The Aspect of Growth in the Patternist Series

In the Patternist series, growth is a major concept. Although we haven’t read Patternmaster yet, so far each book in the series has an aspect about growth. In Wild Seed, the character Doro creates communities of people with special powers and forces them to breed with each other, desiring to make an empire of these kinds of people. In Mind of My Mind, Mary creates a “pattern,” originally by accident. This pattern connects many people together who have special abilities. In Clay’s Ark, there is an intelligent alien disease that eventually becomes an epidemic. Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind are different from the growth in Clay’s Ark in many ways, yet at the same time there are many similarities between the two types of growth.

Mind of My Mind and Clay’s Ark are both stories of “first families.” Mary and the first few people she caught in the pattern by accident call themselves the “First Family.” Even after Mary includes over a thousand people in the pattern, they are still only at the beginning of their growth. Clay’s Ark tells the story about the very first humans who were infected by the alien microorganism that later becomes an epidemic. These humans stick together and have children that are not quite human. In Mind of My Mind, the first family grows by Mary discovering new latents, or people who did not transition correctly, into the pattern. In other words, the growth of her family helps other’s lives, even though these others are slave to the pattern. In Sandra Y. Govan’s article, “Connections, Links, and Extended Networks: Patterns in Olivia Butler’s Science Fiction,” Govan notes that, “Mary is ‘a symbiont, a being living in partnership with her people. She gave them unity, they fed her, and both thrived. She was not a parasite…’” In Clay’s Ark, most people who catch the disease perish, and it is hardly beneficial for those who catch it. These people gain heightened senses and strength, but otherwise, the disease is destructive. It spread quickly, for anyone who has it has strong compulsions to infect those around them by scratching or by sex. People who catch this microorganism are most certainly a slave to it.

Breeding in Wild Seed and Clay’s Ark contribute to the growth aspect in each book. It’s more dominant in Wild Seed than in Clay’s Ark, since Doro intentionally creates communities and tells the people in them who to mate with. Govan quotes Butler in her article that, “Doro is building his colonies to ‘amuse himself – the closest he can hope to a true progeny. He assures the availability of congenial, controllable companions, and, he breeds food.’” He always wanted to have an empire of people with special abilities, yet when Mary comes along and begins creating this for him, he is very intrigued but feels threatened. He is never afraid of her, but afraid of how powerful she can become. In Clay’s Ark, when the diseased characters have children, they are not exactly human. They have longer legs and arms and are described as “sphinx-like.” They are more comfortable running on all-fours than on two legs like regular humans, and are so fast that they can appear like a blurred animal. It is very possible for these children to become a new species on Earth, especially after the epidemic breaks out. Many characters in the book are afraid of these children on-sight, afraid of what they can become. I am curious in what would occur if two of these children reproduced, and the kind of powerful child they would have. Also in Clay’s Ark, the infected characters have compulsions to reproduce, since the organism’s goal is to continue spreading. Therefore, whether the characters themselves want to have powerful children or not, the organism will force them to believe that they want to have children. The infected men can tell by the scent of a woman when she is ovulating, and the women also have a strong drive to reproduce with a man. The strong compulsions can cause extreme situations to occur, such as rape and incest. The organism does not seem to care about the beliefs of the individual it is affecting, it only cares about growth.

Doro loves to create communities of special people. Mary is excited for her pattern to grow and to help others who did not make it through transition. The characters in Clay’s Ark fear growth; they fear the spreading of their disease and fear their children. Yet, altogether, the books in the Patternist series all deal with the concept of growth, even if it’s different types of growth. I finally understand why the book that we use for class that contains the series is called Seed to Harvest. Seeds are meant to grow into plants. Grown plants continue to spread their seeds, creating more life. The cycle continues forward. Butler does a good job in creating “seeds” out of her characters in this particular series.

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