Next week’s story is The School by Donald Bartelme
Bloodchild by Octavia Butler received high marks from all three of us this week which is pretty rare and says a lot about the author. This is only our second science fiction story and the first that truly felt deeply sci-fi so I was a little nervous suggesting it. I am glad I did. Bloodchild provided great fodder for a fun discussion on gender, symbiosis and diversity in fiction. The story was also a wonderful example of science surpassing it’s genre.
Don’t forget, to rate the story! For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “Bloodchild“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give the final tally on the next episode.
Next week’s story is The School by Donald Bartelme.
5 comments on Bloodchild – Octavia Butler – Literary Roadhouse Ep 30
It seems like a lot of people regard this as a “pregnant man” story but that really didn’t hit me too strongly; especially from a “so how do you like it?” feminist perspective. The fact that the males are, against their will, implanted with and by an alien species kind of defeats this parallel and I feel really sorry for anyone who feels that this is a good description of woman’s actual experience.
The author avoids commitment to a meaning by making it so that both Terran genders can be ‘impregnated’ and even if the reader wants to take the feminist road there is still the fact that the “woman” getting revenge is really an alien who is subjugating the human race. This feeds my pet theory that the only thing that can unite the human race is a predator from outside it.
I found parallels with the Aboriginal experience in the placing of the Terrans on reservations as well as the offer and “abuse” of egg in order to cope with the situation.
However, again the author manages to avoid implicit reference to the “white invasion” by having the alienssubjugators as the native population of the planet!
Any attempt to pigeonhole the author ends in her slipping in something that twists things around enough to change the reader’s perception and you can’t quite be sure what she’s trying to say (if anything at all).
I really enjoyed this story and could probably go on for a long(er) time about it. So many levels of possible meaning presented with absolutely no pretentiousness; it was pure sci-fi presented in a sterile, pure sci-fi manner. I will definitely be reading more of her work.
5.75 Bradberries for me!
I think you’re right that she twists parallels between her story and human history so that they are no longer parallel. In my opinion this is clever. If the parallel is too perfectly aligned, then the reader feels like they know the outcome and the moral of the story. The twist gives us something to chew on.
I strongly recommend the anthology Bloodchild and Other Short Stories. So. Good. Not one story in there that I didn’t care for.
Really focused discussion. I enjoyed this podcast a lot.
I appreciate the feminist theme, presenting male pregnancy as a way of holding up to the light the roles and emotional struggles (and pain, too) of reproduction, in a way that forces us to focus on them without some of the traditional baggage. But there was another element that struck me in that scene–how vicious those grubs were. The start eating and unless removed in time they will eat the host. There are insects like that. But as a metaphor, it made me think that something else is going on here. What is being implanted, in this act of procreation, is something awful and consuming, like a terrible and fatal passion. Perhaps that is related to the loss of innocence announced in the first paragraph.
Moving from macro to micro, I was curious about the sterile eggs. They have this amazing narcotic effect (quite different from the grubs!). But who or what laid those eggs? Where did they come from? And in land where a sting kills pain instead of causing it, what are we to make of them? And why does Mom shun them?
I give the story 4.5 Bradberries. Anything above a 5 is reserved for stories that show me something unforgettable about the human condition, in a way that makes me look at things differently. Baldwin and Carver did that for me. This, while nicely put together and filled with themes and fresh looks at things like pregnancy, didn’t go that far. Ultimately it descended into sentimentality: the young man steps up and sacrifices himself to save his sister. OK, that’s nice. But is it art? And I dropped another half point because I thought the prose was workmanlike, but not extraordinary. It was functional. Maya may be right that functional was the best way to convey the horror, but was horror the point of the story?
Keep up the great work. I will be waiting impatiently to hear your take on Donald Barthelme.
Thanks for the comment and the rating, Richard. This one was definitely a difficult one for me. I never really ‘got to grips’ with the story. I was fascinated by it, enjoyed the sci-fi genre aspects of it, but there was ‘something’ that stopped me falling in love with it. Maybe it was the language, falling somewhere between the stark simplicity of a Hemingway, and the fluid poetry of an Annie Proulx, for example.
I haven’t read the Barthelme story yet, not any of his work, but I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve joked that a fetal baby is functionally the same as a parasite, so that element you’re picking up on rings true for me.
If I recall correctly, Mom shuns them because she doesn’t want to feel like she owes anything to T’Gatoi, and she wants to be awake and aware of what is happening to her and her family — and her species, by extension.