Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia Butler

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Besides her exceptional novels, Octavia Butler has published a collection of her short fiction entitled Bloodchild and Other Stories. The opening story in the collection is her Hugo and Nebula award winning story, the title story, "Bloodchild". This is what she has called her "male pregnancy story" and it features an Earth which has been taken over by some sort of alien creatures who form symbiotic relationships with humans, but who also use humans to breed their young and usually males because impregnating females means fewer humans will be born which means fewer young of their own kind. It was an interesting story.

My favorite of the collection, however, is her Hugo winning story "Speech Sounds". Some sort of cataclysm has hit our planet, one which has robbed humanity of the ability to speak and in some cases regressed the mental development of humanity to a more base level. Set in Los Angeles, "Speech Sounds" shows the loss of communication and what that does to society and we see it through the eyes of one woman who was on a bus when an incident occurred.

"The Evening and the Morning of the Night" is a story which sticks with the reader, though with me it was for the wrong reason I believe. This story features a hereditary disease which causes some people to lose their mind and try to dig their way out of their own skin and it is that image of people trying to do that to themselves that sickened me a bit, even though all that action occurred off camera, if you will. Interesting as a concept and well written, it is also one I would rather forget.

"Near of Kin" is Butler's one non-science fiction story and it is a story about family and perceived family. Quite good, but it would belong more in another collection than in a genre collection like this.

I did not remember "Crossover" two minutes after I finished.

Bloodchild and Other Stories also includes two essays on writing and being a writer and for all their brevity, they are interesting as a mini biography of Butler and also for the glimpse of her publishing career. The glimpse I was most struck by was that after selling two stories at Clarion, she then went five years before selling another piece of work. Five years! For an author of Butler's talent! This explains, of course, Butler’s mantra of: Persist.

Each story or essay is followed by an Afterword written by Butler giving a little bit of context or explanation as needed to the piece of fiction (or non fiction).

The edition of Bloodchild and Other Stories I was able to read was not the expanded edition which featured two more short stories. This edition, succinct as it is, is worth reading for fans of the genre and especially for fans of Octavia Butler.

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