Beyond the Mind – Journey to Mars

In the interview with Larry McCaffery and Jim McMenamin in 1988, Octavia Butler shared a lot about her Patternist Series which included her comments about once considering to include Kindred as part of the series. She argues that it simply did not feel like part of the series and that she wanted to go in a different direction, a more realistic path. Nonetheless, a few things Butler mentioned in this interview caused nostalgia, others provoked wonder of the past and future as I mention below.

First: When I started to think about creating my own cartoon characters at age thirteen, I began to think about writing a storyline about the characters and their goals. But I never heard of anime being written like a Science Fiction novel before. It was usually written as comics or manga. Still, I tried to write just the same and to this day, I have two very long pieces of writing, excluding the one that I lost due to a computer virus years ago. I still return to the pieces I have mostly to edit and to add to them each time I gain a little more understanding of how to include elements creatively in my writing. And just like Butler, I had asked a similar question about the need for a model of something, an example of some sort, to help or motivate one to work toward an aspiration, a goal, or a task. I even thought about how big my audience would be and wondered how interested the audience would be in my stories. I never “dare[d] to” ask “if no one else [was] doing it (writing like me)” either, because I already had naysayers (17). That was my second greatest motivation to continue to write. The first was just the developing desire to impact young people’s with my animated films just the same as I was impacted by the ones I watched as a child.

Second: “My mother’s attitude was that those children belonged to their parents,” captivated me, but not really (Butler, 12). Captivated because this idea of possession has become so indefinite that if one is not careful, he/she may possess something without realizing it and think it is okay. I remember when I was growing up back in Jamaica – and my memory seems to have that one recollection embedded within it – the night I recalled that I could hear my neighbor bawling out when his mother was beating him. Word around few of the neighborhood homes was that she loved to beat her kids, especially the oldest child, and there were parents back then who did not simply beat for discipline but also lashed out at their children as a result of their growing rage at something else. “Stop mommy, stop!” he would yelled, and the only thing my aunts and uncle did was just sit there and did nothing. Needless to say, I was around eight or nine. What could I have done then? Now being through that same experience, I never thought of it as possession, but as discipline. And do not misinterpret, because my friend’s mother was unbelievable in her method that it shocked people in the most hurtful way. But as I think back on the time I sat outside my house one evening when my mother had slapped me for something rude I did, I reasoned that I would to run away. I really pondered on running away from home. More so because I wanted to her hurt my mother. In retrospect, it was a few light slaps that far exceeded the mercy my friend’s mother could have had on him. My grandmother was always around to plead for me as well. And if I had ran away, where would I or “those kids” go? (12). I wonder how I would refer to the child or children I will have in the future. ß I tried not to say “my kids.” Possession seems to be ambiguous. Rather, I am continually revisiting etymology and definitions.

Third: Butler hearing a minister in church when she was growing up saying “I don’t know what it means, but I believe it” after reading a bible passage (17) compelled my agreement. I have come across many who simply believe the pastor as if he is some ominous power sent to Earth by the almighty creator – God. It reminds me of medieval times wherein the clergy was the all-knowing and the people were expected to seek him out for knowledge like the congregation in a church that still continues to grow to this day. This idea, the clergy’s power and the possibility of a member of the mass having intelligence that can supersedes that power, is part of what Butler explores in her Xenogenesis series à hierarchical behavior and intelligence. The priest’s or the minister’s power could be trumped by the intelligence of someone in the congregation. But then now we have to examine what ‘intelligence’ really means, and how does it manifest itself, and so forth, just the same as what we would need to do with ‘power.’ And is one (power and intelligence) really better than the other as they are “two competing or conflicting” characteristics?” (19).

Fourth: When I just started reading Clay’s Ark and realize that Eli was a returnee from another planet with a disease that would affect people through physical contact, I began to think about the AIDS virus and how I have heard many say it was brought from Africa to the States. Then a few years ago I had listened a documentary about patient zero being the cause of the AIDS epidemic. Both conclusions were disproven. Nevertheless, my initial thoughts was that Butler wanted to tackle that concept/ issue in her novel to appeal to her audience. After reading her interview, I was surprised, as I continually am each time I read something new, at the subjective notions we, the readers, could obtain from reading a text. If that interview was not available, I would probably continue to think that that was Butler’s aim. Butler did not even hear about the AIDS virus when she was writing the series, rather, the disease in Clay’s Ark came from the idea of how rabies is contracted. But perhaps the AIDS virus could be seen in the same way; “compulsion” as Eli said to Zeriam, which can compel the will to infect others with the virus (556).

Fifth: Recently, I watched a video on about people going out to space. In about ten years from now, the pool that was over 200 people will be by then about ten people who are going to embark on a one way journey to Mars. Perhaps Butler, like many Sci-Fi writers, have the future already built in their minds waiting to be manifested on paper and then in reality. Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 is living and Butler’s novels, which I have read thus far, are also living in our reality. Even so, Butler knows, like so many of us do, that we have to go beyond what is impossible to better humanity and, as Butler suggests, “the best thing we can do for the species is to go out into space” (26). Kenya Armbrister in the video echoed Butler’s words in a somewhat similar way saying “…it’s for the whole human race too, you know, to move forward in the universe.” If you were alive now Butler, hmm, I wonder what you would say about the possibility of life being on Mars now? What would you say about it now? Would you still be “very happy?” (26). I wonder.

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