When Dr. McCoy shared with us that Octavia Butler had given up on writing save the world novels and instead, wrote Fledgling without taking any medication (which was the cause of her writer’s block) made me feel sad. Because through my readings of her work I have felt her passion in grappling with the contradictions and troubles of humanity and her exploration of ways humanity can become better for itself. I find myself contemplating about such aspects of humanity on a regular basis as I continue making an effort to see the good in people. That contemplation requires confrontation with our current and developing beliefs, whether it is by reading a writer’s work or by our own continuous and developing desires. Humanity is complex, of course. Just indulging in Butler’s works thus far has made me contemplate the littlest things which makes me question my normative actions such as finding a pen on the ground, even in a secluded area, and deciding whether or not to take it and call it mine.
I wondered however, about the deeper reason why Butler decided to stop writing save the world novels and instead wrote Fledgling which, as it seems, must have been a last statement or a wish for her hopes to be carried on and/or held onto by her readers – “hope” she stresses in the article “A Few rules for Predicting the Future” is something she never gives up on. After reading Fledgling and having intense discussions about it in class, I do feel Butler’s hopes live on since we are wrestling with the many ideas within her written works that have compelled our thinking and confrontation with our beliefs. This hope for freedom appears to be one she tackles in Fledgling and the Patternist Series. When Butler had to take medication, she was not able to do what she wanted to do, and even when she stop taking medication, she was still not completely in control. Her choices were not of a free person. And by that, I mean because of the writer’s block due to her medication, she ended up writing Fledgling. Medicine held her back.
I want to contemplate ‘freedom’ and a bit of ‘power’ here. What are they really? What does it mean to be in control or to simply control? I am trying to refrain from thinking of a typical answer? Then again, what makes something typical, right, or wrong? The norm perhaps? But this is what Butler’s novel is forcing us to confront. Her novels are forcing us to rethink what we accept, to consider why we accept those things, and to figure out what our acceptance of those things imply about our own thinking, and yes, our own freedom. I think freedom is when one is able do as one pleases without someone or something else’s input; Power, I think is being able to cause someone else to follow what another says through influence or to be free from other influences in order to act willfully, which is freedom itself. Power = freedom. So how do I know I am actually free when tiny microorganisms are compelling my actions? This is apparent for the characters in Clay’s Ark? When I scratch my skin due to an itch, was I ordered to do so? How do I know I am in power or in control when my family, beliefs, teachers, and/or peers influence my decision as the controller or the one with the power since the moment of my awareness of other humans and things within the world? As a baby, we cried for food and we would get it the first time. Perhaps the second time, the crying may work. But as we get older, it varies. Nevertheless, not to disregard power, I am more interested in the idea of freedom. Are we really free? I feel as if my mind is in a paradoxical state each day I play with the concepts presented throughout Butler’s novels. Nonetheless, the playing with those concepts are simply nice.
On the one hand I am deciding to write this blog post. On the other hand “something” influenced this writing. Could I say it was the teacher’s words which influenced my mind? Yes, Butler’s work is part of it too which influenced my mind. Is my mind really my own mind? Do I really own it? And this is where I was blown away. Mind of My Mind! Was Butler really trying to say that we have a mind that controls our mind that is not ours?
And this is where I possibly stare in the eyes of fate, fate that is the other mind, which I would call the “Mind that is of our Mind.” Reflecting on Clay’s Ark, we were never free to begin with. We only think we are free because the things that control us compels that thinking, which makes us think we are in control.
See the site that sent me to the article here.
See the site that includes other links to interview of Octavia Butler and her works here.