Bothered by Butler

I’ve been reading Octavia Butler. Some time ago I made it through Fledgling, which I found interesting but also troubling. It seemed to me a sanitised depiction of a fundamentally coercive set of relationships – a romanticised take on non-consensual dynamics of sex and control. I was told it was far from her best, however, so I’ve begun the Lilith’s Brood trilogy on strong recommendations, but it’s been if anything even more disturbing to see that these are longstanding Butlerian themes.

I’ve only sampled Dawn and a small amount of Adulthood Rites, so I may be off the mark. But even though we are invited to sympathise with the human resentment of the Oankali’s colonising project of enforced “trade”, it’s hard not to read the work as in the main vindicating the Oankali belief that they know what humans need better than we know ourselves. Stripping Lilith and the others of reproductive autonomy seems to be presented as unpleasant and unfortunate, while still ultimately in some greater sense necessary or wise. Though the books are compellingly written, I find this underlying ethos rather horrifying, and I’m slightly baffled by the strong feminist support Butler nevertheless seems to command. What am I missing?

2 comments on “Bothered by Butler

  1. Try reading Kindred, Parable of the Sower, and Parable of the Talents. Her best work, imho, and you may find there what you’re looking for.

  2. […] my earlier ambivalence toward Octavia Butler, and on the recommendation of ACE* editor Jason Lundberg, I finally got […]

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