Black Fiction and Black History Are Separate

Shadow and Act writer Andre Seewood discusses Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" and the implications -- and assumptions -- that might be made about the story if it were adapted for the big screen.

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Octavia Butler (Malcolm Ali/WireImage/Getty Images)

In fiction writer Octavia Butler's story "Bloodchild," humans have left Earth and must share a neighboring planet with aliens. There, the men must be impregnated and give birth; if they don't, their lives and those of their families and friends are at risk. Andre Seewood writes in Shadow and Act about how the story's plot might open itself up for comparisons to American slavery -- but it shouldn't.

The price for peaceful co-existence between the two species is that selected male humans must be impregnated and bear the children of the aliens in an excruciatingly painful and bloody gestation process. One male child has discovered that for all of his life he has been groomed for impregnation and if he refuses then the lives of his siblings and loved ones will be held in jeopardy.

In the afterword by the author, Butler makes explicit the themes and context of the story. She states that on one level BLOODCHILD can be read as," a love story between two very different beings," and that its context is that of," 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," and finally she confesses that," Bloodchild is my pregnant man story."(1)

Butler's reason for explicitly detailing the themes and context in her afterword to the short story was driven by a central difficulty in the creation and critique of any science fiction by an African-American author: the certain tendency to see all science fiction by African-Americans as a metaphor or commentary about slavery or racial inequities past and present. As Butler matter-of-factly asserts," it amazes me that some people have seen "Bloodchild" as a story of slavery. It isn't." (2)

Read Andre Seewood's entire piece at Shadow and Act.

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