Blood child true to its name is 30 pages decorated with the details of a species whose development depends on consuming the flesh of their carrier. An inner species romance of oviposition. Octavia Butler wanted to write a pregnant man story in which “a man became pregnant as an act of love” and thereby managed to write their conventional conception out of existence without managing to liberate anyone. Whether she intends the story to be interpreted as slavery or not, the tale was spun to display an inequality. Here males fill both a dominant and submissive role. Dominant with their wives and submissive with the centipede-like* aliens who utilize their flesh as incubators for the flesh eating maggots they develop from. After an incubation period the flesh eating worms are removed through a gash which facilitates fishing them out of the hosts circulatory system, where they are promptly placed in a fresh cadaver to consume¹. Each birth a cesarean with the promise of torment and death in either a late term or if one of the grubs is missed. Our hero, Gan, is hesitant at first, but with a bit of coaxing and with the threat of being left for his sister whom it’s known would allow it (she has been expecting to carry life within her since the beginning after all) eventually relents, agreeing to let the squirmers take up residence inside him. Excitedly stripping down and opening his blood vessels to the cold ovipositor of his creepy crawly lover’s many nodules embrace. How romantic!
Though I’d contest her more notable achievement was writing a parasite that takes advantage of the cycle of human development. One which abuses a mechanism by which we are already sexually repressed in the traditional family structure, the incest taboo. Such a structure demands that any child must make an early distinction between emotional and sexual love, and is used to preserve and instill the traditional roles of mother and father, man and woman. However, the Tlic parasites have managed to insert themselves as an additional point in the structure and alter how the system is encoded. Firstly abusing the initial state of dominant and submissive sexual drives to capture preference for itself in a second abuse of the family structure by embodying both the father and mother roles. Giving out narcotic sterile beverages of unconditional love² and holding an attitude of discipline, ownership of the family itself³, and the superior physical force⁴. Thereby offering a choice of association that embodies both aspects of the falsely presumed dynamic, and allowing a partnership that allows both drives to remain active in an alternately shaped repression. Gtoi being birthed from Gan's father and being part of his mothers life since her adolescence has an established presence as family, and is essentially a third parent to Gan. One whom the distinction between emotional and sexual love is never at issue the way it is for the other two parents. Instead we have a predominant relation based around use value.
A depressingly utilitarian non erotic pansexuality oriented with regards only for reproduction. Bug sex as a bore. In erotic sexualities the excess sexual energy from the eggs is distributed across the system to other objects and acts, giving birth to a plethora of delightful perversions. while here the egg is the main course, and as a result sex could not be more sterile. All energy is expended toward the insertion and development of the egg, none of it is for pleasure, even if some may arise as a consequence to induce the situation. A slight pinch, then the same narcotic effect that is achieved by eating one. Utility, the tacked on piece of necessity that is the stagnation of any romance, freedom from which would be an unequivocal salvation.
¹This practice has been instituted because previous host animals with less intelligence would kill most of the grubbies while they were eating their way out of them.
²“I’m told I was first caged in within Gatoi’s many limbs only three minutes after my birth. A few days later I was given my first taste of egg.”
³Gatoi is the owner of the human preserve in which the family lives
⁴“She knocked me across the room. Her tail was an efficient weapon weather she exposed the sting or not”
Duryea-Gode Disease is a genetic disorder characterized by the carrier having uncontrollable impulses toward literally tearing themselves apart in ghastly spectacles of self mutilation; which on rare occasions can even lead to the dismemberment of others. One such case is Lynn’s, the diver of the narrative, father. A man who skinned her mother alive? before digging through his rib cage in a feverish attempt to pry out his own heart. Viewed as ticking time bombs the ostracization of the carriers is rampant. The main treatment for prevention being a specially formed diet, casually referred to as dog biscuits, which makes the afflicted easy enough to spot that keeping their status under wraps is all but impossible.
Several ‘’treatment’’ facilities exist for the housing of patients with DGD once they begin to drift, or their urges become apparently untethered. Something which normally means a box with a luxurious name placed away from society, lined with padded walls utilizing restraints as mandatory attire to keep patients from disgorging themselves. Lynn has swung her way into medical school on a scholarship from such an institution, though the reputation DGD’s have for being particularly productive and creative didn't hurt her any. A reputation not unrecognizably applied to the non neurotypicals in our own realm. Possessing traits deemed personally destructive and therefore pushed towards the margins, but often have populations lauded as being gifted artists or scientists. Perhaps intended as an exaggeration there remains a palpable history of self mutilation running through mental illness. While not associated with any one illness in particular cases of peeling of the skin, lacerations of the flesh, removal of fingers,¹arms, ears, and eyes are beyond well documented. A common enough practice before the advent of the label, though more closely associated with the idea of religious sacrifice. ‘’“...tearing off their own limbs because of religious feelings and in order to pay homage to gods who demanded this sacrifice.”’’² DGD are known to feel as if they are imprisoned within their own skin, as Lynn describes ‘’“She bit her own arm and.. Swallowed the flesh she had bitten away…. They try so hard, fight so hard to get out…. [of] Their restraints the disease, the ward, their bodies.”’’³DGD harbour overwhelming desire for escape from the situation in which they are entombed, actualized by throwing pieces of themselves outside of themselves. A freedom achieved if just through a differentiation between themselves and their surroundings, madness only removing obstacles to an impulse. “Freedom from all selfish calculation,” ⁴
Worthy of note is the case of Gaston F, a reader of Nietzche and the Biography of Van Gogh,⁵who at the age of thirty wandered into a cemetery on December 11th 1924. Where he began to stare at the sun until such a point that he was given the directive to remove his left index finger; upon which he promptly bit through down to the bone then tore away using his other hand. After an unsuccessful evasion of the police for the act he is quoted as saying “It did not seem very hard… after contemplating suicide to bite off a finger. I told myself: I can always do that.”⁶ Van Gogh himself had a rather interesting relation with the sun. Transitioning from sunsets, to full sun, to no sun, to suicide throughout his carrer. While still living he would often paint wilted sunflowers, a rotten disappointment opposed to the brilliant ideal that once shone in his painted skies during his stay in a mental institution. Though he is still perhaps most famous for his own severed gift of love which society hardly has the ears to accept. A brilliant rejection of the values in which he was encased.⁷
Both cases here involving the sun as an ideal. A solar god which demands sacrifice, and generally one which makes a show of disemboweling itself. The sacrifice is then a coerced attempt to align oneself with this ideal term, a full promethean commitment to which would inevitably end in the practitioner's death.⁸ A true will to nothingness sufficient to become active, a burst of creativity directed at self destruction.⁹ The impulse synonymous with creation directed at self mutilation.
As the story unfolds, Lynn accompanies her DGD boyfriend, Alan, on a trip to the facility that is providing her scholarship to visit his mother who, he assumed, had died from the disease years prior. On arrival they are greeted by a situation unlike any of the other institutions which they have witnessed. Instead of uncontrolled DGD being placed in restraints and isolation to separate them from their ability to injure themselves or others they are given opportunities to pursue creative work. Projects which their vast reservoirs of violent impulses can be thrown into. Procured through an establishment of an environment that minimizes factors that cause these forces to be acted against the self.
The Facility head, Beatrice, acts as an important piece in the maintenance of such an environment. Her place as the “queen bee” is to smooth over and redirect patient forces when they encounter turbulence. As a child of two DGD patients¹⁰ she releases a pheromone which breaks through the barriers to reach her patients, giving her a kind of chemical charisma which allows her to communicate successfully to even the most closed off in the facility. Alan’s mother being one of these cases. Suffering from significant cognitive deterioration as a result of a long period of neglect at another facility where she was left to tear away the majority of her face, including the removal of both eyes.¹¹ Beatrice has managed to bring her back into a state where she has regained limited speech and spends the majority of her day sculpting.
When Alan meets his mother it is Beatrice who brings her out of her task and returns her to it. Gently removing mis mothers hands from the clay, directing her towards her son for the conversation, then returning her hands to it so as to resume with minimal distraction. A weaver with a firm love and exhaustive patience, meeting them where they are and offering encouragement to those in her care to act in a manner which allows them opportunity to throw pieces of themselves outwards without literal self annihilation. A role which one finds themselves falling into rather than orienting themselves toward, as Lynn discovers upon observation of Beatrice's workings and a compulsion in a fashion to continue them herself. A drive toward refreshment in helping the gifts that DGDs have as creators and problem solvers flourish.
The gift itself arrives from what sets DGDs apart. Their violent urges which allow them to each have a potential for overcoming. Presented as necessity to think and act differently in ways that reject established values and accept levels of risk and torment. something that isn't present in those that would set them apart. Neuro divergents can be seen in a similar light. Having a different set of base needs (diet), thriving in unorthodox environments with fewer obstacles to bind their forces upon, and with interaction from individuals on similar or adaptive wavelengths to successfully facilitate their preferred flavor of communication and encouragement. Factors which distinguish them as superior creatives and problem solvers when the right conditions are met, because of, rather than in spite of, the violent tendencies they possess that are deemed to be self destructive.
¹ (Bataille 1985) 68 Black foot indians have a tradition of removing fingers to offer to the morning star
² Ibid 67
³( Butler 2012) 63
⁴ (Bataille 1985) a quote from hubert and mauss’s [sacrifice: its nature and function p.101]
⁵ Whom he claimed influenced his behavior
⁶ (Bataille 1985) 61-2
⁷ (Bataille 1985) 62-2,71
⁸ (Butler 2012; Bataille 1985)
⁹ (Deleuze 2006) 84 “willing=creating”, 111 “...active forces produce a burst of creativity”, 169 “becoming-active only exists through the will to nothingness” 174-5
¹⁰ (Butler 2012) 61 “Most DGDs have the sense to marry each other and produce any children. I hope you two aren't planning on having any-...” - Beatrice
¹¹ A case exists of woman locked in an institution who was commanded by a man of fire to tear off her ears, failing to do so ||for a lack of a sharp instrument||, she compromised by plucking her eyes from her skull. (Bataille 1985) 66-67
Bataille, Georges. 1985. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939. U of Minnesota Press.
Butler, Octavia E. 2012. Bloodchild: And Other Stories. Open Road Media.
Deleuze, Gilles. 2006. Nietzsche and Philosophy. A&C Black.
The goal has always been hells.
I never believed in heaven.
Octavia butlers last essay in Blood Child, The Book of Martha is about her utopia. Martha speaks to God, is invited into their realm God to name one change she would like to see, one change that will benefit humanity. The utopia she drafts is vivid dreams, every night, inescapable, more vivid and satisfying than reality could ever be, so people can experience their fantasies to the point that Some will give up on their lives and decide to die because nothing they do matters as much as their dreams. Some will enjoy it and try to go on with their familiar lives, but even they will find the dreams interfere with their relations to other people. & she lands here because she doesn't believe in heaven either. It makes me want to wretch. I am so sick of these dreaming drugs she has no idea what she is asking for. Her utopia exists this way because her Martha was too tepid to commit to a larger change than more vivid fantasy. No wishing people weren't enslaved to eating, to tilling the soil. No wish they did not tire. No wish for ways they could understand each other better despite a discussion of the Tower of Babel. No wish for them to tolerate pain better, to let is pass over, to be harnessed more effectively, to have it read as something else. No. No wish for advancement or adaptation of any kind. Instead she wishes for tiny personal heavens. Heavens that evaporate every sunrise. Heavens that leave you impotent, unenthused, and disinterested upon waking Nothing slows people down like satisfaction, and this satisfaction will come every night. And I am sick. Eternally ill from her dream.
I want hell. I need hell. I could bleed for hell, because hell could be better. It could be new, it has hope. With hell there's a chance, but in heaven it's already finished.
This of course isn't something she doesn't know, both of them. Martha tries to cut this alongside the fact that the dreams will make them dull, stem their aggression, with a hope that these dreams will inspire a maturity, a greater concern for consequence. Proposed in response to God saying these dreams could divest parents from caring for children, or seduce children away from their parents. No, here for Martha even the dreams need to be tempered, the private paradise nerfed so that people might be less affective on the world, but not so in affective as to lose the relations she finds sacred. These dreams are meant to be satisfying in dreaming, but not in making them real. Butler of course drew her satisfaction in action, in achieving her dream, her obsession.
"An obsession, according to my old Random house dictionary, is "the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, or desire, etc." Obsession can be a useful tool, if it's a positive obsession. Using it is like aiming carefully in archery." p.129
She dreamt of becoming a writer, and nothing stopped her from achieving that despite everything that was against her. Not the fact that there were no other black women writing science fiction. Not the fact that she lost $61.20 hiring an agent to read her stories that should only be paid after sale. Not the fact that she was shy and bullied for it. Her endless ambition carried her through. It is a wonder that Martha is also a writer, who gave up her dream before God for dreaming that goes nowhere. That Butler sees her essay on her achievement as duller than her fiction.
"Well, whatever it was i couldn't stop. Positive obsession is all about not being able to stop just because you are afraid and full of doubts. Positive obsession is dangerous. It's about not being able to stop at all." p.133