As I read Octavia Butler’s interview “Sci-Fi Visions: An Interview with Octavia Butler” with Rosalie G. Harrison in Conversations with Octavia Butler, she asked Butler what her early writing years were like. Butler described how frustrating they were and how English teachers were individuals that she had to escape from. She described how when she was in school, science fiction was indeed the one genre that never went over well with her English teachers. When Butler wrote science fiction for her English teachers, she was accused of plagiarism because of how strange it sounded to them. As a future English teacher, this situation really stood out to me because unless I was absolutely sure that a student copied an assignment I would never accuse them of doing so simply because what was written was strange/science fiction.
Throughout her involvement in a class called “Writing for Publication”, Butler learned that she had to write one way for her English teachers and another way for publishers (which I wish was not the case). Within this interview, she states that “I learned to write one way for English teachers and another way for myself . . . I discovered that there is one kind of writing that does not go over well with publishers and that was the kind English teachers seem to like” (3). I found this to be sad, because students should not have to hide their passion of writing within a specific genre from their English teachers simply because it is “strange.” I feel like this forces people to lie about who they are as a writer.
On page 4 of this interview, another aspect that stood out to me was Butler’s freedom that she aquired through writing science fiction. After completing the entirety of Butler’s Seed to Harvest, I felt that Butler definitely played by her own rules while creating the diverse and complicated plots of Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Patternmaster. I absolutely agree that science fiction is a free genre, and I feel like not enough people praise it for this specific reason. Butler has written about Vampires (Fledgling), a deadly disease, quests of creating the ultimate breed, the desire of aquiring ultimate power and control, and the list goes on. Octavia Butler was definitely a free writer who defined her own ways of writing for herself and for her audience.
Upon learning that Patternmaster is the first book that Octavia Butler wrote in the Patternist series, I immediately began to wonder what it would have been like if we had read the series in the order that Butler wrote the books, or read this book first instead of last. The order in which Butler chose to write this series intrigues me. I wish that she had originally planned to write the series in chronological order – it would certainly make the series appear less disorganized. Nevertheless, I understand why she chose to write the series in that order as a writer myself. After writing one book, sometimes the writer can become addicted to the characters. From there the writer wishes to expand their backgrounds and continue to be a part of their world. In Conversations with Octavia Butler, there is an article titled “Persistence” that was in a magazine. In the article, Butler explains how she “kept taking [her characters] back in time, after wondering, ‘How’d they get like that?’ And that’s how the various novels got plugged into wherever they are on that timeline” (181).
Reading them in chronological order made Patternmaster a bit of a let-down. I was expecting this let-down, so ultimately I didn’t care as much, but if she had started to write this series from Wild Seed, I think that the last book would have been much stronger and more suspenseful. However, Butler didn’t write the series that way so there is no use in going over this idea. Instead, we can question how our experience of Patternmaster would have been different if we had read the series in the order that it was written, rather than reading it chronologically. A classmate of ours, Ashley Allen, mistakenly began to read Patternmaster before the other books in the series, making her perspective a rather interesting one. I decided to interview her, desiring to see what her initial thoughts of Patternmaster were before she read the other books. Continue reading Interview with Ashley Allen on Patternmaster→
Reading the afterword in Bloodchild made me evaluate all the interpretations that lie within the short story. Butler discusses the three levels of her story which are love, coming of age, and being a pregnant man. One statement that Butler made in the Afterward drew may attention a lot. When Butler stated, “It amazes me that some people have seen Bloodchild as a story of slavery. It isn’t” (Butler, 30). While reading Bloodchild a reader could interpret Butler’s tropes as links to slavery. In Bloodchild we read that “there were whole Terran families wiped out in reprisal back during assassinations” (Butler, 12). A reader here could possibly interpret that Butler is discussing the systematic killings of blacks during slavery.
In an interview with Potts Butler states that she was trying to create an alien, but that you’re not suppose to regard it as evil. I questioned whether or not Butler is trying to place another trope by saying the centipede is not evil. Furthermore, I started to think about centipedes and other insects. Often we associate insects with negative terms such as, gross, nasty, creepy, etc. Therefore, how as readers could we not regard the centipede as evil? Then I thought of a similar creature the caterpillar, which turns into a graceful butterfly. The transition from caterpillar to butterfly is where the descriptive terminology changes.I wondered if the centipede like the caterpillar could ever be defined in a positive light? This question made me think of the love story, and as Butler stated if the centipede could ever be adorned by another species? The idea of the caterpillar/butterfly analogy comes from a spoken word poem from Kendrick Lamar’s “Mortal Man.” The spoken word poem starts at 10:30 in the track. There’s also a link to the interview.
A few weeks ago, Kayla voiced her concern about sustainability in Clay’s Ark. She was concerned there would not be enough food on earth when appetites became insatiable as a result of the disease. At first I believed that Clayarks would have little to no problem acquiring sufficient food, considering that earth is capable of producing more food than necessary and that a large portion of the population would be killed by the disease. However, my post became a lot more complicated when Dr. McCoy informed me that California will run out of water in one year. Because the issue of sustainability and sharing resources between coexisting peoples is such a large part of Butler’s novels, I think it is important to discuss real life crises of sustainability, namely, world hunger and the California water crisis, within the context of Butler’s work.
After Dr. McCoy mentioned in class that Lil Wayne was raped as a boy as he explained on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel, I quickly turned to the internet to find out more about it and was shocked at another video wherein Lil Wayne bragged about the incident. To me, he was glorifying ‘rape’ as if it was a good thing. On his show, Kimmel interviewed Lil Wayne and asked him about his virginity. The body language and reluctance of Lil Wayne was to refrain from answering the questions, yet it seemed Kimmel was unable to see that and even to go as far as to compel Lil Wayne with a curious manner as if to say “having sex [involuntarily] at that age is a good thing for a male or a female.” Continue reading Who or what is to be blamed?→
In response to Clarissa’s post that contests the viability of the slavery reading and interpretation of Bloodchild as well as T’Gatoi’s character, whom she describes as “an awful creature with no morals who is ugly on the outside and the inside,” I both agree and disagree. While I agree that the initial character description of T’Gatoi may be at first a tad bit revolting, I disagree with the argument that she should be seen as as an awful creature without morality who instead merely exudes both an internal and external ugliness. I think that in painting T’Gatoi in such a light, it deprives her of her multi-dimensional complexity as a character, instead rendering her a one-dimensional-type-being, which I do not believe was Butler’s illustrative intent.
Today’s class and group discussions brought up many points that are both agreeable and disagreeable in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. We discussed what Butler wanted “Bloodchild” to represent and what she didn’t want the story to represent. While we were in our groups we discussed both of these aspects and what we personally felt “Bloodchild” represented.
My first time through reading “Bloodchild” I didn’t see the slavery aspect at all. The idea of slavery never crossed my mind. When I read the Afterword and saw “that some people have seen “Bloodchild” as a story of slavery” amazed me (“Bloodchild” 30). I still had a hard time seeing this idea come across within this work. I thought to myself how could one argue this? I don’t see it! Well…today in our group discussion Andre discussed how he personally had seen it to be a possible slave story. Andre brought out parts of the text that would support the idea of it being a story of slavery. One particular passage(s) he pointed out was when T’Gatoi’s body was referred to as a cage. Seeing this point of view through someone else’s opinion opened my eyes and realize the possibility that it could be a story about slavery.
Depending if one reads this story as a slave story or not a slave story could effect ones emotional response to the story. My first time reading it through (not as a slavery story) I sort of chuckled. I found myself thinking it was almost like a “cheesy horror” movie that was poorly made. I think my emotions felt like this for the simple fact that the story wasn’t long enough to unpack even more details. But when Andre brought up the valid points about the story possibly being a story of slavery I reread it. When I read it the second time (as a story of slavery) I developed a whole different set of emotions. When I read the story like this I felt more emotionally attached to T’Gatoi’s victims. I find T’Gatoi as an awful creature with no morals who is ugly on the outside and the inside. Where as before I only looked at T’Gatoi as ugly on the outside. After reading the story from both points of view I now can see how one would easily argue that this is a slavery story, but I think it is only obvious if it is brought to ones attention (Thanks Andre).
Also… here is an interesting article I found by Kristen Lillvis from Marshall University.
Octavia Butler weaves feminist issues into her text. She critically analyzes the objectification of women. In the reading of Bloodchild, I was surprised to find this quote ” you’re not her. You’re just her property” (18). As appalled as I was reading the quote, I understood the theme of property as a common issue within her novels. Fledgling and Seed to Harvest all dealt with what constitutes someone as property. Butler’s use of people as property can be perceived as slavery or the reversal objectification of women. Continue reading The Exposition of the Feminist Issue of Property→
In Patternmaster, on page 673, there is a quote about mutes born with physical or mental deformities:
“And there was a certain Patternist woman who had made an art form of controlling and changing the development of unborn mute children. Already she had created several misshapen monstrosities that had to be destroyed. She got away with what she did because infants and even older children, Patternist or mute, were considered expendable. Those who were defective in some irreparable way were routinely destroyed.”
This provides an interesting (and terrifying) look into how disability is treated in their world, while also showing more of the racial/disabled dichotomy between mutes and Patternists: disability is essentially turned into a race.
Recently, I found a study conducted in which concluded “one in three men would rape if they could get away with it and so long as it wasn’t referred to as rape” (Schow). Octavia Butler freely instills sexuality into her characters within her texts. We have seen the portrayal of her dominant characters sexuality in Fledling with Shori’s relationship with her symbionts, and in Wild Seed with Doro’s and Anyanwu’s relationship. Butler switches who the dominant sexual being in her texts, from male or female. However, there is always a use of force in the sexual relationships between two characters. Continue reading 1 in 3→