Bloodchild and Other Stories

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Bloodchild and Other Stories
First edition
AuthorOctavia E. Butler
Country United States
GenreScience fiction, horror
PublisherFour Walls Eight Windows, Seven Stories Press
Publication date
Aug/Sep 1995
Media typePrint (hardcover, trade paperback)
Pages144 pp
ISBN1-56858-055-X (1st ed.)

Bloodchild and Other Stories is the only collection of science fiction stories and essays by American writer Octavia E. Butler. Each story and essay features an afterword by Butler. "Bloodchild", the title story, won the Hugo Award and Nebula Award.

Originally published in 1995, the 2005 expanded edition contains two additional stories: "Amnesty" and "The Book of Martha".



Winner of the 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Winner of the 1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette.

Published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 1984; in Bloodchild and Other Stories, Four Walls Eight Windows in 1995; by Seven Stories Press in 1996 and 2005.[1]

Gan, the young male Terran chosen by the lead female Tlic, T’Gatoi, accepts his impending fate of being a host for her eggs and offers his body out of love, rage and desperation: "I knew what to do, what to expect. I had been told all my life. I felt the familiar sting, narcotic, mildly pleasant. Then the blind probing of her ovipositor. The puncture was painless, easy."

Butler, "Bloodchild," 27.

"Bloodchild" describes the unusual bond between a race of insect-like alien lifeforms called the Tlic and a colony of humans who have escaped Earth and settled on the Tlic planet. When the Tlic realize that humans make excellent hosts for Tlic eggs, they establish the Preserve for their protection and in return, require that every human family choose a child for implantation. A human thus implanted is called a N'Tlic.

The story is narrated by Gan, a young boy whose turn has come to carry the eggs of T’Gatoi, a lead female Tlic who chose him for her partner when he was born. All his life Gan and his siblings, except his brother Qui, who has seen a birth go wrong, have perceived being a host as a privilege and felt that having T’Gatoi around was wonderful. However, when a "pregnant" man named Lomas has Tlic eggs begin to hatch unexpectedly, Gan is forced to help T’Gatoi perform surgery on him to retrieve the Tlic grubs and stop Lomas from being eaten alive. Gan slaughters an animal using a gun that his father had hidden, as the Tlic had banned the use of guns by Terrans in case of a revolt.

After witnessing the horrendous "Cesarean" Lomas has to go through, Gan has second thoughts about being a host and even threatens to kill himself rather than be impregnated. Gan then questions T’Gatoi as to what kind of relationship humans and aliens truly have with each other. T'Gatoi, who must begin laying her eggs that night, asks Gan if she should impregnate Gan's willing sister instead. Out of love for his sister and for T'Gatoi, Gan chooses to become impregnated but requires that T'Gatoi allow his family to keep their illegal gun. As T'Gatoi impregnates Gan, she lovingly promises him that she will take care of him and will never leave him behind like Lomas had been left by his Tlic.


In several interviews as well as in her afterword to "Bloodchild," Butler explains the different situations that led her to write the story. To begin with, she wanted to "write out" her fear of her body being invaded by a parasitic insect, specifically the bot-fly. She also wanted to write about a human male becoming pregnant; about the risks to his body as well as what it would take for him to have maternal feelings towards his alien brood, and so she ended crafting a story about a symbiotic, loving relationship between two very different species. This is why, she insists again and again, critics read "Bloodchild" wrongly when they argue it is about slavery. Lastly, she wanted to write a story about "paying the rent"—of how a realistic depiction of human immigration into space would not just repeat the colonialist tropes of traditional science fiction but rather require some quid pro quo or "accommodation" from the part of humanity.[2][3][4][5]


Imposition of female experience on a male narrator

Critic Jane Donawerth observes that " [i]n this short story...the conventional adolescent male narrator/hero is punished by rape, incest, reproductive exploitation by the dominant race, and anticipation of a painful caesarean birth--and he is expected to like it, as women in many cultures have been expected to comply with their oppression." Specifically, the narrator takes on the role of black females slaves in the United States, who were "forced to carry the offspring of an alien race." [6] Kristen Lillvis further argues that this reference to historical reproductive slavery allows the male narrator to have "access to the power of maternal love" that follows the "tradition of nonphallic maternal authority that developed out of black women’s experiences during slavery."[7]

"The Evening and the Morning and the Night"[edit]

Winner of the 1987 Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award, and nominated for the 1987 Nebula Award for Best Novelette,[1] The Evening and the Morning and the Night explores a world where a genetic disease has caused the appearance of a new social caste.

"Near of Kin"[edit]

Published in Chrysalis 4 in 1979; in Bloodchild and Other Stories, Four Walls Eight Windows in 1995; by Seven Stories Press in 1996 and 2005.[1]

"Near of Kin" relates a discussion between a girl and her uncle. Having recently lost her mother, the girl confides in her uncle about the lack of relationship that she had with her mother. The girl's mother left her to be raised by her grandmother. The girl and her uncle talk around a family secret that the girl felt was the justification of her abandonment. She compares her looks and personality with that of her uncle, seeking confirmation that she was his child. With this knowledge, the girl finds understanding for her abandonment and neglect.


In her afterword, Butler explains that the influences for "Near of Kin" come from her Baptist background and incestuous Bible stories such as those of Lot's daughters, Abraham's sister-wife, and the sons of Adam having sex with the daughters of Eve.

"Speech Sounds"[edit]

Winner of the 1984 Hugo Award for Best Short Story,[1] "Speech Sounds" explores a universe where a virus has eradicated speech.


Published in Clarion 1971.[1]

"Crossover" is about a woman who has a lousy job working at a factory in which she hates and struggles with alcohol as well as staying with her criminal boyfriend. With her constant fear of loneliness and death, she suffers from low self-esteem issues. During the 3 months that her boyfriend had been in jail she contemplated suicide many times but because of fear never went through with this plan. As the story continues, her actions and behavior become more self-destructive, constantly visiting the liquor store and turning to alcohol to solve her life problems. She had been around drunks most of her life that she got used to this habit and the more she drank the less things would matter. Octavia Butler relates this story, written when she too was working in a factory, to her real life by stating that it was about her own fears of failing as a writer and not wanting to end up like this character.

In short story "Crossover" a women named Jane, she drank and don't give herself time to think or taste or gag and also lived most of her life around the drunks."She had lived around drunks most of her life. She knew that if she could get enough down, nothing would matter."

Butler, Crossover, 119.


In the afterword, Butler explains how the characters in "Crossover" were influenced by her old, dull jobs and the strange people she met while doing them. The strange people in the afterword represented the negative side of her conscious that was the main character in the story. "She stared at the bottle for a moment, then almost snatched it from him. She drank without giving herself time to taste or think or gag." This represented the temptation that she would've had if she let the stress of her dull job get the best of her.


Published in in 2003; in Bloodchild and Other Stories, Seven Stories Press in 2005.[1]

Noah, on the treatment she received from her own species, her own nation: "They knew what they were doing to me, and yet it never occurred to them not to do it."

Butler, "Amnesty," 181.

Noah explains to James Adio, one of the recruits, why she is working for the aliens and apparently against her own species: "No payback. Just what I said earlier. Jobs. We get to live and so do they. I don't need payback."

Butler, "Amnesty," 181.

In "Amnesty," Noah, the main character, meets with prospective human employees for the Communities, an alien species that has taken over Earth's desert areas. Noah, who was abducted by the Communities when she was a child, attempts to convince the humans to overcome their fear of the aliens so they can prosper alongside them. During her pitch, Noah compares her experiences with both the Communities and the humans. Despite being treated as a lab experiment by the aliens, Noah stated that she never once faced as much cruelty as she did once her own government captured her after being released by the Communities. As a result of her experiences with both aliens and humans, Noah has become one of thirty “translators” to participate in the enfolding process which allows communication with the Communities and also enforces a bond between humans and aliens.


In her afterword to "Amnesty," Butler explains that the story was inspired by Dr. Wen Ho Lee's wrongful imprisonment for espionage by the US government.



One of the main themes of "Amnesty" is fear, mostly the fear the humans have of the alien Communities. Claire Curtis discusses this fear as a natural and rather overwhelming feeling. She states that humans do things simply out of fear, whether it's fear for others, fear for ourselves, fear of the unknown or, more importantly, fear of the known. "Amnesty" explores the idea that people are so afraid of the Communities simply because humans know nothing of who the aliens are, how they function, or what their intentions are. It is because of fear that humans turn to destruction rather than collaboration.[8] Elisa Edward also discusses how the humans race is fearful of their existence and how fear is turned into anger and frustration towards the Communities.[9]

Justification of violence

One of the most discussed themes in "Amnesty" is the use of violence by both the alien Communities and the U.S. government against Noah. However, the alien communities stopped using violence against humans once they learned more about them. Elisa Edwards points out the U.S. government's violent behavior towards the alien Communities’ "collaborators." As she explains, violence is acceptable when it is used for "the greater good for mankind." She discusses this violent behavior as means for the U.S. government to protect humanity and to ensure its survival. Noah, who was considered a traitor and a collaborator, had to endure physical and psychological torture in the hands of the U.S. government because it was willing to act unethically towards humans in order to destroy their enemies.[9]

In the story of "Amnesty" on the main theme is Trust. Noah couldn’t trust her own human government because they wanted to harm her. Noah's had many flashbacks, she was given an educational journey in which she learned, in quote that "it's not the aliens, who once abducted her, who want to harm her but that it is her own human government that inflict grief". (Edwards, 46). Noah was kidnapped and experimented upon as a child by superior aliens. When she was released, the US government held her captive for several years, torturing her for information. Now she works for the aliens, recruiting humans to serve in their now-harmless experiments.Her personal goals was to calm the humans, is to convince her afraid and hostile. Butler often root for characters who didn't stand up for their rights because it would have gotten them killed but rather compromised out of necessity.

Need for Dominance

An important theme that defines many aspects within the short story "Amnesty" is the human need for dominance.Which Sarah Outterson describes as the main issue faced among the human race. There is never a concern for learning, or collaboration between the two species. Instead there is just the overwhelming fear for the "imminent destruction of the human race as they know it." [10]

"The Book of Martha"[edit]

Published in in 2005; in Bloodchild and Other Stories, Seven Stories Press in 2005.[1]

Martha creates a solution that gives people the ability to coexist in a more peaceful world, allowing humanity to thrive: "Each person will have a private, perfect utopia every night - or an imperfect one...whatever they want or need comes to them. I think if people go to a...private heaven every night, it might take the edge off their willingness to spend their waking hours trying to dominate or destroy one another."

Butler, "The Book of Martha," 204.

“The Book of Martha” is a story about trying to create a perfect world. God asks Martha to come up with a way to help humans become less destructive. At first Martha is a bit annoyed by God’s request. However, Martha starts to create ways that she can help humanity. While she ponders different ideas, she also starts to visualize herself as God. Martha resolves to give people vivid, life-like dreams every night, for a more fulfilling life. She later adds that once the people wake up from these dreams, they become aware of their potential. This is bittersweet for Martha because as a novelist, she knows that people will no longer read books for pleasure, since they will be seeking pleasure in their dreams. She is willing to risk her career, and the life that she has made for herself from writing novels, just so that everyone in the world can have some sort of fantasy that would make them better people.


In the afterword to "The Book of Martha," Butler realizes that everyone has a different idea of perfection, making the task from God seemingly impossible. Each person's utopia would be another person's hell due to the different wants and desires. Butler wrote "The Book of Martha" to express her belief that utopias can only exist in our individual dreams.


In "The Book of Martha," Butler questions society's authority over individuals’ interpretations of God. Her story strongly focuses on religion and how it "polices the borders of social value and disvalue" by raising certain members of society above others. Butler's de-gendering of God throughout "The Book of Martha" is evidence of the inequality in the perception of God by society. Butler writes to encourage minorities to question society's approach to labeling groups by color, class, and gender.[11]


"Positive Obsession"[edit]

When Butler was thirteen years old, her aunt Hazel had her question herself about becoming a writer by stating, "Honey ... Negroes can't be writers."

Butler, "Positive Obsession," 127.

Octavia Butler is talking about her love in team sports in High School, but the sport she enjoyed the most was archery. She loved archery because in this sport you did well or badly on your own based on your own efforts. You don't have anyone to blame allowing you to aim high. "I saw positive obsession as a way of aiming yourself, your life, at your chosen target. Decide what you want. Aim high. Go for it."

Butler, Positive Obsession, 129

Positive Obsession though not the original title is one of the pieces Octavia Butler did not enjoy writing because it was about herself and her life. Her life was filled with reading and writing which to her is quite dull to write about. Her stories are the most interesting part of her life. When she started reading on her own at age 6 because of her mother making her, was when she started on her journey. At age 10, she found what she could do better than anyone else that of course is writing. She wrote down the stories she would read and when she would not have stories to read, she would write them down. She created a world however she wanted in her notebook because of her extreme shyness. Despite her aunt telling her being a writer is a nice hobby and not a job; her mother supported her passion by buying her a typewriter and bringing her books. Through tons of rejections, she pursued her writing. While trying to sell her stories she had many jobs that she would quit but she would find new ones. "Positive Obsession" is how she kept pursuing her goal of making writing a career and being the only black woman writing science fiction at that time. "Positive Obsession" is about obsessing over something that regardless of what may alter it whether it be doubts or other people's insights, you keep doing what you enjoy to achieve your ultimate goal.

"Furor Scribendi"[edit]

Published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol. IX. Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1993.

On her essay Furor Scribendi Butler's writes about the ups and downs of becoming a writer and gives essential advice on how to improve as writer. She focuses on the need to write even though you do not feel like writing; persistence is the most important part to become a great writer. "Write. Write every day. Write whether you feel like writing or not."

Butler, "Furor Scribendi",140 .

"Furor Scribendi" is a writer's guide from Butler's perspective to all those who wish to have their writing published and become established authors. She thoroughly explains the process of what it take to becoming a writer and the difficulty behind the art of writing. What you should do to improve and how important it is not to give up. Butler emphasizes how complicated the process of writing truly is; no matter how good or experienced you are. People will face many failures, and rejections throughout this process, which has led her to the belief that it is crucial to develop an obsession for writing. It allows for them to continue through all the hardships, and rejection they may face. Overall, Butler relies on the idea of persistence. If someone wishes to write, then they will do so. As long as a person remain persistent, then anyone is capable of accomplishing much more than they could ever possibly imagine, just as she did.

Octavia Butler explains that one does not need inspiration or talent necessarily to be a writer. She explains that habit is far more dependable than both, and that you must combat pride or laziness with persistence. With habit and persistence, anyone can be a writer. "Persistence is essential to any writer - the persistence to finish your work, to keep writing in spite of rejection, to keep reading, studying, submitting work for sale."

Butler, Furor Scribendi, .


The Afterword to "Furor Scribendi" discusses the encouragement behind the essay; it for people who want to write. She talks about how arduous writing is, and why persistence should always be a word to keep in mind. She gives an example of why you should never give up, and tip never to forget. Such as not be discourage if you don't have wild ideas, just have fun with it. And why you should not take yourself too seriously in writing.


Reviewers of this short story collection by “the Grande Dame of Science Fiction” were generally impressed by the quality and “its diversity of subject matter.” Janet St. John concluded that “although this book is little 'compact' in size, its ideas are splendidly large” and that “Butler’s imagination is strong --- so is her awareness of how to work real issues subtly into the text of her fiction.”[12] The reviewers also discovered, across her stories “whether she is dealing with the role of medical science, biological determinism, the politics of disease, or complex interrelations of race, class, and gender, [that] Butler’s dystopian imagination challenges us to think the worst in complex ways while simultaneously planting utopian seeds of hope."[13]

J. Miller from the American Book Review observed that “Octavia Butler’s works is science fiction at its best. The fictions in Bloodchild and other stories get us off the beaten track and encourage us to think differently about the way we live, the way we treat ourselves and each other. This makes Octavia Butler not just a good science-fiction writer, but also one of the most interesting and innovative political writers around today."[13] Janet St. John saw Butler as “making writing a habit “ and she supplemented our understanding of that with “her first hand analysis and discussion of the impetus and influence in her own work”.[12] She explained how “in her “enlightening “ and “ inspirational” afterwords that follow each story or novella" contain “a refreshing look into Butler’s writing process and helps to clarify what excites and motivates.” As Gerald Jonas of The New York Times views it, "Bloodchild and other stories is a fine example of how science fiction, by subverting expectations, can jar us into a new appreciation of familiar truths.”[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Annotated Bibliography of Butler's Fiction." Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler. Ed. Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl. Seattle: Aqueduct Press, 2013. 274-292.
  2. ^ McCaffery, Larry and Jim McMenamin. "An Interview with Octavia Butler." Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Writers. Ed. Larry McCaffery. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1990.
  3. ^ Kenan, Randall. "An Interview with Octavia E. Butler." Callaloo 14.2 (1991): 495-504.
  4. ^ Potts, Stephen. "’We Keep Playing the Same Record’: A Conversation with Octavia Butler." Science Fiction Studies 23.3 (1996).
  5. ^ McGonigal, Mike. "Octavia Butler." Index Magazine. (March 1998).
  6. ^ Donawerth, Jane. Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction. Syracuse, N.Y: Syracuse University Press, 1997. 129.
  7. ^ Lillvis, K. "Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Slavery?: The Problem and Promise of Mothering in Octavia E. Butler’s “Bloodchild”." MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S., vol. 39 no. 4, 2014, pp. 7-22.
  8. ^ Curtis, Claire P. "Theorizing Fear: Octavia Butler and the Realist Utopia". Utopian Studies 19.3 (2008): 411–431.
  9. ^ a b Edwards, Elisa. Edwards, Elisa. Octavia Butler's "Amnesty." (2003) in Race, Aliens, and the U.S. Government in African American Science Fiction. Münster [u.a.: Lit, 2011. Print.
  10. ^ Outterson, Sarah. "Diversity, Change, Violence: Octavia Butler's Pedagogical Philosophy". Utopian Studies 19.3 (2008): 433–456.
  11. ^ Hampton, Gregory Jerome. "Religious Science Fiction: Butler's Changing God." Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler. Blue Ridge Summit, US: Lexington Books, 2010. ISBN 9780739137871
  12. ^ a b St. John, Janet. "Bloodchild." Booklist 1 Sept. 1995: 47+.
  13. ^ a b Miller, Jim. "The Technology Fix." American Book Review 17.3 (1996): 28. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Polly Vedder. Vol. 121.
  14. ^ Jonas, Gerald. “Review of Bloodchild and Other Stories.” The New York Times. 15 October 1995. 33.

Further reading[edit]



  • Gant-Britton, Lisbeth. "Butler, Octavia (1947– )." African American Writers. Ed. Valerie Smith. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2001. 95-110.
  • McIntyre, Vonda N. et al. "Reflections on Octavia E. Butler." Science Fiction Studies 37. 3 (November 2010): 433-442.
  • Pfeiffer, John R. "Octavia Butler Writes the Bible." Shaw and Other Matters. Ed. Susan Rusinko. Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 1998. 140-154. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Detroit: Gale, 2008.


"The Evening and the Morning and the Night"[edit]

  • Bast, Florian. "I Hugged Myself": First-Person Narration as an Agential Act in Octavia Butler's "The Evening and the Morning and the Night.]" Black Intersectionalities: A Critique for the 21st Century. Published in print: 2014 Published Online: May 2014 ISBN 9781846319389
  • Hammer, Everett. "Determined Agency: A Postsecular Proposal for Religion and Literature-and Science." Religion and Literature 41.3 (2009): 91-98.
  • Lavender, Isiah, III. "Digging Deep: Ailments of Difference in Octavia Butler's "The Evening and the Morning and the Night"." Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction. Ed. Isiah Lavender, III. Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 2014. 65-82. ISBN 978-1628461237


  • Curtis, Claire P. "Theorizing Fear: Octavia Butler and the Realist Utopia". Utopian Studies 19.3 (2008): 411–431.Foster, Thomas. "'We Get to Live, and So D
  • Edwards, Elisa. Edwards, Elisa. Octavia Butler's "Amnesty." (2003) in Race, Aliens, and the U.S. Government in African American Science Fiction. Münster [u.a.: Lit, 2011. Print.
  • Foster, Thomas. "'We Get to Live, and So Do They': Octavia Butler's Contact Zones." Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler. Ed. Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl. Seattle, WA: Aqueduct, 2013. 140-167.
  • Hampton, Gregory Jerome. "On the Phone with Octavia Butler." Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler. Blue Ridge Summit, US: Lexington Books, 2010.

"Speech Sounds"[edit]

  • Govan, Sandra Y. "Disparate Spirits Yet Kindred Souls: Octavia E. Butler, 'Speech Sounds,' and Me." Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler. Ed. Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl. Seattle, WA: Aqueduct, 2013. 109-127.
  • Sorlin, Sandrine. "Stylistic Techniques and Ethical Staging in Octavia Butler's 'Speech Sounds'." The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity: New Perspectives on Genre Literature. Ed. Maylis Rospide and Sandrine Sorlin. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2015. 82-94. ISBN 978-1443872027
  • Troy, Maria Holmgren. "Loss of Words: Octavia Butler's 'Speech Sounds'." The Power of Words. Ed. Solveig Granath, June Miliander, and Elizabeth Wennö. Karlstad, Sweden: Karlstads Universitet, 2005. 73-80.

"The Book of Martha"[edit]

External links[edit]