Monday, August 27, 2012

[Book Review] BLOODCHILD, AND OTHER STORIES by Octavia Butler

Science Fiction

Darletha reviews BLOODCHILD, AND OTHER STORIES by Octavia Butler (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995)

Octavia Butler passed away in 2006, but I wish she was still alive, publishing her amazing novels. Her works explore thought-provoking social issues within a science fiction or fantasy setting. On the search for a quick read, I selected  Bloodchild, a brief collection of five novellas and two essays.

The book’s namesake, “Bloodchild” depicts humans as walking incubators for alien offspring. It is the goriest of the five, reflecting a theme I associate most often with Butler’s science fiction novels—complex relationships between aliens and humans. My favorite story is “Speech Sounds,” a Hugo Award winner set in Los Angeles where an epidemic has stripped the population of the ability to read, write or understand verbal language. From the perspective of a widowed teacher we see how society collapses when normal communication is gone.

What pleased me the most about this collection are the afterwords written by Butler at the end of each tale. Her anecdotes describe how story ideas grew from reading other books or her personal experiences. The first essay, “Positive Obsession,” is an autobiographical piece about Octavia’s determination to write, despite skeptics and endless rejection letters as a black woman writing science fiction. “Furor Scribendi” lists her rules for becoming a writer. You’ll have to read for yourself what the title means and why she considers talent and inspiration “potential impediments.”

Readers who want to know more about the science fiction pioneer who created Kindred and Wildseed will enjoy this book. I can read the rest of Octavia Butler's novels with a better understanding of the person behind them.

Darletha Matthews, South Branch Library

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