What a great collection of stories this is!
I was at first surprised when there was an afterword after each story. Then as I read through each afterword, after each story, I wished that more short story collections including such afterwords.
“But I’m still glad to be able to talk a little about what I do put into my work, and what it means to me.”
In her afterword to The Evening and the Morning and the Night, a story which focuses on a disease, Butler describes her interest in biology and how she built this fictional disease from three genetic disorders, and even offers a reading list.
My favourite story is probably Speech Sounds, set in a world where a virus has taken away language, although it has affected people differently. A woman, Rye, can no longer read and write: “She had a houseful of books that she could neither read nor bring herself to use as fuel. And she had a memory that would not bring back to her much of what had read before.” She meets a man who cannot speak or comprehend spoken language:
“The illness had played with them, taking away, she suspected, what each valued most.”
While it was a rather satisfactory ending, of sorts, I think I wanted so much for this story to continue, for it to not be a short story, to know what will happen to Rye, to this world without language. Perhaps it moved me so because I cannot fathom the thought of not being able to read, to know that these symbols, these letters have meaning but to never be able to put them together. For all the horror books I’ve read this RIP season, this one might just be the one to really hit me hard, to hit me where it hurts.
(Later, I learnt that Octavia Butler was dyslexic. And maybe this short story stemmed from that?)
And it was a surprise to read about Butler’s humble beginnings, her early desire to be a writer, despite people like her aunt telling her that African-Americans couldn’t be writers.
“In all my thirteen years, I had never read a printed word that I knew to have been written by a Black person.”
I am so very glad that she persevered. That she kept writing, that she kept submitting, that she never gave up despite what others told her.
Mind of My Mind (1977)
Wild Seed (1980)
Clay’s Ark (1984)
Seed to Harvest (2007, omnibus excluding Survivor)
Adulthood Rites (1988)
(Lilith’s Brood (2000), omnibus of the Xenogenesis trilogy)
Parable of the Sower (1993) (my review)
Parable of the Talents (1998)
Kindred (1979) (my review)
Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995); Second edition with additional stories (2006)
Unexpected Stories (2014, includes novellas “A Necessary Being” and “Childfinder”)