Tag Archives: octavia butler

Galactic Suburbia 160

In which the world is on fire but we’re still reading… get us from itunes or over at Galactic Suburbia. 

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET

Teen Vogue as tool of the revolution – why we shouldn’t be surprised.

Problem Daughters: check out this fantastic crowdfunding project for intersectional feminist stories.

GUFF race (until 1 April)
DUFF race (until 10 March)
Help support these fan funds! Alisa & Alex are hoping to go to Helsinki this year, while friend of the podcast Paul Weimer is hoping to come to Melbourne.

CULTURE CONSUMED

Alisa: Nora Roberts (Bride Quartet); Fangirl Happy Hour; Please Like Me; Travelers; Frequency; Designated Survivor; Younger
Alex: Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, Fledgling, and Dawn, Octavia Butler; River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey; Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities, Bettany Hughes
Tansy: Acts of Kitchen; Wicked (local performance); Heroine Complex, Sarah Kuhn; Ladycastle, Deliah S Dawson (writing) & Ashley A Woods (art); Unstoppable Wasp; Hawkeye; Moana (film & soundtrack), Buffy rewatch check in.

Tansy’s new literary gift shop business: Alice & Austen

Also, Tansy has a story in the latest issue of Uncanny Magazine: Some Cupids Kill With Arrows.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Fledgling

Unknown.jpegI had read that this was Butler’s vampire-cum-courtroom drama, and had also been given a hint that the opening section might make the reader be all WHOA WTH NOOOO. And it would have, so I’m glad I had a bit of context, which I’ll give below as a wee spoiler that might help some readers. This is, though, a Butler book, and in no way is this JUST a vampire or courtroom drama – not that either of those would have been bad. But the book also deals with racism, justice, and family in intriguing and sometimes uncomfortable ways. Also, unsurprisingly given Butler’s interest in anthropology, with vampire myth and ‘logical’ ways for vampires to actually exist.

So here’s the spoiler:

at the start, the focus character can’t remember anything and is eventually found walking along a road by a young man, in his early 20s. There’s immediately a sexual connection… and then we find out that our character is young. Like, looks ten or eleven.

End spoiler

And it’s squicky even with the anticipation, and I can’t help but wonder what was in Butler’s head: did she want to use this to challenge assumptions about appearance, or about black sexuality (because our character, Renee/Shori, is black), or… ? I don’t know. And it’s intriguing because it’s Butler and I trust her, BUT.

Anyway. There’s are similarities here between the Xenogenesis and Patternist novels. They deal with miscegenation and the ramifications of that – for the individual who is ‘mixed’ and for the society around them, seeing the benefits and drawbacks. They all deal with the Outsider in our midst, and that the notion of the Outsider takes on a multitude of forms within each of those books – sex, race, species, ability. And they also all present different ways of compromising, different motivations for compromise, and different consequences of it too. Butler isn’t interested in making life easy for her characters or for her readers. She wants us to THINK. She probably wants us to be horrified, too, and forced to think through that horror.

This won’t be my favourite Butler; I don’t think it’s quite as well written as some of her other work. Goodness the ideas and challenges are magnificent, though, and with so little published work from her I’m pretty happy to read whatever I can get my hands on.

Galactic Suburbia 158

Happy New Year edition! One last episode before we squeak into 2017. In which we sum up a year of culture consumed and other interests, and mourn the recently departed. You can find us on iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?

Carrie Fisher
George Michael
Richard Adams
Vera Rubin
(note: we recorded this ep before the death of Debbie Reynolds was reported)

CULTURE CONSUMED IN 2016:

Tansy: Rogue One
Alisa: Operation Apocalypse Plan (books mentioned: Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse as a guide to the probable future, Defying Doomsday)
Alex: The Arrival
Tansy: Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap (& Buffy rewatch with daughter, because this is what 11 yr olds are for)
Alisa: PhD & Jamberry
Alex: The Expanse
Tansy: Check Please fandom & Yuri on Ice
Alisa: Paleo Cinema Podcast
Alex: Octavia Butler

Link to call for Letters to Butler

Tansy — 2016 culture round ups in Smugglivus & Ambling Down the Aqueduct

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia: Bloodchild

isaac-asimovs-science-fiction-magazine-june-1984-aIn which parasites are creepy, pregnancy is body horror, and consent is important! You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Get comfy and listen to Alex & Tansy’s discussion of Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” and her essay “Positive Obsessions,” both available in the Bloodchild & Other Stories collection (plus Bloodchild is available as a single story digitally).

Don’t forget: submissions for the Octavia Butler tribute anthology are due on Jan 8! See Submissions for details.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 154

In which Wonder Woman and Hillary Clinton both come under fire for being in public while female… get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?

Wonder Woman turns 75 and becomes a UN Ambassador

Analysis of the protest against Wonder Woman as honorary ambassador on the Mary Sue
Twitter: #wonderwoman75


CULTURE CONSUMED

Alisa: Crosstalk, Connie Willis; Bloodchild, Octavia Butler

Alex: Saga vol 6; Bridging Infinity, ed. Jonathan Strahan; The Martian, Andy Weir; Swarm, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti.

Tansy: Verity Down Under, Supergirl, Luke Cage, Class Eps 1 & 2

 

Don’t forget: Letters to Octavia Butler open for submissions

 

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 153

In which letters are written to Octavia Butler. Get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

What’s New on the Internet?

British Fantasy Awards: Letters to Tiptree won one!

No Award on Conflux & Asian Flavours in SFF fandom.

Octavia project: Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June, 1947, and died in 2006. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday in 2017, and in recognition of Butler’s enormous influence on speculative fiction, and African-American literature more generally, Twelfth Planet Press is publishing a selection of letters and essays written by science fiction and fantasy’s writers, editors, critics and fans.
We are looking for letters addressed to Butler, which should be between 1000 and 1500 words. We are paying 5cpw up to $USD75 for letters, to be paid on publication. We are looking for World First Publication Rights in English, and exclusivity for the first twelve months of publication.

Submissions: octaviaproject@twelfthplanetpress.com

More Butler stuff: Radio Imagination

Tansy’s new releases: Bounty (the final Fablecroft book) & Unmagical Boy Story


CULTURE CONSUMED:

Alisa: Jamberry & business training.

Alex: Once Upon A Time season 2; the Patternmaster series, Octavia Butler; The Starry Rift, James Tiptree Jr; Goldenhand, Garth Nix.

Tansy: The Life & Times of Angel Evans, by Meredith Debonnaire; DC Superhero Girls: Hero of the Year; Revolutionary Art: Writing For Social Justice webinar series; Hex – How to Be a Fan on iView; Labyrinth Board Game Facebook page; Dracula’s Feast on Kickstarter.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Patternmaster

Unknown.jpegWell, this finally makes sense of Clay’s Ark. You can definitely read this by itself, but it is far stronger as the culmination of the preceding books. I’m genuinely astonished that this was actually her first published novel and that she then went backwards in the story. What a genius.

That said, this is not the strongest book of the series. The Clayarks are just ciphers, really, an enemy for the sake of an enemy; something for the characters to react against.

That also said, there’s definitely some interesting character work here. I especially love Amber, at working with the system but not within in. Teray got a bit wearing after a while.

With the background knowledge of Doro and Mary from previous books, it’s intriguing to fill in the gaps to see how the world at the end of Mind of My Mind could turn into the world here: the development of Houses, how people are seconded, and the attitudes towards mutes. Butler could so easily have written many more stories here, filling in those gaps, but it clearly wasn’t what she was interested in doing.

I was most sad to see Butler expecting there to be sexism and fear of bisexuality present in this future.

Clay’s Ark

Unknown.jpegHaving read Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind, this was not at all what I expected of a book set in the Patternmaster series. It seems only peripherally attached to the Patternmaster series courtesy of something Clay, whom we meet in Mind of My Mind, developed.

Still, the book deals with some of the same preoccupations as are developed in the first two books, in particular how people manage go live under compulsions and especially how that impacts on sex and relationships and children. It was interesting to see Butler explore similar issues coming about from different motivations.

In itself, this is a very different sort of contact story from what is more commonly written. The contact is almost just a macgyver to allow the exploration of how confinement and externally imposed obsessions might play out.

Not Butler’s strongest work, but intriguing and enjoyable (well… within the bounds of devastating sf…) nonetheless.

Later: having now read Patternmaster, this book makes a bit more sense. Interestingly, I think this is the stronger.

Mind of My Mind

Unknown.jpegJust go read it. Seriously.

As I mentioned in Wild Seed, I am glad I read that novel first – the background it provides for Doro, and Emma, is devastatingly important. Of course you could read this first – publication order – and then have the background filled in… but this order definitely worked for me.

This book is very focussed on Doro and the people he manipulates people to his own ends. Even when other characters – Emma (Anwanyu), and especially Mary – get to tell their own story, it’s always connected to Doro: against or in favour, in reaction somehow, trying to figure out how to circumvent or please him. He is the Patternmaster. He is the puppetmaster.

This book takes place over a much shorter timeframe than Wild Seed – just a few decades. In the prologue, Mary is a small child in an abusive home; the narrative picks up with Mary, one of Doro’s many children and an important part of his experimentation, in her late teens. Mary becomes the focus of the story as she seems to be the fulfilment of Doro’s plans, and it basically follows her development and discovery of her powers.

Unsurprisingly, Mind follows some of the same themes as Wild Seed. Why humans acts they way they do, how compulsions can work and why we act in our own worst interests; what slavery can look like. It develops the discussion of the difference between haves and have-nots to a greater extent, and the consequences of power. The idea of family and its power as well as its destructiveness. Humanity at its best and worst.

This book isn’t always pleasant to read, but it is always powerful and it’s always well written and I will definitely be reading it again.

Wild Seed

52318.jpgIt’s brilliant and you should just go ahead and read it and you don’t need to know anything else … unless incest (at a distance from the reader) really, really squicks you out (it happens but it’s not a huge focus and it’s not dwelt on greatly).

I know Butler didn’t write this as the first in the Patternmaster series but I am so glad I read it first, because Butler sets up the world of Doro and Anyanwu brilliantly; I can’t imagine coming to read this after already having been introduced to Doro, especially, in a different context.

There’s an enormous amount going on in this book. Doro and Anyanwu are very different from those around them: both seem to be immortal and both have talents that set them apart. Doro moves from body to body at will; Anyanwu can heal and change herself. Anyanwu has been living with her extended family and caring for them for generations; Doro has been building himself a people, gathering together individuals with some sort of psychic talent. One day Doro feels Anyanwu and goes to meet her, and Anyanwu’s life in particular changes. She hasn’t ever moved far from her birthplace, while Doro has been setting up colonies in America – this is the 17th century, and Doro and Anyanwu are both African (Anyanwu is Ibo, I believe; Doro… is something else altogether). So this means he’s trafficking in slaves, and working with slave traders. So that’s a whole thing: how people react and feel when they are enslaved, how the trading works and can be used, and so on. And somehow the fact that this is written by an African-American makes a difference. The very question about what makes someone a slave is key to the story, actually; how chains aren’t necessarily visible, how someone can become accustomed to the state – and asking the question about whether, if you don’t mind it, how bad slavery is. I think Butler firmly comes down on the side of it still being an evil, but she’s sure not making it an easy discussion.

Having two central characters who appear to be immortal means that Butler gets to write a story that goes over a couple of centuries. This allows her to explore the development of both individuals and communities, which she does really well. In some ways the people that Doro is developing are like a generation ship: they don’t know where they’re going, and it’s temporal rather than spatial, but they’re definitely on a journey. They just need to keep following orders and keeping the place running. The focus is really always on the relationship between Doro and Anyanwu, because their fraught relationship stands for everyone else: love and hate and need and resentment. Acceptance and rejection. Anyanwu is the one who changes and develops and grows, while Doro is largely static. There’s a variety of reasons for this – he’s that much older and has a very set purpose where Anyanwu is in some regards more passive (and in others really not) – but his lack of growth and change isn’t entirely presented as a positive.

It’s the complexity of Doro and Anyanwu, as individuals and in relationship, that makes this novel an absolute stand out. It bemused me somewhat when I finished reading that, really, very little actually happens: there are few really “significant” events like battles. Instead it’s a steady stream of small events. It’s a surprisingly domestic novel, in that much of it is focused on family and family relationships, centred around the home and small communities. But don’t be fooled – never has the idea of ‘domestic’ equaling ‘unimportant’ been less true.

I read this as part of “Seed to Harvest”, the compilation of Patternmaster novels. I was so engaged and intrigued that I moved straight on to reading the next novel (in internal chronology), because I couldn’t bear to leave the story.