Bloodchild and Other Stories

By Octavia Butler

August 1, 1995 • 214 pages

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mostly set in a futuristic dystopian setting, “Bloodchild and Other Stories,” is a collection of short works that explore themes of freewill, incest, addiction, biology, connection (both human and inhuman) and religion— among many others! It’s gritty, grotesque, outlandish, imaginative, and thought-provoking.

I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, so getting into this book was honestly difficult for me. (I was mostly just lost in the beginning.) It took me a while to get into “Bloodchild,” a story that explores human-alien connection and parasitic relationships.

“In the Evening and the Morning Night,” is an intriguing, zombie-esque, story of a disease that causes its host to self-mutilate themself or those around them.

“Crossover,” is a story about addiction and how people, often in low-socioeconomic circumstances, might find themselves in cycles of addiction. It wasn’t sci-fi at all, but a critical look into the cracks of a decaying society/systems. “The Book of Martha,” explores free will and what happens if God were to one day give the same power she has to a regular human.

My favorite part of Butler’s writing is, ironically (?), not the sci-fi element, rather, it’s the way she writes about human connection and explores their nuances— which seem to be at the core of all her stories and scifi merely just a backdrop. For instance, “Near of Kin” looks at incest and how one might be okay with it— might even, dare I say, prefer its reality.

Her two essays, “Positive Obsession,” and “Furor Scribendi” are snippets of her writing journey as a Black, female, science fiction writer and advice she has for other writers. I enjoyed them and found them useful, but they seemed out of place in this collection.

Overall, I have not come out of this book as a lover of science fiction but as an Octavia Butler fan. To say her mind is a field bursting with imagination and wonder is an understatement. While her stories are unique and experimental, their real-winning trait is how they pose moral/ethical dilemmas that get you thinking.

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