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Bloodchild and Other Stories (original 1984; edition 1996)

by Octavia E. Butler

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3031136,938 (4.11)39
Member:sturlington
Title:Bloodchild and Other Stories
Authors:Octavia E. Butler
Info:Open Road Integrated Media (2012), E-book
Collections:Read but unowned, Kindle
Rating:****
Tags:SFF - short fiction, 1990s, African American, women writers, read in 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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The short collections contains an introduction, 5 stories and 2 essays. The author also added notes at the end of each story about why she wrote the story and what she was thinking when writing it. According to the cover, these are all the stories that Butler had published up to the year when the book had published (1995).

In the introduction, Octavia E. Butler explains that she does not like writing short stories. Considering that she is pretty good at it, that comes as a bit of a surprise. But she also admits that some stories need to be short stories - they cannot work otherwise.

"Bloodchild" (1984) would have been classified straight into the horror genre if it was published today. It is technically a science fiction story - humans living on a different planet together with an alien race. Butler complains in her note that too many people read this story as a slavery story and I am not surprised - this is how it sounds to me as well. Yes - it is somewhat of a love story but the humans are forced to help their hosts to survive. It is extremely disturbing story but at the same time it is also a exploration of how humanity can live in a planet where it is not the race at the top of the evolutionary chain. It is an ugly picture - but it is a strangely good story. And it deserves all the awards it had won. And it is one of the most terrifying stories I had read - not because it is pushed too much into the horror realm but because it sounds as something that might be.

"The Evening and the Morning and the Night"(1987) is a cautionary tale about the result of drugs that had not be fully tested. Of course, it takes a while for that story to emerge - it starts with something that resembles zombies. It will also end up as a zombie story - but from the type that does not sound stale and similar to every story someone had read. I loved this story - it was subtle enough (for the most part) even if it, as much as the first one, really belong to the horror genre. It is a story about blessings and curses and where the line between them is. And then in the notes, Butler explains the science she used and mixed together and added a list of recommended works if someone wants to explore some of the issues. This note was at least as entertaining as the story itself.

"Near of Kin" (1979) is a strange story. It is very well written but I do not understand what it is making in a book of science fiction story. I really disliked where it went and why - even if I can recognize a good story, I really did not like it. The note about it was also quite disturbing. I am not sure that I can ever think of incest in a good way.

"Speech Sounds" (1983) is another story that will probably stay with me for a very long time. In a future where a disease had damaged the human brains, people had lost the ability to talk, recognize speech or read. Some rare individuals still have some of those abilities but most of the humans had slipped back in time. And in the middle of this, Rye decides to visit her family - or at least the area where the family used to be. Things go wrong on the way there and in a few short hours she will find and loose a friend; and then find the future and hope. It is a marvelous little story - you know how awful that past is but it still manages to be such a hopeful story.

"Crossover" (1971) is hardly genre story. It gets credit as genre but for me it is more mainstream than a lot of what passes for mainstream lately. Hallucinations (even when it is not clear if they are hallucinations when you talk to them) are not genre. On the other hand, it does not really matter. The story is a pretty bleak counterpart to the previous one - where the other started bleak and ended up hopeful, this one starts bleak and goes bleaker. I am not sure how much I understood of this story - and if I did not miss anything but it was a short and bitter examination of a relationship that had ended abruptly and a life that had pushed a woman to her limits. And yet she somehow persists.

The two essays had also been published before:

"Positive Obsession" (1989 as "Birth of a Writer") - autobiography in 10 pages (small ones at that). The love of reading, the love of writing and how you become a science fiction writer when you are black and a woman. These days authors publish books about that. Butler used the short form - and did it a lot better than a lot of the long books I had read.

"Furor Scribendi" (1993) - and almost as a companion piece comes the advice piece - the advice to people that want to be writers. Short, sweet and powerful..

And then in the "about the author section", there is a quote from Butler: "I write about people who do extraordinary things. It just turned out that it was called science fiction." And that is probably one of the best definitions of the genre I grew up with.

Highly recommended and I need to correct the absolutely unforgivable fact that I had never read any of her novels. ( )
2 vote AnnieMod | Jul 31, 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 |
This is spooky and good. ( )
  veracite | Apr 7, 2013 |
This is spooky and good. ( )
  veracite | Apr 6, 2013 |
This is spooky and good. ( )
  veracite | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
The truth is, I hate short story writing.
Quotations
If you work hard enough at something that doesn't matter, you can forget for a while about the things that do.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
There seems to be two different versions of this collection - this one is the original containing 5 stories and 2 essays (all reprints)
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Blurbers
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Book description
Collects these stories
"Bloodchild"
"The Evening and the Morning and the Night"
"Near of Kin"
"Speech Sounds"
"Crossover"
"Positive Obsession" (essay)
"Furor Scribendi"(essay)
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A collection of chilling fiction, including Hugo and Nebula Award-winning stories, from Octavia E Butler.

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