


Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments Well, if her books are in the teen section in some places that just means that kids will be exposed to her writing sooner!


Karen | 16 comments Nelly wrote: "Well, if her books are in the teen section in some places that just means that kids will be exposed to her writing sooner!"

I think the goal here was to expose teens to adult literature without exposing adult patrons to teens. :)


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments How is the reading coming along? Can anyone respond to message 30 yet?


message 37: by Dree (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dree | 32 comments I have made it all the way to page 32, and am being reminded why I generally avoid science fiction. I am hoping if I can stick it out to page 100 I will get into it. I like the setting and writing, it's the morphing and aging that just doesn't do it for me. But we'll see.


Desiree (desmoro) | 31 comments Newcomer to the group here *waves* I thought I was going to miss out on this discussion as I didn't have the book. Fortunately I was able to obtain a copy this weekend and started reading this morning. I'll be back when I've read a fairly good portion or when I'm done with it.


Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments Dree wrote: "I have made it all the way to page 32, and am being reminded why I generally avoid science fiction. I am hoping if I can stick it out to page 100 I will get into it. I like the setting and writing,..."

I thought the beginning of the book was a bit lacking because of the spare description of the setting. I just couldn't picture where they were. But as I read further I got caught up in the relationship between the two characters and, actually, the morphing. I love the idea of not being confined by the a single appearance.


Lady K | 11 comments Adrienna wrote: "This is not my first read by Octavia Butler since my dad is a syfy junkie and in 2007, I read her first book in the Xenogenesis series called "Dawn" and didn't get to the second book in the series..."


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments One issue that struck me was the question of what constitutes slavery. Enslavement by Doro was different from the slavery of the trans-Altantic slave trade, but did you consider it better? Worse? What about Anyanwu? Was she enslaved?


Karen | 16 comments There was no doubt the "Doro's people" belonged to him and had to do his will or suffer the consequences. His treatment of his people also mirrored some familial relationships where one person, parent or spouse, has absolute dominion. It was the lack of freedom regarding their own life choices that made everyone, including Anyanwu, slaves. His people were only free when they lost their life. Anyanwu was only free when she rejected her humanity.


Continualknowledge | 41 comments Wilhelmina wrote: "Sarah wrote: "I always thought her work was more social commentary than science."

Nelly wrote: "Both Anyanwu and the protagonist in Kindred are women dealing with subjugation and the tyranny of po..."


I think I have to agree with Sarah. I've only read the two book, Kindred and Wild Seed and I have always been surprised that they were labeled as science. I think in her special way she highlights women, black women as the controllers of their destiny and future with major impact on their fate. But showcasing their strength and powers which are often overlooked when compared with "majority" powers, she shows that black women should be extremely proud of who they are, how they love, how they showcase that love and their amazing feats at holding family together. So social commentary in the sense that yes, black women are subjugated to oppression by outsiders and insiders but they have strength that resonates within and across generations that enables them and their loved ones to succeed.


Continualknowledge | 41 comments Wilhelmina wrote: "One issue that struck me was the question of what constitutes slavery. Enslavement by Doro was different from the slavery of the trans-Altantic slave trade, but did you consider it better? Worse? W..."

Hmmm I've been thinking about this question of judging one slavery against the other and I have to say I think slavery of any kind is bad. Doro's slavery may not have been as harsh in some cases but it still took away the freedom of a people to live, love and experience life on their own terms. He took away a great many freedoms as did any slave holder and I don't think kindness makes it any better. I think the book portrays that those "kept" by Doro thought it could've been better.

I also think Anyanwu was enslaved as well. She was enslaved to the idea of keeping her family alive and safe at whatever cost. Doro did that to her. While we all go to grave extents to keeping our loved ones safe, she paid for that safety with her life and her freedom to live as she wanted and with whomever she wanted. It goes back to the statement of life under the tyranny of power by men.


message 45: by Hazel (last edited Nov 09, 2011 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Hazel | 191 comments I have to say I think slavery of any kind is bad.

I finally found the book and rediscovered my intense dislike of Doro the manipulative, exploitative slavemaster. What a bastard. There is something particularly ugly, too, about the manipulation of people's genetics and their families. (Why do I feel that? Is there something sacred about our reproductive biology?)

This was definitely not my favourite Butler story, and I'm not enjoying the reread. I am reminded, however of the Xenogenesis trilogy, whose premise is the manipulation of human genetics by an alien species.

re question 30: I agree, this one isn't sci-fi, is it? I suppose you could call it fantasy? And certainly, I recognise the themes of power and tyranny,and how the oppressed can find their own strength.


Adrienna (adriennaturner) | 555 comments I will see soon. I know I tried to read the first book of Xenogenesis book and didn't like it but will try to finish the trilogy...syfy junkie on TV though. I heard this one may be interesting but really want to read Kindred.


message 47: by Dree (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dree | 32 comments If you look at Wikipedia's Science Fiction page, this book very much fits the genre. I myself love a good dystopia or post-apocalyptic book, but this kind of SF is not for me. (And actually, I like fantasy even less.)

I do like her style, and I suspect I would love the book if it didn't involve shape-shifting and whatnot :) But I was a history major and still love reading nonfiction history and historical fiction, and I am loving the historical aspect, such as it is.

As for manipulating genetics and families--wasn't that also part of slavery (in the US--I don't know much about other countries)? Manipulating and controlling people by selling/threatening/making examples of? Wanting women to have more children? I fully see why you find it ugly.


Wilhelmina Jenkins | 2049 comments How much of Doro's ugliness do you think is just a result of his longevity and what he has to do to maintain it?


Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments Wilhelmina wrote: "One issue that struck me was the question of what constitutes slavery. Enslavement by Doro was different from the slavery of the trans-Altantic slave trade, but did you consider it better? Worse? W..."

Slavery is slavery so, yes, I think Anyanwu was definitely enslaved. She was manipulated emotionally from the start by a man/being incapable of real human emotion. Although she was a strong and beautiful human being and found a way to persevere in the oppressive environment Doro created,she had to compromise herself and her beliefs. *SPOILER ALERT* By the end of the book she has somewhat tamed Doro but she is still under his control.Anyanwu is a healer, so she will never make destroying Doro her mission (unless he goes back to the way he was perhaps)and as a reader I understood that but found that incredibly frustrating. Until Doro is destroyed, she will never truly be free.


Nicole (chaitea2) | 17 comments Nelly wrote: "Wilhelmina wrote: "One issue that struck me was the question of what constitutes slavery. Enslavement by Doro was different from the slavery of the trans-Altantic slave trade, but did you consider ..."

One more thing. The part about the hermit with the sores and the stand off that ensues between Doro and Anyanwu when she heals him is a perfect example of how Doro is all about controlling her. That, to me, was one of the cruelest parts in the book.


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