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Bloodchild [short fiction] (1984)

por Octavia E. Butler

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15715174,876 (3.95)21
Years ago a group known as the Terrans left Earth in search of a life free of persecution. Now they live alongside the Tlic, an alien race who face extinction; their only chance of survival is to plant their larvae inside the bodies of the humans. When Gan, a young, boy, is chosen as a carrier of Tlic eggs, he faces an impossible dilemma: can he really help the species he has grown up with, even if it means sacrificing his own life? Bloodchild is Octavia E. Butler's shattering meditation on symbiosis, love, power and tough choices. It won the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Science Fiction Chronicle awards and is widely regarded as one of her greatest works.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 15 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Weird, uncomfortable and confronting. ( )
  Lokileest | Apr 2, 2024 |
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.

I am currently working my way through Octavia E. Butler's short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories, and I just had to comment on and rate this amazingly creepy, thought provoking, and surprisingly touching short story by one of SF's masters. Bloodchild is riveting, horrific, and thoughtful.

Butler explains in her afterward to "Bloodchild," that many different situations 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 (whose larvae are internal parasites of mammals, in which some species grow in the host's flesh and others within the gut). Ewwwww. Remember that scene in Alien during a final crew meal before returning to stasis, when Kane chokes and convulses, then dies as a small alien creature bursts from his chest and escapes into the ship? Yeah, this short story is kind of like that...

Butler 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. Lastly, she wanted to write a story in which the requirements for colonization on another planet would require some quid pro quo or "accommodation" from the part of humanity to their alien hosts.

I thought Butler handles the idea of alien implantation expertly. She 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 revolves around 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, until he witnesses the "Cesarean" that a man named Lomas suffers. This experience calls him to question his relationship with the Tlic and T'Gatoi, who out of biological necessity threatens to impregnate Gan's sister.

In the end, although he is quite shaken by the Cesarean, Gan decides to save his sister while discovering he has maternal feelings towards his alien brood. We are left with the impression that T’Gatoi genuinely cares for him (or so T’Gatoi says).

WOW.

Many folks think that this text relates to slavery. Specifically, Gan takes on the role of black females slaves in the United States, who were "forced to carry the offspring of an alien race." I can see this interpretation but according to the afterward, Butler claims it isn't a story about slavery (that's Kindred FYI). She believed it was a love story. I'm not sure I'm 100% sold on the love story idea (I don't know if I fully trust the motives of the Tlic, but I'll take Butler's word for it). Many critics also think that Bloodchild serves as an imposition of the female experience on a male narrator. I believe it certainly is. It is a harrowing tale specifically for this reason and it for this reason that I believe men should read this work, to understand the suffering women often have to endure. And the reason why mating should be an act of love, not lust or vengeance. ( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
This short story is absolutely worth the read. Beautifully written, intriguing and full of depth. ( )
  AngelaJMaher | May 28, 2023 |
https://fromtheheartofeurope.eu/bloodchild-by-octavia-e-butler-press-enter-%e2%9...

When I last read it in May 2001, I wrote:

[start]

The story is set on a world dominated by the insect-like Tlic, whose reproduction system includes laying eggs inside a living host; the larvae then hatch and eat their way out. However the mammal-like animals native to the Tlic world have evolved a natural defence which poisons the eggs before they hatch. Fortunately for the Tlic, humans also live on the planet and are ideal hosts for their eggs. The Tlic have moved from a period of time when humans were basically kept as brood animals for the eggs, to a social system of adopting humans into their family; with any luck, the newly hatched larvae can be removed from their human host before too much damage is caused. The narrator of the story is Gan, a young human whose family has been "adopted" by T'Gatoi, a leading Tlic. He witnesses a hatching event which almost goes horribly wrong, but none the less agrees in the end to bear T'Gatoi's children.

Gan's position as the future partner and indeed half-brother of T'Gatoi ("She had been taken from my father's flesh when he was my age") is very important. Shocked by the process of the larval hatching (though in fact it's described in terms which are, excruciatingly, almost familiar to anyone who has witnessed a human birth), he takes the responsibility of suggesting that in future humans be made more aware of the process, pointing out that "no Terran ever sees a birth that goes right". T'Gatoi balks at the suggestion that a private act become public, but Gan seems confident that he will bring her around in the end, and indeed there is enough of a sense that the relationship between humans and Tlic as a species is still developing that we believe him.

There are already a lot of on-line reviews of "Bloodchild", either on its own or considering it as a part of Butler's oeuvre (which includes little short fiction but numerous novels). Many of them see it as a story about slavery or about slavery combined with gender exploitation. Elyce Rae Helford has written the best developed analysis I have yet found of this interpretation of the story in "Would you really rather die than bear my young?": The Construction of Gender, Race and Species in Octavia E. Butler's "Bloodchild", originally published in African American Review vol 28 (1994) pp. 259-271.

Helford describes the Tlic power structure as "a metaphor for human gender relations under patriarchy", as illustrated by "men suffering the pains of childbearing (and when 'birth' means removing grubs from around your internal organs, the pain can be intense)" and the sexual, almost erotic description of T'Gatoi implanting her eggs in Gan at the end of the story. T'Gatoi combines roles which are (in our own society) masculine (leading politician) and feminine (protecting the humans from over-exploitation by her own kind). She sees pointers to the slave-owning society of the Old South in the implantation scene, the widespread use of narcotics to control the humans, and the unspoken despair of Gan's mother at "the oppressive system under which she must live". And she also hints that the treatment of humans as animals by the Tlic goes beyond the usual categories of class and race.

Helford's analysis is impressive and thought-provoking. However, I find myself agreeing with Octavia Butler herself, who writes in an afterword, "It amazes me that some people have seen "Bloodchild" as a story of slavery. It isn't. It's a number of other things, though. On one level, it's a love story between two very different beings. On another, it's a coming-of-age story in which a boy must absorb disturbing information and use it to make a decision that will affect the rest of his life. On a third level, "Bloodchild" is my pregnant man story."

True, Gan has been brought up as the young human who is destined to bear T'Gatoi's young. But it is quite explicit that Gan has a real choice, because his sister Hoa is available and willing to perform the task in his place. His decision is made not merely to protect his sister from the pain of bearing the larval Tlic, but also because he is jealous of the relationship she would thus develop with T'Gatoi. One can see this relationship as exploitative (indeed Butler writes of "paying the rent") but one can also see it as a possible outworking of a fair and stable decision between two very different organisms to share a family and social life. (A sf precursor is Brian Aldiss' early short story "The Game of God" aka "Segregation" – much inferior in every way except the descriptions of the weather.)

The fact that Butler is a Black woman writing in the mainly [I think I would now say "traditionally" rather than "mainly"] white male genre of science fiction makes her perspective particularly challenging for the average [white male] sf reader. Gender and race are more consciously present in her writing than in most literature, but rape and slavery are not the automatic results of her exploration of these issues. "Bloodchild" is no clichéd parable of exploitation. Butler's agenda is more subtle.

It's worth noting that even among her human characters, Butler specialises in unusual relationships: witness the fact that there was the same large age gap between Gan's parents as between the central character and her husband in Parable of the Talents, and the sympathetic treatment of brother/sister incest in one of the other short stories in the Bloodchild collection. "Bloodchild" almost feels like a riposte to feminist suspicions of marriage. Butler's answer seems to be, look, here when the power relationships are so uneven – and inevitably uneven, given the massive physical size of the Tlic compared with humans – a real, valid, loving relationship across species is still possible.

[end]

Twenty years on, I'm not very comfortable with my 2001 conclusion. The massive power imbalance between humans and Tlic makes any concept of consent very dubious indeed. Against that, one has to set Butler's clearly expressed authorial intent; but do authors always achieve what they think they were trying to achieve?

It's still a great story, though ( )
1 vote nwhyte | May 10, 2022 |
Se non conoscete Octavia Butler, questo racconto gratuito potrebbe essere la vostra occasione.

Facile parlare di accettazione del diverso, quando gli alieni sono quelli di Avatar... ( )
  JaqJaq | Jan 7, 2022 |
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Years ago a group known as the Terrans left Earth in search of a life free of persecution. Now they live alongside the Tlic, an alien race who face extinction; their only chance of survival is to plant their larvae inside the bodies of the humans. When Gan, a young, boy, is chosen as a carrier of Tlic eggs, he faces an impossible dilemma: can he really help the species he has grown up with, even if it means sacrificing his own life? Bloodchild is Octavia E. Butler's shattering meditation on symbiosis, love, power and tough choices. It won the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Science Fiction Chronicle awards and is widely regarded as one of her greatest works.

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