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Bloodchild: And Other Stories

Bloodchild: And Other Stories

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Bloodchild: And Other Stories

avaliações:
4.5/5 (57 avaliações)
Comprimento:
218 página
3 horas
Lançado em:
Jul 24, 2012
ISBN:
9781453263662
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

Six extraordinary stories from the author of Kindred, a master of modern science fiction—including a Hugo and Nebula award–winning novella.

Octavia E. Butler’s classic “Bloodchild,” winner of both the Nebula and Hugo awards, anchors this collection of incomparable stories and essays. “Bloodchild” is set on a distant planet where human children spend their lives preparing to become hosts for the offspring of the alien Tlic. Sometimes the procedure is harmless, but often it is not. Also included is the Hugo Award–winning “Speech Sounds,” about a near future in which humans must adapt after an apocalyptic event robs them of their ability to speak. “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” another esteemed title in this collection, is a Nebula Award finalist. In these pages, Butler shows us life on Earth and amongst the stars, telling her tales with characteristic imagination and clarity. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate. 
Lançado em:
Jul 24, 2012
ISBN:
9781453263662
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) was a bestselling and award-winning author, considered one of the best science fiction writers of her generation. She received both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and in 1995 became the first author of science fiction to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also awarded the prestigious PEN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. Her first novel, Patternmaster (1976), was praised both for its imaginative vision and for Butler’s powerful prose, and spawned four prequels, beginning with Mind of My Mind (1977) and finishing with Clay’s Ark (1984). Although the Patternist series established Butler among the science fiction elite, it was Kindred (1979), a story of a black woman who travels back in time to the antebellum South, that brought her mainstream success. In 1985, Butler won Nebula and Hugo awards for the novella “Bloodchild,” and in 1987 she published Dawn, the first novel of the Xenogenesis trilogy, about a race of aliens who visit earth to save humanity from itself. Fledgling (2005) was Butler’s final novel. She died at her home in 2006.

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Amostra do Livro

Bloodchild - Octavia E. Butler

Bloodchild

And Other Stories

Octavia E. Butler

Contents

Preface

-Stories-

Bloodchild

The Evening and the Morning and the Night

Near of Kin

Speech Sounds

Crossover

-Two Essays-

Positive Obsession

Furor Scribendi

-New Stories-

Amnesty

The Book of Martha

A Biography of Octavia Butler

Preface

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.

My earliest collections of pages weren’t stories at all. They were fragments of longer works—of stalled, unfinished novels. Or they were brief summaries of unwritten novels. Or they were isolated incidents that could not stand alone.

All that, and poorly written, too.

It didn’t help that my college writing teachers said only polite, lukewarm things about them. They couldn’t help me much with the science fiction and fantasy I kept turning out. In fact, they didn’t have a very high opinion of anything that could be called science fiction.

Editors regularly rejected my stories, returning them with the familiar, unsigned, printed rejection slips. This, of course, was the writer’s rite of passage. I knew it, but that didn’t make it easier. And as for short stories, I used to give up writing them the way some people give up smoking cigarettes—over and over again. I couldn’t escape my story ideas, and I couldn’t make them work as short stories. After a long struggle, I made some of them work as novels.

Which is what they should have been all along.

I am essentially a novelist. The ideas that most interest me tend to be big. Exploring them takes more time and space than a short story can contain.

And yet, every now and then one of my short stories really is a short story. The five stories in this collection really are short stories. I’ve never been tempted to turn them into novels. This book, however, has tempted me to add to them—not to make them longer, but to talk about each of them. I’ve included a brief afterword with each story. I like the idea of afterwords rather than individual introductions since afterwords allow me to talk freely about the stories without ruining them for readers. It will be a pleasure to make use of such freedom. Before now, other people have done all the print interpretations of my work: Butler seems to be saying … Obviously, Butler believes … Butler makes it clear that she feels …

Actually, I feel that what people bring to my work is at least as important to them as what I put into it. But I’m still glad to be able to talk a little about what I do put into my work, and what it means to me.

-Stories-

Bloodchild

MY LAST NIGHT OF childhood began with a visit home. T’Gatoi’s sister had given us two sterile eggs. T’Gatoi gave one to my mother, brother, and sisters. She insisted that I eat the other one alone. It didn’t matter. There was still enough to leave everyone feeling good. Almost everyone. My mother wouldn’t take any. She sat, watching everyone drifting and dreaming without her. Most of the time she watched me.

I lay against T’Gatoi’s long, velvet underside, sipping from my egg now and then, wondering why my mother denied herself such a harmless pleasure. Less of her hair would be gray if she indulged now and then. The eggs prolonged life, prolonged vigor. My father, who had never refused one in his life, had lived more than twice as long as he should have. And toward the end of his life, when he should have been slowing down, he had married my mother and fathered four children.

But my mother seemed content to age before she had to. I saw her turn away as several of T’Gatoi’s limbs secured me closer. T’Gatoi liked our body heat and took advantage of it whenever she could. When I was little and at home more, my mother used to try to tell me how to behave with T’Gatoi—how to be respectful and always obedient because T’Gatoi was the Tlic government official in charge of the Preserve, and thus the most important of her kind to deal directly with Terrans. It was an honor, my mother said, that such a person had chosen to come into the family. My mother was at her most formal and severe when she was lying.

I had no idea why she was lying, or even what she was lying about. It was an honor to have T’Gatoi in the family, but it was hardly a novelty. T’Gatoi and my mother had been friends all my mother’s life, and T’Gatoi was not interested in being honored in the house she considered her second home. She simply came in, climbed onto one of her special couches, and called me over to keep her warm. It was impossible to be formal with her while lying against her and hearing her complain as usual that I was too skinny.

You’re better, she said this time, probing me with six or seven of her limbs. You’re gaining weight finally. Thinness is dangerous. The probing changed subtly, became a series of caresses.

He’s still too thin, my mother said sharply.

T’Gatoi lifted her head and perhaps a meter of her body off the couch as though she were sitting up. She looked at my mother, and my mother, her face lined and old looking, turned away.

Lien, I would like you to have what’s left of Gan’s egg.

The eggs are for the children, my mother said.

They are for the family. Please take it.

Unwillingly obedient, my mother took it from me and put it to her mouth. There were only a few drops left in the now-shrunken, elastic shell, but she squeezed them out, swallowed them, and after a few moments some of the lines of tension began to smooth from her face.

It’s good, she whispered. Sometimes I forget how good it is.

You should take more, T’Gatoi said. Why are you in such a hurry to be old?

My mother said nothing.

I like being able to come here, T’Gatoi said. This place is a refuge because of you, yet you won’t take care of yourself.

T’Gatoi was hounded on the outside. Her people wanted more of us made available. Only she and her political faction stood between us and the hordes who did not understand why there was a Preserve—why any Terran could not be courted, paid, drafted, in some way made available to them. Or they did understand, but in their desperation, they did not care. She parceled us out to the desperate and sold us to the rich and powerful for their political support. Thus, we were necessities, status symbols, and an independent people. She oversaw the joining of families, putting an end to the final remnants of the earlier system of breaking up Terran families to suit impatient Tlic. I had lived outside with her. I had seen the desperate eagerness in the way some people looked at me. It was a little frightening to know that only she stood between us and that desperation that could so easily swallow us. My mother would look at her sometimes and say to me, Take care of her. And I would remember that she too had been outside, had seen.

Now T’Gatoi used four of her limbs to push me away from her onto the floor. Go on, Gan, she said. Sit down there with your sisters and enjoy not being sober. You had most of the egg. Lien, come warm me.

My mother hesitated for no reason that I could see. One of my earliest memories is of my mother stretched alongside T’Gatoi, talking about things I could not understand, picking me up from the floor and laughing as she sat me on one of T’Gatoi’s segments. She ate her share of eggs then. I wondered when she had stopped, and why.

She lay down now against T’Gatoi, and the whole left row of T’Gatoi’s limbs closed around her, holding her loosely, but securely. I had always found it comfortable to lie that way, but except for my older sister, no one else in the family liked it. They said it made them feel caged.

T’Gatoi meant to cage my mother. Once she had, she moved her tail slightly, then spoke. Not enough egg, Lien. You should have taken it when it was passed to you. You need it badly now.

T’Gatoi’s tail moved once more, its whip motion so swift I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t been watching for it. Her sting drew only a single drop of blood from my mother’s bare leg.

My mother cried out—probably in surprise. Being stung doesn’t hurt. Then she sighed and I could see her body relax. She moved languidly into a more comfortable position within the cage of T’Gatoi’s limbs. Why did you do that? she asked, sounding half asleep.

I could not watch you sitting and suffering any longer.

My mother managed to move her shoulders in a small shrug. Tomorrow, she said.

Yes. Tomorrow you will resume your suffering—if you must. But just now, just for now, lie here and warm me and let me ease your way a little.

He’s still mine, you know, my mother said suddenly.

Nothing can buy him from me. Sober, she would not have permitted herself to refer to such things.

Nothing, T’Gatoi agreed, humoring her.

Did you think I would sell him for eggs? For long life? My son?

Not for anything, T’Gatoi said, stroking my mother’s shoulders, toying with her long, graying hair.

I would like to have touched my mother, shared that moment with her. She would take my hand if I touched her now. Freed by the egg and the sting, she would smile and perhaps say things long held in. But tomorrow, she would remember all this as a humiliation. I did not want to be part of a remembered humiliation. Best just be still and know she loved me under all the duty and pride and pain.

Xuan Hoa, take off her shoes, T’Gatoi said. In a little while I’ll sting her again and she can sleep.

My older sister obeyed, swaying drunkenly as she stood up. When she had finished, she sat down beside me and took my hand. We had always been a unit, she and I.

My mother put the back of her head against T’Gatoi’s underside and tried from that impossible angle to look up into the broad, round face. You’re going to sting me again?

Yes, Lien.

I’ll sleep until tomorrow noon.

Good. You need it. When did you sleep last?

My mother made a wordless sound of annoyance. I should have stepped on you when you were small enough, she muttered.

It was an old joke between them. They had grown up together, sort of, though T’Gatoi had not, in my mother’s lifetime, been small enough for any Terran to step on. She was nearly three times my mother’s present age, yet would still be young when my mother died of age. But T’Gatoi and my mother had met as T’Gatoi was coming into a period of rapid development—a kind of Tlic adolescence. My mother was only a child, but for a while they developed at the same rate and had no better friends than each other.

T’Gatoi had even introduced my mother to the man who became my father. My parents, pleased with each other in spite of their different ages, married as T’Gatoi was going into her family’s business—politics. She and my mother saw each other less. But sometime before my older sister was born, my mother promised T’Gatoi one of her children. She would have to give one of us to someone, and she preferred T’Gatoi to some stranger.

Years passed. T’Gatoi traveled and increased her influence. The Preserve was hers by the time she came back to my mother to collect what she probably saw as her just reward for her hard work. My older sister took an instant liking to her and wanted to be chosen, but my mother was just coming to term with me and T’Gatoi liked the idea of choosing an infant and watching and taking part in all the phases of development. I’m told I was first caged within T’Gatoi’s many limbs only three minutes after my birth. A few days later, I was given my first taste of egg. I tell Terrans that when they ask whether I was ever afraid of her. And I tell it to Tlic when T’Gatoi suggests a young Terran child for them and they, anxious and ignorant, demand an adolescent. Even my brother who had somehow grown up to fear and distrust the Tlic could probably have gone smoothly into one of their families if he had been adopted early enough. Sometimes, I think for his sake he should have been. I looked at him, stretched out on the floor across the room, his eyes open, but glazed as he dreamed his egg dream. No matter what he felt toward the Tlic, he always demanded his share of egg.

Lien, can you stand up? T’Gatoi asked suddenly.

Stand? my mother said. I thought I was going to sleep.

Later. Something sounds wrong outside. The cage was abruptly gone.

What?

Up, Lien!

My mother recognized her tone and got up just in time to avoid being dumped on the floor. T’Gatoi whipped her three meters of body off her couch, toward the door, and out at full speed. She had bones—ribs, a long spine, a skull, four sets of limb bones per segment. But when she moved that way, twisting, hurling herself into controlled falls, landing running, she seemed not only boneless, but aquatic—something swimming through the air as though it were water. I loved watching her move.

I left my sister and started to follow her out the door, though I wasn’t very steady on my own feet. It would have been better to sit and dream, better yet to find a girl and share a waking dream with her. Back when the Tlic saw us as not much more than convenient, big, warm-blooded animals, they would pen several of us together, male and female, and feed us only eggs. That way they could be sure of getting another generation of us no matter how we tried to hold out. We were lucky that didn’t go on long. A few generations of it and we would have been little more than convenient, big animals.

Hold the door open, Gan, T’Gatoi said. And tell the family to stay back.

What is it? I asked.

N’Tlic.

I shrank back against the door. Here? Alone?

He was trying to reach a call box, I suppose. She carried the man past me, unconscious, folded like a coat over some of her limbs. He looked young—my brother’s age

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  • (4/5)
    In all respect to Octavia Butler, whom I hold in the highest admiration, I can only rate this anthology 3½***. It includes "Blood Child" (one of my favorite stories PERIOD, not just a favorite sci-fi story), and it also includes the very fine "Speech Sounds," but too much else is filler, including some non-fiction essays. By her own admission, Butler much preferred writing novels over shorter writings. Absolutely get this anthology for "Blood Child" and "Speech Sounds" but don't expect all that much else from it.
  • (4/5)
    I am not much of a science-fiction fan. I chose to read Bloodchild and Other Stories because I had read somewhere that there was a short story in it, Speech Sounds, that imagines a society (due to a virulent disease) that has lost the ability for speech comprehension, along with losing the ability to read.Being Deaf myself, I was curious how the late author Butler would have her characters communicate. Would they learn to communicate in Sign Language? Would Deaf people from all over be seen as wise people who could teach Sign Language?The answers to my questions: No. Instead, these people are reduced to gestures and making incomprehensible sounds. But, still, an intriguing premise. I was especially struck by how the MC in the story once had a library of books that she could no longer read. That would devastate me.The other stories here (and there are also a couple personal essays) were mostly good. I especially liked The Book of Martha, in which God chooses an African-American woman (Martha) to take over his duties by coming up with a way to save the world from destroying itself by the people.Would I read more by Butler? Perhaps I'll pick up Kindred at some point. I'm intrigued by the time-travel angle of that novel. Beyond that, I don't know. I do know that Butler is highly regarded in her genre.
  • (5/5)
    I think that everything Butler ever wrote deserves 5 stars.

    This book is much too short (as was Butler's time on this earth).
    It includes five previously published stories, an autobiographical essay, an essay on writing, and two new-to-this book stories.
    As well, it includes brief 'afterwords' by Butler about each piece.

    Everything in the book is superb, thought-provoking and fascinating.
  • (5/5)
    As Octavia Butler is the Honored Ghost for FOGcon this year, it seemed like an excellent idea to return to Bloodchild and Other Stories. Its a slim volume of stories, one that could easily be read in an afternoon. But these are stories with incredible strength. It's no wonder, for example, that "Bloodchild" won three awards for best novelette (Hugo, Nebula, and the Locus). This story of how humans have come to live symbiotically with an alien species on another planet. It's also a coming of age story and a beautiful and complex exploration of birthing, family, and love. "Bloodchild" lingered with me long after I first read it, and returning to it I find myself pondering it all over again. It's a powerful story and makes me desperate to write, to continue attempting to build my skills in the hopes of coming even a little close. All of these stories provide their own explorations of humanity, from apocalyptic world in which people have lost the ability to understand either written or spoken language to unusual solutions to managing genetic diseases to the sympathetic explorations of family conditions. There's a lot of strangeness and a lot of beauty to be had here and I highly recommend this book as an introduction to Butler's work.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    This is spooky and good.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this collection of Butler's short pieces. Butler is a terrific writer, but her novels can be uneven. Her stories are more consistent, although I felt that the best pieces came at the beginning of the book, and the last two stories seemed tacked on. I also liked her two essays on writing that were included. There are not many stories in this collection, which I prefer. Too often when I read short stories, I become overwhelmed by the sheer number of stories, and one story blends into the next so that none really stand out in my mind. By contrast, with this volume, I savored each story, and thought about Butler's big ideas for some time after reading it. Butler also wrote a short afterword for each story, which I really liked because it provided some context for the story and the ideas Butler was trying to convey. This is a good read for any Butler fan, especially if you can snag it at a bargain price for the Kindle, which I managed to do.
  • (5/5)
    I admired and enjoyed Octavia Butler from WIldseed on. I read Bloodchild in a Woman's Studies class years and years ago and loved it. Butler tackles several controversial issues with thoughtfully and her writing is interesting and compelling as usual.
  • (4/5)
    This collection of short stories is intriguing - pretty good speculative fiction. Honestly I have yet to find a Butler work I didn't enjoy and while a few stories in here are not as good than the rest, all are worth reading. Dip in.
  • (4/5)
    The title story is one of the most disturbing stories that I have ever read.
  • (5/5)
    Thoughtful, challenging, exciting--I absolutely adored this collection. Although she is well known in writers' circles I would love if the media picked up more on the wonderful writings of Ms. Butler. There's nobody like her and she deserves more recognition, especially since her take on worlds comes from a place that gives her a unique perspective in this genre.

    "Book of Martha" has absolutely one of my favorite takes on 'God' ever.
  • (5/5)
    This is the first of Butler's work that I've read, or listened to in this case. The narrator is Janina Edwards. I listened to it on the Prime Channel "Worlds Away: Sci-Fi Classics" and am so glad I saw it there. I decided to make this my Task 22 for Read Harder 2017, Read a collection of stories by a woman. I was going to use another book, and though that one fits, the stories are actually part of a series that I haven't read yet, which made it hard for me to keep up with.

    Sci-fi is my preferred genre in fiction but reading challenges and the desire to read more diverse authors has pulled me away from it in recent years. I've found some great books that I am so glad to have read and a love for historical fiction I never thought I'd have. But this book is full of some of my favorite things about my favorite genre and written by prolific author that I'm glad I can go back to for more worlds.

    Each story had its own world to build, though most took place right here on Earth. I enjoy stories on far off planets are alternate worlds but rarely have I read any that sit so well in this in between space. These world could be called dystopian, which there are plenty of, but most of these stories take place in that early transition from the world we know to something radically different like the Hunger Games. It sits in the same in between as the Walking Dead in most cases.

    Of the stories, of which there were seven, none let me down at all. Sometimes short story collections have one or two stories that aren't up to par with the others but all the worlds were different and engaging. This, of course, doesn't meant that I am without my favorites. I found "Book of Martha" and "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" were favorites.

    Butler's stories that revolved around alien contact and the way we might live with that were interesting in a way that was completely new for me. I love that she was toying with the idea that we would have invaders that didn't want to exterminate us and that we couldn't exterminate. I loved the 'silent war' that took place in one story. Mostly, what I enjoyed about these cohabitation stories was the concessions that both sides may have to make, what might develop from it.

    My favorite thing about this collection is that each story made you think about the world, our responses to change or unavoidable situations. These are the things that I love about science fiction the most. I already had Kindred on my list to read for Litsy A to Z but I'm sure I'll be coming black to Octavia Butler over the years for my sci-fi fix.
  • (5/5)
    I frequently reference Butler as an influential and beloved author, but have still read such a small fragment of her work! It was high time to work on that. That I ended up giving a collection of short stories (by far not my favorite format) five stars was only a slight surprise.In addition to the stories themselves, this collection includes a brief commentary from Butler on each -- inspirations for the story, comments on how others have interpreted it, etc. I loved these insights -- especially her recommended reading list after "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" -- one of my favorite stories in the collection.These stories are just so recognizably and uniquely Butler. The way many of them get you so twisted up you want to scream and rage at the injustice -- even as the protagonist is taking some resolute turn toward compassion. I feel like I would be a bette person if I understood them better. I'd better make sure to keep more Butler books on my shelves.
  • (5/5)
    The premise: ganked from BN.com: A perfect introduction for new readers and a must-have for avid fans, this New York Times Notable Book includes "Bloodchild," winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and "Speech Sounds," winner of the Hugo Award. Appearing in print for the first time, "Amnesty" is a story of a woman named Noah who works to negotiate the tense and co-dependent relationship between humans and a species of invaders. Also new to this collection is "The Book of Martha" which asks: What would you do if God granted you the ability—and responsibility—to save humanity from itself?Like all of Octavia Butler’s best writing, these works of the imagination are parables of the contemporary world. She proves constant in her vigil, an unblinking pessimist hoping to be proven wrong, and one of contemporary literature’s strongest voices.My Rating: Couldn't Put It DownSeriously. I read the first story in the collection before bed. Then I read nearly ALL OF THE REST OF THE STORIES in one sitting the next day, and finished the last story before bed that day. Butler is insanely readable, and it doesn't hurt in the slightest that her short stories are utterly and completely and totally fascinating.One of the perks about this collection were Butler's afterwords. I liked reading a story, kind of gathering a sense of it for myself, and then seeing what Butler had to say afterword. Sometimes, I was on the same page as the author. Often, she pointed to something I completely missed, which excites me because whenever I re-read this collection (and I will), I'll have that added layer to look for in the story.The weaker part of the collection was, unfortunately, the two essays on writing (which were interesting only because Butler wrote them, the content didn't change my life nor outlook, but they may have had a more profound effect on me had I read them earlier in my writing career) and the two original short stories, which seemed less polished than the others. That said, maybe I was more aware of the state of those particular stories just because I knew ahead of time they'd not been previously published?Whatever the case, this collection is sheer gold. Even the above-mentioned "weaker" installments were utterly strong in comparison to other short story collections by other authors, so if you're a fan of Octavia Butler's work, don't let this collection slip through your fingers. If you haven't tried Butler's fiction yet, I'm not sure this is the best place to start UNLESS you prefer the short form over the long form, in which case, knock yourself out. But Octavia E. Butler is an author not to be missed, so if you haven't read her yet, please do.Spoilers, yay or nay?: Nay. As with all short story collections, I don't believe in spoiling the reader, so feel free to read the full review for my thoughts on each story/essay. The full review may be found at my blog, which is linked below, and as always, comments and discussion are most welcome.REVIEW: Octavia E. Butler's BLOODCHILD AND OTHER STORIESHappy Reading!
  • (4/5)

    So everyone knows that I love, love, love OEB and that even when I read stories of hers that are less than satisfying (which is rare, I'll agree), I'm still very satisfied. This compilation of short stories and essays is a wonderful insight into OEB's, well, awesomeness.


    As she says at the beginning, she's not much of a short story writer. That is to say, her short stories, while wonderfully imaginative, provocative and genuine, are these huge, wonderful ideas, with lots of people to love and hate, that aren't given the time they need to reach their full potential. Her short stories are like sketches for her novels. "Bloodchild," "Speech Sounds," and "Crossover" left me dying for more, more, more. Left me almost unsatisfied in their telling. Perhaps that is one of the marks of a good short story - but I think short stories, in short shrift, show beginning of interest and then are able to provide a closing that feels complete. Not "wrapped up," but complete. OEB's, simply because they are short, are short. Not because the story demanded they be short, but because they are short.


    And that's where my complaints end. So much for complaining, huh?


    These stories are insightful and contain people and situations that are wholly believable, sometimes horrific, and always fascinating. Also, her essay "Positive Obsession" is one of the better ones I know for advice to aspiring writers. Though how credible am I in the aspiring writers category? Not very, as I linger somewhere between (or before?) the "aspiring" part and somewhere distant from the "writer" part. If you enjoy her work already, you will feel enriched. If you are new to OEB, you might learn to love her after this book. If you don't like OEB, we must stop communicating immediately. I have my boundaries.

  • (4/5)
    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
  • (5/5)

    This edition (ISBN: 156858055X) does not have The Book of Martha."

    The afterwards are interesting.  Butler clearly does not fully understand the impact her work has on readers.  That is to say, the adage about not asking an artist what their work means does apply to her.  She's confident she has something worth saying, and can say it well, but doesn't realize the subtleties that different readers will interpret from their points of empathy.

    The stories have a lot to say to the receptive reader.  She takes an ordinary thing like botflies and doesn't just turn it into an SF adventure, but creates a whole world with its own poignancies and reverberations, giving us a story that will bounce around in our memory for a long time.

    I admire Butler tremendously.  I don't always enjoy her work as much as I want to, as it's so disturbing; I can only take so much of it at a time.  I have not been able to convince myself to continue to read her oeuvre.  I will keep trying....

    "
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Edgy, taut prose from one of my favorite Sci Fi writers. Butler says she hates writing short stories, but this collection shows that she's mastered it. Five stories, two essays, each with an afterword. Two of the stories won Hugos, and one also won the Nebula. My favorite of the stories won neither. It's called "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" and it's about genes and strength and love and steely will. Butler's characters are often all about the steely will. This is a nice taste of her style, and I recommend it as a jumping off place.
  • (5/5)
    Octavia Butler is one of my favorite sci-fi authors. Her short stories are a good way to ease into her novels if you've never been exposed to her. Literal thinkers might take a minute to get used to the way her mind works. Some of the subject matter in this collection is disturbing, but her writing and unconventional stories are amazing.
  • (5/5)
    A friend gave me this collection, and I have to say, it's wonderful, and a particular find for someone like me who spends so much time writing and teaching writing. Butler's prose is fluid and engaging--not a word too many or too little. Each story grabs you from the first page (as alien as it may be to what you've experienced before) and moves you through to the end, surprising you with the combination of grace and darkness that each story brings up. Some of these are darker than others, and it's a fair warning to say that the very first story in the collection is by far the most graphic, and probably the darkest of them all. Butler's newer stories (the two at the end) are as striking as the early ones, but my favorites are probably "Speech Sounds", "Amnesty", and "The Evening and the Morning and the Night". These are primarily science fiction and fantasy, but they're also literary. The three listed above and "Near of Kin" are probably the closest to standing outside of the sci-fi genre, but even "Amnesty" is clearly sci-fi if you must label it. If you're curious about branching out, I'd recommend these. What makes this book even more of a find is that after each story, Butler has written a brief and telling afterword to discuss her thoughts on the story--where it came from, her feelings on it or responses, etc. These are, without doubt, perfect for a creative writing class, where the group can experience the story, and later be given the afterward (assuming the instructor is copying and the students don't have the full book in front of them). Also, there are two short essays on writing, both of which are worth passing on to young writers and reading yourself.As a whole, this was a wonderful read---entertaining, smart, and gracefully written. I recommend it highly to writers and readers of science fiction or short fiction alike.
  • (4/5)
    Sat and read it through in the basement of Princeton Public Library, while avoiding a too-loud war tv broadcast upstairs. I think the tv was turned down eventually, but I was to engrossed to notice.Very gripping little stories. I didn't quite like the one about incest. And the title one - it _was_ about slavery, or something close to. And the illness ones ... didn't quite buy the pheremones.
  • (2/5)
    The essay "Furor Scribendi" alone is worth the cover price.
  • (4/5)
    I was very impressed by this dark and intriguing collection from Octavia Estelle Butler. These stories are well written, thought provoking, and challenging. Butler establishes character quickly and sets up some very imaginative settings. The title story has several layers of symbolism, offering a vision of Male as Mother, and a vision of a human/alien society which is both parasitic and symbiotic. “The Morning and the Evening and the Night,” a powerful story about two young people struggling with the knowledge that they are fated to develop a disease that brings self-loathing, self-mutilation and ultimately suicide, was my favorite in the collection. “Speech Talk,” a story about a survivor of a plague that has destroyed mankind’s ability to use language, was also thought provoking, and offered interesting parallels to Robert Matheson’s I Am Legend (which like “Speech Talk” is also set in Los Angeles). It’s not a book to read if you are depressed and looking for a lift. Except for the male who would be mom from Bloodchild, the other protagonists are all female. The characters are in some cases explicitly, and in other cases, implicitly black, but I wouldn’t categorize these as African American fiction. It is more fiction that offers insight into what it is to be human, viewed through the lens of the African American experience.