All posts by Alex Calderon

Reflections on Butler

While thinking about reflections about English 458 I pondered about Butler’s identity a lot. Octavia Butler is a black, female, Sci-Fi writer, which all together creates a unique prose within her writing. Nonetheless, I found myself multiple times in a position where one could misinterpret her analogies, which is seen in Bloodchild. Butler is able to draw you into her worlds that parallel issues in ours, but to do this she needs to create a good story as she asserts herself. Furthermore, I often thought her writings placed the reader in a bias opinions of her characters.

To further elaborate, Doro in Wildseed is portrayed as a colonizer that wants nothing more than to use Anyanwu. However, one must feel some sympathy for Doro because he has lived for one thousands years, which is long enough for him to see the people he loved die. It is this dual perception that frustrated me, but captured my mind as well. Nonetheless, I started to read one of her interviews in which shes states, “I have a kind of slogan to remind myself what I’m to be doing: The chase, the game, the quest, the test” (Francis, 45). She then goes on to define her works and overall writing style, which furthered my wonders about her writing. I view her writing as deceptive too because in one instance you find yourself analyzing one way, but Butler makes you question your notion by placing an underpinning that conflicts with your interpretation.

However, pushing back on my discomfort with Butler’s writing, which is a lot of the time she creates an outside world that forces you to contemplate real struggles. Butler’s way of writing really gets people into conversations they do not want to speak about. I feel this is where we find the beauty in Butler’s writing.

Real World Contemplations of Consent in Amnesty

While reading Butler’s short story Amnesty I kept seeing conflicts with experimenting on the human body and consent. Noah the protagonist of the story is kidnapped and experimented by aliens. Noah discusses the waves of experiments by aliens in which she states, “They killed some of us with experiments and dietary deficiency diseases and they poisoned others. By the time they (aliens) snatched me, they at least knew enough not to kill me by accident” (Butler, 602). As I read further I kept reading about the aliens’ malpractices on the humans. However, the aliens are not they only ones who wronged humans. The government has also caused conflict because they would torture, kill and imprison humans. Furthermore, the government has given children new identities to hide them from groups that want to harm, and or worship them.
As I finished the short story I saw that the publisher is John Hopkins University Press, which made me think of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I am reading for my Intd 301 class. The book discusses how Lacks’ cells were taken without her known consent by head researcher George Gey and John Hopkins Hospital. The HeLa cells were the first human cells to be able to reproduce, and be tested frequently. John Hopkins made a revolutionary discovery in science, and made a lot of profit from Lacks’ cells. Yet, some of the Lacks family members still lack health care, and have not received reparations for the usage of Henrietta’s cells. Nonetheless, John Hopkins is still notorious for their malpractices, which is seen in the Lacks’ case, and in another case in Guatemala where hundreds of people were injected with STDs. We also have seen similar experiments in Tuskegee, which lasted until 1972. The short story Amnesty made me think of historically controversial consent experiments. Moreover, Amnesty overall made put the concept of consent in self-perspective, which I think Butler does well in Amnesty.

Here are the links to a radio telling of HeLa cells and STD experiment in Guatemala.

Allegories in Bloodchild

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.

Enslavement in Contemporary Society

As I was reading Madhu Dubey’s “Octavia Butler’s Novels of Enslavement” article I started to think about our own society. The article discusses chattel slavery in comparison to Butler’s plot in her Pattern series. I looked back at the cover of novel and saw Seed to Harvest. I wonder about America’s slavery as a seed to foster or harvest the historical remnants that exist today. The wordplay got me to think further about Doro planting the seed of slavery, which later developed a world where one group dominates. The group that dominates would obviously be the Patternists, and the Pattern Master as the leader. The Pattern Master being the only one who controls everyone reminds me of a dictatorship, which further places emphasizes on slavery. There’s a further emphasize on slavery because the Pattern Master is similar to a slave owner. To expand on this notion the Pattern Master is on a hypothetical throne like the slave master. Like most dictators and slaves masters they are overthrown, and or power is passed down. We see this conversion twice in Mind of My Mind and Patternmaster where potent political positions change. In Mind of My Mind Doro is killed by Mary and power dynamics are changed. Similarly, Teray is handed control by the Pattern Master. The changing of dominance can be related to abolishing slavery and the change in authority that occurs within. The South loses the driving economic force of slavery, but it has already left its lasting impact on the U.S. Fast forward to today slavery is still a painful reminder of America’s unsettled past. I mean just two years ago Mississppi officially ratified the 13th Amendment. On similar note we can see the remains of slavery in other countries such as Dominican Republic, which shows the extent of slavery’s affects on a global scale. Here are two articles on both matters.


Misconceptions About Compulsions

As we discussed Clay’s Ark in class yesterday I kept thinking about similar plots structures. This led me to look up films about viral outbreaks. Most outbreak films such as Contagion often portray people dying of the disease, but in Clay’s Ark it is the opposite. Again we see this similar plot scheme to Fledgling where a group of people gain abilities or enhance themselves by a substance, which one could interpret as either the venom or disease. In both cases each person gains super human abilities, but it comes at a cost and some people do die because of it. However, as I looked as the list of outbreak films a lot of them did not have the same plot as Clay’s Ark. The difference is in Clay’s Ark the disease causes the infected to do immoral actions such as, rape, and incest.

Butler here again is questioning our notions of what makes us human and or what is humanity. I question if when what makes us human is gone do we turn invisible? To further elaborate, in the article “I’m a Black Gentrifier, But My Success Is Invisible” the narrator defines herself as a complex person. She is black, but also a female and a lawyer, but because of her skin color she is categorized differently and sectioned off into an outside sphere, which makes her invisible. In Clay’s Ark the humans section themselves to one place, but in the article people are defined to a certain place. This notion of certain types of people being labeled to live in one place has infected the views of people. The infected notion comes from a view of compulsions or forced actions, which some are really found in the human race. However, some stereotypes are viewed as compulsions, which construe of outlook of a human being. I wonder if this is another trope about race relations that Butler is trying to force us to look at.

Literature of Conflicts

The ending of Mind of My Mind was epic. Doro is finally killed in a battle with Mary. We assume Doro has the upper hand, but soon we realized that his imminent downfall has come. Not only have Doro’s fears of Mary been realized, but also has the realization of a new beginning unfolds. Yet, the remains of Doro’s oppression and subjection of his people have left a lot remaining turmoil that needs to be stabilized.

The concept of a new beginning in Mind of My Mind reminds me of an article I read for one of my education classes. In the article the author Kirkland discusses what is known as New English Education. New English Education pushes incorporation of more cultural contemporary literary works. One of the said works is hip-hop because of relevancy to youth and more modern appeal. In the context of the battle between Doro can be viewed as the standard literary canon. Doro in reminds me of the classical literary canon because like the classical canon he is fully established in his society, and has created a society were only his notion is plausible.

Furthermore, anyone who is outside the canon or in this case Doro’s control is a treat. Mary is similar to New English Education because it is starting to gain momentum and power. Doro and the classical canonical critics have a fear of this new movement due the fact creates a defocus from the old canonical regime. We see two conflicts one being that of Doro and Mary, and the other is a canonical clash between what Kirkland deems “Official Space” and “Unofficial Space.” In the ending of Mind of My Mind will we are left with numerous expectations from Mary. Conversely, many expectations lay within the idea of New English Education.

Here’s the article: Kirkland (2008) New English Education

Defining Property Within Fledgling

One of the questions Locke discusses in Second Treatise of Government is “how any one should ever come to have a property in any thing,” which brought my attention to Butler’s notions of property within Fledgling. The relationships with Shori, and her symbionts definitely play in the conversation of property. Butler creates an interesting juxtaposition of consent and property when Shori bites her symbionts. One could argue that Shori’s symbionts did not consent to her bite, and are forced to become property because the symbionts have an attachment to Shori. In this context, a one-way relationship is shown. However, as Shori’s father Iosif explains to Wright, the relationship between Shori and him is a “mutualistic symbiosis” (Butler, 63). Furthermore, Iosif goes on to state that Wright knows he’s “joined with her” (Butler, 63). Butler’s diction here can certaintly convolute the status of the relationship even though Shori is technically using Wright as resource for her own benefit. Moreover, the manner that Shori uses Wright’s blood could be defined as; Locke would say “to make use of it (Wright) to the best advantage of life, and convenience.”

As previously stated, the constant usage of Wright’s blood and his attraction to Shori can be interpreted, as that Wright is fully Shori’s property as a one-way benefit. However, some critics might claim that it is a mutual relationship because Wright gains a longer life, and higher immune system from this exchange. This allows justification of Wright as a resource for Shori. Nonetheless, in chapter eight Iosif, while talking to Shori about her symbionts, uses words and phrases such as, “your people, let them, Bully them, control them out of fear or malice or just for own convenience” (Butler, 73). Although Iosif is telling Shori to not treat her people in this matter, the phrases and the words Iosif uses are possessive, which creates the argument that symbiosis in this context does not exist, and even Iosif discussing with Shori about how to treat her people in a certain matter can be interpreted as “means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man” (Locke, Sec. 26). One could also twist the relationship of Wright as having ownership of Shori as well. The reason Shori is alive is because of Wright’s blood, since he aided Shori when she was injured. Shori’s appearance as a child, and Wright as the adult could make the relationship seem like a parental one. Although she has a higher mindset than a little girl she still has some tendencies of a child.

To further elaborate in chapter twenty-four, Shori discuses how Wright makes her feel when she states, “ It mattered more than I would have thought possible that he was alive, that he loved me and wanted somehow to comfort me. I knew if I let him, he would take me home and put me to bed and stay with me until I feel asleep” (Butler, 255). Shori’s diction here could be construed as a girl wanting to feel protected by her guardian. Additionally, in the context of guardianship, Shori legally because of her appearance could be viewed as property under Wright’s parental guidance. Butler here again confuses the reader on who has the right of property over whom, and whether mutual consent in the case of Shori and Wright’s relationship is legitimate.

Classification of Fledgling

While I read some of the questions asked in Conversations with Octavia Butler. One question that piqued my interest was on defining Fledging as a genre. The Interviewer asked this to Butler:” I’ve seen Fledgling classified in bookstores under “Horror”, but it could just as easily under “Erotica.” (Francis, 203) I thought about how Butler complicates this novel with many tropes such as race, sexuality, and science. One cannot simple put a definitive genre on to it. Butler is constantly making the sure the readers are up on their toes by setting instances where the characters could be defined in a certain aspect. In the trope of morality Wright is often found conflicted with his sexual relationship with Shori. Shori appears to be child, but in her race she is 53 years old. One often finds themselves morals surrounding the relationship in the age complication. Not only Shori’s relationship with Wright highly questioned, but also because of Butler’s descriptive sexual writing it is turned in an erotic form. Furthermore, the character of Wright often finds himself contemplating his sexual attraction, which is clearly stated when he says, “”I thought she was maybe ten or eleven when I met her. Later, I knew she had to be older, even though she didn’t look it. Maybe eighteen or nineteen.” (Butler, 64) Later Wright finds out that she is part of a race called Ina who need more companions to live. This trope of the symbionts plays into Butler’s Science Fiction world, but also allows for more sexual promiscuity. To further complicate Wright becomes jealous of symbionts because of his affectionate for Shori. The relationship seems romanticized, which puts to question that reader’s own morality, and insight. Butler in Fledgling created a world where social norms, and categorization live in constant in flux.