“Bloodchild,” which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, was first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Butler has said that she wanted to experiment with the idea of a man bearing children. The “children” in the story are worm-like creatures that will grow into adults resembling sea serpents with tentacles. The central event is the horrifying birth of the alien worms, which are torn from the body of the male host in a bloody operation.
Butler imagines an alien planet to which Terrans have escaped from the disasters of their native Earth. The alien Tlics cannot bear their own young and must use the male Terrans as hosts. The Tlics use a form of narcotic to seduce the Terrans and develop familial bonds with their hosts, a strange love-hate relationship which foregrounds the conflict.
Gan is a young man whose mother, in exchange for the right to bear her own human children, has agreed to sacrifice her son as a host for the alien embryos. The female Tlic T’Gatoi has an honored place in the home, but the original friendship between the mother, Lien, and T’Gatoi has turned into hostility. Gan, torn between his horror at witnessing an alien birth and his desire to secure his family’s well-being, agrees to be impregnated by T’Gatoi. This impregnation is grotesquely reminiscent of human sexuality but with the reversal of the male and female roles.
In this story Butler explores favorite themes: the reversal of gender roles and the inevitable power struggle between two species who must become interdependent if they are to survive. Butler called this a love story, but readers who find the explicit details repulsive might not agree.
Bloodchild and Other Stories Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler.
Bloodchild and Other Stories is a collection of short stories and essays by American science fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler. A winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler is viewed as her genre’s most significant female, African-American, science fiction author. Bloodchild andOther Stories is her sole book consisting of short pieces. It was first published in 1995, then reissued in 2005 with an additional two stories.
The title story, “Bloodchild,” explores the relationship between an alien race akin to insects known as the Tlic and the residents of a human colony that has been established on the Tlic planet. The Tlic discover that human beings are good host organisms for Tlic eggs, so the aliens create the “Preserve” to protect them and force each human family to provide a child to be implanted. Once implanted, the human is known as a N’Tlic. The narrator, the young boy Gan, will be implanted with the eggs of T’Gatoi. Gan was selected by T’Gatoi at the time of his birth and, like most other N’Tlics , sees being a host as an honor, welcoming T’Gatoi’s presence.
The Tlic eggs of another carrier, Lomas, begin to hatch at an unexpected time. Gan assists T’Gatoi in getting the Tlic grubs from Lomas and keeping Lomas from being eaten alive. Gan kills an animal with a forbidden gun that his father had hidden. Guns are prohibited for fear of a revolt. Gan’s feelings about serving as a host change once he sees what Lomas had to endure. He thinks of killing himself rather than going through with it. He confronts T’Gatoi with questions about the true nature of the relationship between humans and the Tlic. Since it is time for T’Gatoi to lay her eggs, she asks Gan if she should use his sister instead. Gan goes through with it himself in order to protect his sister but with the condition that T’Gatoi allow him to keep the illegal gun. While she impregnates Gan, T’Gatoi assures him that she will care for him and not leave him as he Lomas’s Tlic had done.
In the novelette length story, “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” which was nominated for a Nebula Award, the author examines the development of a new social caste that appears as the result of a genetic disease. In the story, “Near of Kin,” a girl whose mother has just died is speaking with an uncle about the nature of the relationship she had, or more accurately, did not have with her mother. Raised by her grandmother, she felt that her mother had abandoned her. The girl, by making comparisons with her uncle’s traits, confirms her suspicion that he, rather than her mother’s former husband, is her father. Although this does not lead her to accept her feelings of rejection, it does help her gain a better understanding of the situation.
The story “Speech Sounds” finds a world where speech has been wiped out by a virus, while in “Crossover,” a woman in a dead end job drinks to excess and grapples with remaining with her unscrupulous boyfriend. She battles loneliness and fears death. She thinks of suicide during a period when her boyfriend is incarcerated. As time goes on she becomes more self-destructive and drinks more. The story “Amnesty” finds the central character, Noah, meeting with possible human employees for the Communities, a group of aliens that have commandeered the Earth’s deserts. Noah, taken by the Communities as a child, has experience with both aliens and humans, thus becoming a member of the “translators” to help in the process of forming a connection between the two races.
Attempting to establish a perfect world is the main theme of “The Book of Martha” wherein God asks Martha to devise a plan to help humans grow less destructive. Martha does not embrace this task at first but eventually begins to think of ways to help mankind. As she proceeds with this thought process, she begins to picture herself as God. She wants to give people graphic dreams every night with the hope that they will inspire a more fulfilled life by making people become more aware of their own potential once they wake up. Ironically, Martha is a novelist who realizes that once people have this ability, they will no longer read books for pleasure, as they will find this in their dreams.
One of the essays in the collection, “Positive Obsession,” finds Butler thinking about the roles that reading and writing have played in her life. She started reading, because she was forced to as a young child by her mother. By the time she was ten, she was creating her own world in notebooks as a way of dealing with her shyness. Eventually, her desire to become a writer became an obsession ,which she cites as a way to achieve a goal. In “Furor Scribendi,” Butler talks about the writing process as a complicated art involving much failure and rejection on the way to becoming a successful writer.