Lite Reads Review: ‘Bloodchild’ by Octavia E. Butler

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Week sixty-two of Lite Reads comes to a close as we finish our final Halloween-themed selection, Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler. There were questions as food for thought on social media as people had the chance to read it and think about it. Before I announce the next Lite Reads selection (November 5, and apologies for the lateness), I will be sharing my own thoughts here. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t finished reading the story yet.

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler is a multiply award-winning modern classic science fiction story. A small group of humans live in a colony on a faraway planet where they cohabit with the local species of insect-like aliens. In exchange for protection and being allowed to consume sterile eggs (which offers an extended life, improved health, and a blissful, drugged feeling), the humans carry the eggs of the Tlic in their abdomens until they change into their larval state, much like the botfly that the author feared and was inspired by. The story follows Gan and his Tlic shortly before Gan is to be implanted with an egg. Gan witnesses a traumatic incident of a pregnant boy not having his Tlic, T’Gatoi with him and going through a traumatic birthing experience as a result. Ultimately, Gan chooses to be implanted despite his fears because of his love for T’Gatoi and his family.

I think it’s interesting to read a story where the human colony isn’t one that’s there to take over or destroy, even if they initially reacted out of fear. This is a story where humans are the fragile ones. Bloodchild shows us the ways the humans and the Tlic are able to rely on one another to live in a situation of harmony, as tenuous as that harmony may be. I think it’s interesting to see the ways those relationships can differ depending upon the individuals. There isn’t any portrayal of the relationships being identical. Gan’s brother is distrustful and terrified, the boy who gets the c-section in front of Gan has a harder time because his Tlic isn’t there due to illness, but Gan feels a close and familial connection to T’Gatoi because he grew up with her constant presence. The relationships appear to often be mutually beneficial or mutually harmful, which I think is true of most relationships between humans, and it is interesting to see it between humans and another species.

Butler expressed in the afterword that she wanted this to be her pregnant man story, and that she hoped to create something where a man would get pregnant out of a sense of love rather than a sense of just doing it to prove he can or because he was forced. I definitely think she achieved that here. I had actually read the afterword before I ever read the story, so this was on my mind when I read it. I thought it was interesting that while he did do it out of love for T’Gatoi, we also see him do it out of love for his sister, to protect her from being the one to do it. I feel like it manages to show us how pregnancy can be incredibly dangerous without the right help available, and it shows us characters that are aware of that. I enjoyed seeing a character go into a pregnancy from a place of love and fully aware of the risks, but truly choosing to make the decision.

I thought it was interesting that Butler wrote this as a coming-of-age type of story since it definitely might not be seen that way on a surface level. The science-fiction elements are so prominent that it would be easy to disregard the character’s coming into adulthood, although the character does begin his narration with, “My last night of childhood began with a visit home.” I think it’s interesting to see a coming-of-age story that feels completely foreign because of how vital the science-fiction elements are to the narrative, but also have it feel completely natural to read. Butler completely nailed the characters, and she did a beautiful job showing the momentous decisions that can come with adolescence, the ways we react to those scenarios, and the ways those situations might still fit in even in a completely alien environment.

Overall, Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler is a bizarrely fascinating read. The story is a unique and interesting concept, and it gives us the chance to explore a number of ideas or just to enjoy some top-notch science fiction. It’s no surprise to me that this won so many awards when it came out. Admittedly, this is the first time I’ve read anything from Butler (I know!), but this definitely gives me the drive to explore more.

I hope everyone who participated by reading the story and following along on social media enjoyed the story. If you have more thoughts to add, please feel free to comment on this post, or anywhere on The Feminist Bibliothecary’s social media. Week sixty-three begins shortly, November 5, with a brand new short story selection.

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