This peerless short story by visionary fiction writer Octavia Butler examines the legacy — and future — of colonization and human bondage
By Octavia E. Butler
If there has ever been a moment for visionary speculative fiction — stories that imagine worlds that show us how our own might be better and more just, it is now. OneZero is dedicated to exploring the ideas and technologies that move the now-world toward those nascent future ones — ideas like those found in Octavia E. Butler’s masterwork of short fiction “Bloodchild.” As Walidah Imarisha, editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, writes in a companion piece about visionary fiction, “We can’t build what we can’t imagine, so it is imperative for us to create spaces that allow us to infinitely stretch our understanding of what’s possible.” In the shadow of George Floyd’s murder, of the pandemic, of Trump, we must embrace truly visionary fiction. No one perfected this art better than Butler. She also wrote very few short stories, and this is perhaps her best — perhaps it can be an inspiration, a balm, and a compass in a time when the future is more uncertain, and more open, than ever. Enjoy.
My last night of childhood began with a visit home. T’Gatoi’s sister had given us two sterile eggs. T’Gatoi gave one to my mother, brother, and sisters. She insisted that I eat the other one alone. It didn’t matter. There was still enough to leave everyone feeling good. Almost everyone. My mother wouldn’t take any. She sat, watching everyone drifting and dreaming without her. Most of the time she watched me.
I lay against T’Gatoi’s long, velvet underside, sipping from my egg now and then, wondering why my mother denied herself such a harmless pleasure. Less of her hair would be gray if she indulged now and then. The eggs prolonged life, prolonged vigor. My father, who had never refused one in his life, had lived more than twice as long as he should have. And toward the end of his life, when he should have been slowing down, he had married my mother and fathered four children.
But my mother seemed content to age before she had to. I saw her turn away as several of T’Gatoi’s limbs secured me closer. T’Gatoi liked our body heat and took…