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Daily Helping for November 7th, 2020 – Octavia E. Butler – Bloodchild

A photo of the book cover of Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I started this story, but it absolutely wasn’t what I ended up reading. To be clear, this novelette is brilliant, but it definitely took a second read through to get to that assessment. The first read through was mostly spent trying to decipher what was happening. There were a lot of new words, settings, and beings to figure out and understand. Not to mention the fact that at its core, Bloodchild is about an insect-like alien race impregnating humans. I know what that sounds like, but stay with me.

I haven’t read a lot of science fiction lately. There’s no particular reason why. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy, especially stories that take their cues from ancient mythologies. But it’s been awhile since I picked up a proper science fiction story. Which is how I landed on Bloodchild. Octavia E. Butler is a renowned writer of speculative fiction, and her work came highly recommended by a friend. Therefore, I decided to dive back into science fiction. It remains to be seen if I dived into the right place, but Bloodchild was definitely a ride at the very least.

Are you still wondering about the aliens impregnating humans bit? Fair enough. In a nutshell, Bloodchild is about a young human boy who lives on a preserve on a planet inhabited by a species called the Tlic. He was chosen at birth to be his family’s designated carrier of Tlic eggs, and he’s content in this role. He believes it to be an honour, until he inadvertently witnesses another human man giving birth. With this newfound knowledge, he is forced to rethink everything he’s been told all his life.

What is extraordinary about this story is that yes, it’s about aliens and eggs and ovipositors, and it would be easy for readers to get stuck on that. I mean, I did on my first read through. I wasn’t exactly expecting a story about alien reproduction, and to be honest, it took me by surprise. But once I got over my initial shock, I realized that Bloodchild was about so much more than that. It can be read as a commentary on so many subjects. Colonialism, reproductive rights, family loyalty, parental sacrifice. And all in just over 7,000 words. It’s an extraordinary feat of writing, and I can’t wait to explore the rest of Butler’s works. Alien eggs and all.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!