Wednesday, September 01, 2010
"Bloodchild" is Bloody Fantastic! and RIP V!
I was looking over materials for my Science Fiction class yesterday after I posted my bloggy news, and I decided to delve into some short stories. I'm woefully underread in the sci-fi short story department, so I have quite a bit of brushing up to do before I teach my class next term.
I pulled up a 100 Best Sci-Fi Short Stories list to reference and see if any of the names rang a bell from my anthology. The first story I decided to try (listed at 92) was Octavia Butler's, "Bloodchild."
I've been interested in reading Butler's work for some time, but I knew little about her. One of the first times she came to my attention was Eva's review of Fledgling at A Striped Armchair.
I'm especially interested in Butler since she seems to be one of the few African American women in science fiction. A large cross-section of my students are African American where I teach, and I hope this discussion may be one "way in" for them to appreciate and be intrigued by science fiction. There are no English majors at my school, so I tend to approach most subjects in English from a practical standpoint. It's hard to make a term-long study of sci-fi "practical" so I'm going to have to give them interesting nuggets of information where I can. Critical thinking about issues will be a big component of our course, and Butler serves up plenty of issues in "Bloodchild."
If you're not already familiar, it's a bit of a disturbing story. Humans are used as hosts for a race of buggy creatures called the Tlic. In a stunning reversal of genders, female Tlic embed their eggs in male hosts, and the "birth" process is nothing if not gross and disturbing. When a male goes into labor, for lack of a better term, the female Tlic slices open his belly and harvests a litter of grubs which will grow into Tlic. He gets put back together after the process is over, and he may go on to have more litters. It's not that far off from real birth, aside from the whole grub thing, so on some level it makes the reader wonder why we're so horrified.
Gan is a boy partnered with a powerful Tlic named T'Gatoi. The story takes place on the first night he is to be embedded with eggs, and it also happens to be the first night he actually witnesses a birth. He is disgusted and horrified as you might imagine, and he considers breaking his partnership with T'Gatoi.
Aside from the issues of gender there's also the issue of colonization and oppression. The Tlic keep humans in a Preserve, so they are essentially host animals to the Tlic. T'Gatoi insists that she feels a great partnership and love for Gan, but one has to wonder how sincere this partnership can be when Gan has little choice in the long run. He's still oppressed. He's still enslaved. Even if he turned away from T'Gatoi and refused the partnership, she might honor his wishes, but he still has no other options than the Preserve.
I had my doubts about this story when I started reading it, but now I'm convinced that it's one I'll use for my class. Aside from the "eewww" factor which generally brings students onboard, there are plenty of bigger issues for us to discuss. We'll be talking about approaches to analysis as well, and this story is ripe with possibility for a feminist/gender reading as well as a Postcolonial reading.
Now I just have to hope my students get as much out of it as I did!
You can read an online version of "Bloodchild" at the Washington Post site, but it has some glaring and annoying typos. Still worth the read, though.
Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P) V Challenge! Carl announced it, and I'm ready to jump in! I'll be embarking on Peril the First to read four books which fit into the very large category of "scary." I'll also be participating in the Short Story Peril, since this falls right in line with what I'm reading anyway! I may also participate in the new "Peril on the Screen" category since Chuck and the Rockets like to expose me to scary viewing.
I haven't put together a Peril Pool just yet, but I know I have more than enough scary books on my shelves to choose from.
Be sure to keep up with the reviews at the RIPV Review Site!
Y'all come on! It's gonna be fun!