A short story collection that I picked up as an ancillary source to all the novels I was reading earlier this year for an overview paper on Butler’s work. This contains all of Butler’s published short work, and it’s a small book. But that does not mean that you should pass it up. At least two of the stories, I believe, are must-reads for anyone interested in science fiction.
- “Bloodchild” — I’ve talked about this story before, and I won’t hesitate to talk about it again. It is likely my favorite SF story. The situation is horrifying, yet believable, and, within context, entirely rational. Humans on a far away planet are forced to enter into a relationship with the native alien race that is strangely reminiscent of both slavery and concubinage, yet Butler actually was working from insect natural history. This is a powerful story, one that wakes up your mind.
- “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” — This is the other fabulous story in this collection, another case of believable SF that comes near to horror. A disease that incites people to unthinkable crimes and the solution to the disease–as well as a close study on the type of people who administer the solution. You really can’t do much better than this in SF.
- “Near of Kin” — Not SF, and not a fantasy, yet not horror either. The subject matter is taboo in most fiction, so maybe that’s how it ended up in an SF anthology. Well done. Enjoyable.
- “Speech Sounds” — Really good story about a plague that affects the speech centers of the brain. Fast, but compelling, with an economy of plot–just enough to present the worse and the best of the situation.
- “Crossover” — Boring, although not bad for a first published story. You can see how her background infused her stories early on.
- “Positive Obsession” and “Furor Scribendi” — Reprinted essays on writing that should provide quite inspiring for burgeoning writers. Economical and smart.
[Finished September 1999]