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Bloodchild and Other Stories (original 1984; edition 1996)

by Octavia E. Butler

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8102311,256 (4.19)36
Member:sturlington
Title:Bloodchild and Other Stories
Authors:Octavia E. Butler
Info:Open Road Integrated Media (2012), E-book
Collections:Kindle
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Short stories, 1990s, African American

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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These stories will burrow into your brain like a grub into an achti carcass.

(Trigger warning for rape and sexual/reproductive exploitation.)

The truth is, I hate short story writing. Trying to do it has taught me much more about frustration and despair than I ever wanted to know.

Yet there is something seductive about writing short stories. It looks so easy. You come up with an idea, then ten, twenty, perhaps thirty pages later, you've got a finished story.

Well, maybe.


Don't let Butler's apparent distaste for short stories fool you; many of the stories collected here are shiny little masterpieces in their own right.

(...although I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't also love to see several of the stories fleshed out into full-length novels; "Bloodchild," "Speech Sounds," and "Amnesty," I'm looking at you!)

The second edition of Bloodchild and Other Stories includes seven short stories (five previously published, two brand spanking new) and two essays (both reprints). While the essays offer advice to aspiring writers as well as insights into Butler's childhood ("Shyness is shit." might be the realest, rawest sentence in the whole damn book), the stories are that wonderfully creepy, complex, unsettling, and ultimately deeply profound brand of SF/F that I've come to associate with Butler: earth-based worlds characterized by rapidly crumbling dystopias, or alien societies in which the human survivors are forced into untenable compromises with their extraterrestrial saviors/overlords. Each piece is followed by a brief (but enlightening) Afterward penned by the author herself.

* Previously Published Stories *

"Bloodchild" - Faced with a dying planet and crumbling society, a group of humans fled earth, only to arrive on a planet already occupied: by the Tlics, an intelligent species of giant, segmented, worm-like creatures. After much warring that proved costly to both sides, the two groups reached a tenuous peace agreement: the humans would be given a home on the Preserve, but in exchange some settlers - men, primarily - would be "adopted" by Tlic families, ultimately required to carry and birth their young in a gruesome and sometimes fatal process. Against this backdrop, a boy named Gan must come to terms with his future servitude to family friend T'Gatoi, the Tlic government official in charge of the Preserve. Inspired by botflies, Butler describes "Bloodchild" as her "pregnant man story." (©1984; first published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.)

"The Evening and the Morning and the Night" - No miracle drug comes without a cost - at least not in the realm of science fiction. In "The Evening and the Morning and the Night," the downside to curing cancer manifests in the form of Duryea-Gode Disease (DGD), a debilitating and often fatal disorder that, at best, causes its victim to "drift" - dissociate from his or her surroundings, in a sort of fugue state. At worst, it causes aggression, usually in the form of self-harming behaviors. Sufferers may gouge out their own eyes, flay themselves alive, even cannibalize their own body parts.

Lynn witnessed these horrors for herself, when her parents - both afflicted with the illness - took her to a DGD institution as a sort of punishment for going off her strict diet - the only thing known to keep symptoms at bay. Like many DGD kids, Lynn's an overachiever - trying to cram as much into her unexpectedly short life as possible - but when she visits her fiance Alan's mother in an innovate DGD "retreat," she finds that her special strain of hereditary DGD is a gift as well as a curse. (©1987; first published in Omni Magazine.)

"Near of Kin" - In the wake of her estranged mother's death, the MC must come to terms with her unhappy childhood - and unusual parentage. Butler describes it as as "a sympathetic story of incest" inspired by the Bible. ("This was, of course, not exactly what my mother had in mind when she encouraged me to read the Bible.") A more contemporary, earthly tale, "Near of Kin" doesn't quite fit with the other stories, all of which have a SF/F bent. Even so, I found it an engaging read. (©1979; first published in Chrysalis 4.)

"Speech Sounds" - In a future dystopia, a mysterious and devastating illness has robbed many humans of their ability to use and even understand language - written as well as spoken. Nothing more than hairless chimps, humans have been reduced to communicating with grunts, gestures - and violence. On the way to Pasadena to search for her long-lost brother, Valerie Rye has lost everything: not just her husband and children, but her purpose in life as well teaching and writing). She connects with a mysterious stranger in an LAPD uniform - just another vestige of a forgotten past - long enough to lose him; and, in her grief and despair, discovers that her work isn't done quite yet. (©1983; first published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.)

"Crossover" - A factory worker is haunted by her disfigured jailbird lover. (©1971; first published in Clarion.)

* Previously Published Essays *

"Birth of a Writer" - In fragments and flashbacks, Butler shares her obsession with writing and her development as a (black, female, science fiction) writer. (©1989; first published in Essence.)

"Furor Scribendi" - "A Rage for Writing" offers advice to new and aspiring writers. (©1993; first published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume IX.)

* New Stories *

"Amnesty" - Twenty years ago, a group of plant-like aliens known as the Communities landed on earth via a one-way shuttle, with no way to leave or return home. They quickly established "bubbles" in dry desert lands - 37 of them worldwide - and, like scientists with lab animals, they set about studying their strange new neighbors: humans. After several waves of abductions, much suffering and death, and a brief but decisive war (we lost), humans and Communities reached an impasse. Though they heralded a global depression, the Communities are exceedingly wealthy, thanks to the resources they're able to extract from deep within the earth's surface. In exchange for a handsome salary, select humans are given fixed-term jobs in the bubbles, teaching the Communities about human culture and allowing themselves to be "enfolded" within their employers - a powerful drug for humans and Communities alike.

Abducted as child and kept for twelve long years, Noah is one of just thirty people who are able to communicate with the Communities; in fact, she helped them develop their shared language. Now working as a Translator, it's her job to find new recruits to work in the bubbles. But with the prevailing mistrust of and outright hostility toward these alien invaders - and, by extension, herself - Noah's work isn't always easy...or even pleasant. Yet communication is vital to ongoing peace, so translate she must.

"The Book of Martha" - God tasks Martha Bes - a black, middle-aged writer of fantasy - with saving the human species from itself. Her answer is the only kind of utopia that Butler could imagine working: your own personal utopia that comes to you in dreams.

While all the stories are both enjoyable and thought-provoking, I preferred those planted firmly in the realm of science fiction; in particular, "Bloodchild," "The Evening and the Morning and the Night," "Speech Sounds," and "Amnesty." The exploitative extraterrestrials in "Bloodchild" and "Amnesty" are reminiscent of the Oankali who populate Lilith's Brood (and Noah begs a comparison to the titular Lilith); and Rye, the protagonist of "Speech Sounds," feels a distant cousin to Lauren Olamina of the Parables duology. This is classic Butler, alright, pared down to short story form. And it is glorious.

A must for Butler fans; those looking to diversify their shelves; and anyone who just plain loves great scifi.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2015/03/04/bloodchild-and-other-stories-by-octavia-but... ( )
  smiteme | Feb 25, 2015 |
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 |
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The truth is, I hate short story writing.
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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
"Bloodchild"
"The Evening and the Morning and the Night"
"Near of Kin"
"Speech Sounds"
"Crossover"
"Positive Obsession" (essay)
"Furor Scribendi"(essay)
"Amnesty"
"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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