Short Story Friday is a new feature I’ve created on my blog. No, not Short Story Saturday or some other alliterative phrase. I’M GOING AGAINST THE CURRENT. Since short stories don’t get enough love, I’ll be digging around in a couple of my collections and might put things up I’ve been reading in class (or my roommate, for that matter). Rather than be a traditional review, I’ll be putting up more of my feelings and reactions as well as focusing on the key themes of the story. Also, if there is a legitimate free link to read it at, I shall post that for your enjoyment, as well as where to buy the collection it comes from. I hope you enjoy~
If you have a weak stomach, I warn you in advance not to read this story. Reader discretion is advised. Regardless, it is absolutely fascinating in its content and if you can stomach parasitic impregnation of males by an insect-like alien species, then definitely read this Hugo and Nebula award winning novelette.
Butler shows us the world of a distant planet, some unspecified years in the future, where generations of humans have lived in a sort of symbiotic relationship with the host species. While they are forced to reside in the Preserve and their rights are limited, they are given sterile eggs that serve as a sort of narcotic elixir of life. In exchange, however, the alien species known as the Tlic use males as “host animals” for their young to be born in. Though it’s eluded to that relations in the past between the species were quite violent, the present seems to be somewhat more peaceful, with the Tlic government working to join families rather than just using people like cattle.
In short, it seemed like a somewhat less deadly version of Alien. Though unfortunately I’ve only seen clips of the movie, so I really can’t make much judgment regarding similarity. Any of you who have seen the full film can make that call in the comments if you wish.
While its plot can be quite gruesome at times, the novelette can be read in a number of different ways. Many people apparently view this as a master-slave relationship, possibly tying in the fact that one of Butler’s most famous novels Kindred explores the topic of slavery in depth. I feel, however, that this particular view trivializes the story. The narrator, Gan, does have an internal conflict regarding whether the relationship between the species follows that route over a more peaceful symbiotic relationship, sparked by the cynicism of his older brother. And truly, the entire story really rests on the fence between the two points of view. However, the love and friendship shared between T’Gatoi, the host alien of the family, and our main character is quite touching in my opinion. You can tell, at least with her and a good amount of the other Tlic, that they do care immensely for the well-being of their adopted human families.
Then again, I suppose one could argue that some slave owners felt the same way. It really depends on how you read the story. To each their own.
My overall feeling is that I was disturbed by Butler’s novelette in a good way. Great food for thought and heavy discussion. My roommate having to read the story this week brought it back to the forefront of my mind, as I had to read it myself for a class last spring. I think she was rather horrified by the entire ordeal of her assignment, however. It certainly isn’t a story for everyone.
An interesting note from the particular compendium I read this in — apparently Butler wrote the story to help overcome her fear of bot flies. A great way to dive right into Horror October. Excited yet?