Depending upon whether you are reading the first or second printing of this collection of essays and short stories by renowned science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, you will be entertained, enthralled and often completely nauseated by either four or six short stories. The first collection of stories, written by Butler in 1995, was updated in 2005 to include two additional stories, "Amnesty" and "The Book of Martha".
The title story of the collection, "Bloodchild", is also the most famous, and was the recipient of numerous awards as a stand-alone piece of writing, including the Hugo Award, given for the best science fiction or fantasy achievement each year, and the Nebula Award, which is bestowed annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Typically both awards will single out the author of a full-length novel; the fact that "Bloodchild", a short story, was so highly lauded speaks very highly of the plot-driven narrative, strong character development and complex themes behind the construction of the story. The author attributes female emotions to a male narrator which is highly unusual.
The story tells of the bond between a race of alien life-forms called Tlics, who are insect-like in appearance and structure, and a colony of humans who have left earth and now live the ex-pat life on the Tlic's home planet. The humans act as hosts for Tlic eggs; the story was driven by Butler's own very tangible fear of having parasitic insects living inside her body. She was also fascinated by turning the familiar concept of alien invasion upside down; what if, instead of aliens being portrayed as the invaders of earth, the earthlings invade the aliens' planet instead, only to become invaded themselves, not in a geographical or political way, butin a way that violates their own bodies and threatens the future of the human race as we have always known it.
As well as her short stories, Butler also included two long essays in both editions of the collection. "Postive Obsession" and "Furore Scribendi" are both autobiographical in nature, although Butler was notoriously reluctant to write about herself; the latter essay was published previously in L. Ron Hubbard's "Writers of the Future : Volume IX".
Critics and book reviewers all seemed very positive about the collection praising Butler for the diversity of her stories and also for the depth of the thematic study that came before them. She was also widely praised for taking current social problems and setting them against a backdrop of fantasy fiction. This is generally true of all of Butler's work, although she actually fell into science fiction writing by accident; a hobby writer as a child, she became involved with the Black Power movement as a young woman in Pasadena, and was encouraged to join writers' workshops by peers who believed that hers was a voice that needed to not only be heard but committed to paper as well. The workshops enabled her to find her own voice and to explore ideas; she found that her passion was science fiction writing, and she went on to attend a Clarion workshop, which was life changing. Shortly afterwards, she sold her first short story, and soon was making enough money as a writer to devote herself to it full-time.
As well as winning multiple Nebula and Hugo Awards, Butler became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, awarded to the select few writers who had shown extraordinary dedication to their creative pursuits; she received the award in 1995, after the publication of the first incarnation of her short story collection.