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Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E.…

Bloodchild and Other Stories (original 1984; edition 1996)

by Octavia E. Butler

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7902311,626 (4.19)36
Title:Bloodchild and Other Stories
Authors:Octavia E. Butler
Info:Open Road Integrated Media (2012), E-book
Tags:Science fiction - collection, Feminist SF, African American, 1990s, 2012

Work details

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler (1984)

  1. 30
    Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars by Nisi Shawl (goddesspt2)
  2. 10
    Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by John Joseph Adams (sturlington)
    sturlington: Contains the Butler story "Speech Sounds." If you like that story, you might like other stories in the collection.

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You should read this book. If you are a fan of science fiction you should read this book. If you are not a fan of science fiction you should read this book. If you have never heard of Octavia Butler you should read this book. And if you, like me, had some minor experiences with Octavia Butler's work but never really felt it was your cup of tea, then you should definitely read this book. In one small collection, my appreciation of her work shot sky high.

This small collection contains (according to the dust jacket) Butler's entire output of shorter work – five short stories and two essays. My first reaction is that I wish she had written more short fiction – these are all deserving of the accolades they received (two stories won Hugo awards and one of those the Nebula). And they are making me rethink my aversion to her novels. (I have no grounds for that aversion; as I noted, my original impression of her work was just not really favorable and I assumed that carried into her novels.)

Five short stories exploring strange situations and providing very human reactions. With "Bloodchild" we are immediately thrown into a nearly unexplainable world. It takes a few paragraphs before we can really tell who are the aliens and who are the humans. Eventually we learn that, on a land far from earth, a very strange symbiosis has developed between the humans and the aliens. (Can we call them aliens? After all, it is their world.) Butler describes this as her "pregnant man" story, but that really does not do it justice. Yes, men's bodies are used as hosts, but that is only the premise for the story. Butler dives into the main characters and reveals the gut-wrenching decisions that need to be made. And it is a story based on love – even if it doesn't seem so at first. Give this one a Hugo and a Nebula.

In "The Evening and the Morning and the Night", a cancer drug has caused some patients to mutilate themselves in disgusting ways. Unfortunately, the side effect comes from a change in the genes – a gene that can be passed on to the children. The story is told from the perspective of one of those children – a college student –who is trying to figure out what this means for herself and for her fellow sufferers. There is redemption in the end, but it is not clear redemption – just a hope. Sometimes, just having hope is the most true form of optimism about which an author can write.

"Speech Sounds" is another story with a premise involving new diseases. In this case, the disease affects the brain in an almost stroke-like manner – rendering everyone unable to communicate (speech, writing, etc.) It is an anti-utopia where, in spite of the existence of some cooperation, one can see an "A Boy and His Dog" environment in the future. This, too, is a story that ends in hope. And it is an ending that, in less skilled hands, might have been a bit too saccharine. No such problem with Butler. Give this one a Hugo.

The two other stories are slightly weaker, but good nonetheless. "Near of Kin" (the only story that is not science fiction) shows us a young girl whose mother has just died – a mother who basically abandoned her. She finally learns the truth about the situation. Slightly disturbing, and yet Butler has the ability to make sympathetic characters out of individuals whom might not be seen that way in a different light. "Crossover" is a relatively depressing story of young woman working in a factory. She comes home to find her boyfriend/companion/lover (?) out of jail and waiting for her. Yes, this one has a fantasy element.

Finally, the two short essays – autobiographical essays – are very good. The first, "Positive Obsession", is Butler's quick recap of her life and how she became a writer. It is succinct, but revealing. And it goes a long way toward explaining the type of work Butler produces. The second, "Furor Scribendi", is a compact version of the talk she gives to new writers. Nothing profound here, but some excellent advice. (You want it in a nutshell? Persist!)

In addition to the material, Butler has provided Afterwords to each of the pieces. While some people dislike this approach (hey, you don't like it, just don't read it), I always like hearing what the author has to say about her work.

I don't normally worry about reviewing every entry of a collection – it all seems to take too much time and, sometimes, describing a short story seems to take more time than reading it. But these stories are special, and this collection is special. And it deserves your time ( )
  figre | Jan 1, 2015 |
Friday Flashback: Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler (Open Road Media, $14.99).

If you’re already a fan of Octavia Butler, you won’t need to be told how good these stories are; if you’re not a fan, what are you waiting for? Go read them now.

The most famous is the title story, “Bloodchild,” which is a sort of “if men could get pregnant” tale—although in this case, the men in question have more in common with invertebrates.

That’s what’s so wonderful about science fiction. You can call someone spineless and it’s not an insult.

Also in this collection is ”The Evening and Morning of the Night,” a sort of pseudo-creation story (“and it was morning and evening, the first day” is from Genesis), but in this case, a hereditary disease brings madness and self-destruction.

And one of my all-time favorites, “Speech Sounds,” set in a post-apocalyptic L.A., where people can neither make nor understand speech—in fact, they can no longer recognize words. The gypsy bus driver puts up pictures of what he’ll take in trade for rides, and people who recognize language are suspect. It’s not an accident that this story was selected for a Hugo Award.

This collection also includes two essays on writing, ”Positive Obsession” and “Furor Scribendi,” as well as two previously uncollected stories, ”Amnesty” and “The Book of Martha.”

Bottom line: Whether she’s dissecting human nature by looking at aliens or making humans seem alien by questioning our assumptions, you won’t do better than Butler. ( )
  KelMunger | May 8, 2014 |
There are too few stories in this book. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
There are too few stories in this book. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
Second book for the twenty-four hour readathon!

Bloodchild and Other Stories is -- unsurprisingly -- a collection of short stories. The book comes with an introduction by Octavia Butler which explains that she wasn't very good at short stories, because most of them weren't meant to be short stories. The ones in this volume, however, were. And each story comes with an afterword by Butler, explaining what she thinks needs to be said about the story.

Bloodchild: I found this quite disturbing, especially when I'd read Butler's afterword about what inspired the story. Her ideas, though, are fascinating, and it's fascinating to know where they came from. It didn't take long for me to pick up what was happening in the story, though I felt a bit at sea at the start. It has themes that link in with her other writing, not surprisingly -- people being bound together, the responsibilities people who are bound together have for each other, co-existence of different races, and though she says it isn't about that, yes, slavery.

The Evening and the Morning and the Night: A story about genetic diseases and self-destruction, and again, about responsibility -- if you can help someone, do you have to? Scary, yes, and always likely to be relevant. The afterword offers a little reading list, which is nice.

Near of Kin: A sympathetic story about incest, as the afterword says. Not at all speculative fiction.

Speech Sounds: This one reminded me of Day of the Triffids and books like that. It's sort of post-apocalyptic, with the apocalypse being the loss of communication for most people. It's a punch in the gut, in the middle, but it does end with hope.

Crossover: I didn't like this one very much, and wasn't entirely sure what was going on. Again, not speculative fiction, more like realism. The afterword does make sense of it.

Positive Obsession: An essay about how Octavia Butler came to be a writer, with the last section being about what use this has been to black people. Worth reading, and not at all tedious -- quite short, actually.

Furor Scribendi: A very short piece on what you have to do to write. Pity I only have this on my Kindle, I'd like to print it out and show it to the other members of my creative writing group. Particularly the guy who refuses to listen to me when I correct his grammar and punctuation. I like the way she called a creative writing workshop "rented readers".

Amnesty: Back to short stories. The usual themes of Octavia Butler's work crop up here, and if I wasn't in the middle of a readathon, I'd be looking up the story that inspired this -- the real life of Doctor Wen Ho Lee. It's an interesting story, another aliens-coexisting-with-humans one.

The Book of Martha: A black female author is asked by God to make the world a better place. Octavia Butler's attempt at creating a utopia -- a fascinating idea, and I agree with her that a utopia is a very difficult thing to construct, because it would be different for each person.

The one irritating thing about this book was that, unlike many Kindle books, you couldn't jump between the beginnings of the different stories. You just have to go straight through linearly. No complaints about the content -- the stories were different, though they had similar themes in several cases, and Butler's writing style is matter of fact and easy to read. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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The truth is, I hate short story writing.
If you work hard enough at something that doesn't matter, you can forget for a while about the things that do.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Collects these stories
"The Evening and the Morning and the Night"
"Near of Kin"
"Speech Sounds"
"Positive Obsession" (essay)
"Furor Scribendi"(essay)
"The Book of Martha"
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A collection of chilling fiction, including Hugo and Nebula Award-winning stories, from Octavia E Butler.

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Seven Stories Press

2 editions of this book were published by Seven Stories Press.

Editions: 1583226982, 1583228039

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