Published by Open Road Media on July 24, 2012
Genres: African American & Black, Collections & Anthologies, Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Women
Within twenty minutes of picking up Bloodchild at the library, two strangers told me how much they loved the book when they saw it in my hands. The endorsements were well deserved. The collection contains five short stories and two essays, and there are no weak entries. The title story, Bloodchild, is the best short story I’ve read in recent memory. I know I will be revisiting it in the future.
Of the five short stories, three are science fiction. The two essays focus on Octavia’s journey to becoming a published author and her advice for aspiring writers. I think discussing the plot of the story Bloodchild will ruin the experience for first-time readers. My thoughts on the story are below to avoid spoiling the experience (I highly recommend you take the time to read the story first, it is only 30 pages, and you will not regret it 😊). The other stories in the collection include a future where people lose the ability to make speech sounds, an illness that causes the inflicted to self-harm, a woman dealing with the death of her mother, and a lonely, alcoholic woman with a miserable job. After each story Butler includes a brief afterward, which provides insight to the story’s inspiration. I love when authors do this. This reminds me of the introductions Stephen King includes in some of his short story collections (Four Past Midnight). I enjoyed Butler’s notes better than King’s because she includes her thoughts as an afterward rather than an introduction, so the story is not spoiled for the reader. I was looking forward to the two essays at the end of the collection the least, probably because of my preference for fiction over non-fiction. It was a pleasant surprise that they ended up being my favorite pieces outside of Bloodchild. The first inspiring essay is autobiographical, detailing Butler’s journey of becoming a published science fiction writer, which was unheard of for a black woman at the time. Even today the genre is still dominated by white males. In the second essay, Butler gives advice to aspiring writers. Butler believes that being a successful writer depends less on talent and more on consistency and practice. While I currently have no plans on writing fiction, I did find this passage motivating in terms of creating content for this blog. One of my favorite things as a reader is discovering new authors who already have a giant backlog of books written. I am looking forward to delving into the great Octavia Butler’s catalog.
Trigger Warnings: Incest, Body Horror, Rape
Now for arguably the best short story I’ve ever read, Bloodchild. I am a big fan of gnarly body horror, which Butler absolutely, terrifyingly provides in this story. I also love when a science fiction/fantasy story doesn’t tell a reader how the world operates. Instead, I prefer when authors parcel out little bits of info, so that readers slowly piece together the experience themselves. The realization of the mechanics behind the symbiotic relationship between the humans and Tlic had me gleefully horrified. After reading the story I immediately went on google images and spent half an hour looking at fan art of the millipede-like Tlic. Interestingly, in Butler’s notes for the book she explains how many readers interpret the story as a metaphor for slavery, which was not her intention. I did not have that interpretation on my first read of the story, but I can see how the Tlic colonizing the humans can be read that way. Instead, Butler’s goal was to write a story of the “pregnant man”. To put male characters through the pain and trauma of childbirth.