||Octavia E. Butler --
-- born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California
-- spent her childhood in poverty. (more bio
info and picture)
"I'm a 53-year-old writer who can remember being a 10-year-old
writer and who expects someday to be an 80-year-old writer. I'm also
comfortably asocial-- a hermit in the middle of Seattle -- a pessimist
if I'm not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water
combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive." (source)
-- part of the Xenogenesis trilogy, called Lilith's Brood (which
includes Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago).
a "critical dystopia" (defined by Tom Moylan): "a narrative which points
to the socio-historic causes of the dystopian elements of our culture rather
than one which merely reveals symptoms." (Miller)
Cited by Donna Haraway in "A Cyborg Manifesto" as one of the "theorists
for cyborgs" (173).
("The cyborg is a 'hybrid' , a figure which breaks down the 'boundaries'
between 'human and animal' , 'organism and machine' , 'physical
and non-physical', and self and other with regard to 'gender, race,
or class' . A cyborg is a construct of transgressed boundaries,'
comfortable with 'permanently partial identities and contradictory
standpoints' " qtd and explained in Miller 338.)
Regarded as "salvation history" but not utopian fiction by Haraway
in Primate Visions: "an imaginative site of experimentation where
new notions of identity and community are under construction. . .
.[It] 'requires readers radically to rewrite stories in the act of reading
them. . . to find an 'elsewhere' from which to envision a different
and less hostile order and relationships among people, animals,
technologies, and land' " (Miller 33)
Contradictions in Xenogenesis: "These novels mix the typical science-fiction
'space-alien' story with elements of the slave narrative, the Genesis story,
the nature/culture debate, utopian/dystopian tales, captivity narratives,
and more. Butler's aliens are both colonizers and a utopian collective,
white the captured/saved humans are both admirable survivors and ugly xenophobes.
Lilith Iyapo, . . . , is both the mother of a new race and a Judas to humanity"
Controversies around Xenogenesis: utopian or dystopian, social constructivist
or determinist (humans' Othering tendency), the last two books failure?,
self-sacrificing mother, heterosexuality remaining unquestioned?
(Cf. Miller 343-44)
Contesting and revising our culture's most powerful originary discourses
(Biblical, biological, anthropological) by keeping one in dialogue with
the others: "XENOGENESIS resists 'recreating the sacred image of the same,'
not by merely re-telling one origin story with a difference, but by putting
the four originary discourses I mentioned above into a dialogic relation
with each other." (Peppers)
Adam's Others: Biblical Genesis and Slavery.
(Eu)Gen(et)ic Engineering: Sociobiology and Slavery.
Resisting a Paleoanthropological Recreation of the Same.
I) Oankali as Aliens
1. appearance: Jdahya
p. 11; tentacles, pp. 12, 15; the arm movements: 164; 193; 236-37;
2. name & organization:
Dinso, Toaht, Akjai
--home, not going back,
--acquisitive, gene trader
-- L's name 62
-- ooloi "treasured outsider"
-- concept of parent 110
--the role of ooloi 20,
-- involving two humans,
two O's, and an ooloi pp. 189-190.
4. ship and transportation:
pp. 28-29; 35; dislike machine and their concept of trade 83
5. As Traders, their manipulation
-- Lilith's scar;
-- a series of questions;
-- not allowed to read,
nor write 61
-- send to be mated with
-- rejecting their lover
without the medium of their ooloi 220; all co-opted;cannot resist their
own ooloi 240;
6. communication and unbridgeable
--silence p. 31
--alienness of Nikanj 96
(after the Paul Titus episode); concept of family 99
-- K, "Your children will
know us, Lilith. You never will" 111
--rejected ooloi, sick and
Lilith and Joseph as Aliens:
1. Lilith suspected
of not being human; Joseph -- "faggot" slanted eyes 159;
II) What is being "human" like?
2. Joseph killed brutally
because of his healing power.
1. Human society
--Earth (after overall
-- two problems 37:
intelligence and hierarchy.
e.g. Joseph condescension to Lilith 157
-- rape tendencies
2. Human body challenged:
"gene map" of Lilith
3. Different ways of survival:
"Alive! Still alive. Alive . . .again."
cancer: a beautiful growth.
different ways of sex: p.
A. Paul Titus -- 86- ,
-- his view of O's genders
-- his dependence on O and
refusal to go back 89,
-- his view of being manipulated
90 - wanting L to "surprise them"
B. Lilith --
1) Her adaptability:
"reality was whatever happened, whatever she perceived."
2). contradictory responses
to Nakanje and the other Oankali.
--her responses to the captors:
1. curses or not responds --> answer the questions; (pp. 7-9);
--first leaving her isolation
cell, accepts Jdahya's sympathy p. 36
--sympathy + resistance
38; know they want her to be close to N 106; feel N's sincerity yet still
resisting it 160-61.
-- Jdahya's offer of death
-- dislikes being patronized
by Kahguyaht 48, 49
--dislikes being manipulated
53, dislikes being treated as a house pet 55-56; experimental animal.
58, Judas goat (Sheep cannot readily be driven to slaughter but will follow
a goat. A Judas goat is used to lead the sheep to the killing pens.)
-- her attempts to feel
"human" and her existence: 1) see O lie, 2) see another human. p.
59; her Tiej trip 65-
-- wants her autonomy, does
not want to be changed. 74; her memory of Sam and Ayre 75-76; feels
being Paul's prisoner 87;
-- given more freedom (after
her memory is changed 101); getting books and pens 107, changes in her,
attached to N.
C. the humans awakened by
1) Tate 132
2) Joseph and Lilith --
not "Tarzan and Jean" type;
3) Lilith -- not trusted
by her friends 214-15; "another chance with a human group"; "Learn and
4. What does "being human" mean?
1. the rebels: Peter
192; "He died human." 196; "Were they strong? Or simply
unable to adapt?" 201;
2. Lilith's attempt to rescue
3. Lilith's pregnancy --
the child not "human" 246-47;
Miller, Jim. "Post-Apocalyptic Hoping: Octavia Butler's Dystopian/Utopian
Vision." Science-Fiction-Studies. 1998 July; 25(2 (75)): 336-60.
In both the Xenogenesis trilogy and Parable of the Sower, Butler stares
into the abyss of the dystopian future and reinvents the desire for a better
Peppers, Cathy. Science-Fiction-Studie
(SFS). 1995 Mar; 22(1): 47-62. http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/65/peppers65art.htm