The story in Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories mostly take place in strange alien worlds populated by strange alien creatures interacting in strange alien ways with humans. If not located in another place, they take place on an earth in another time. (With an exception or two.) At any rate, the stories are not recognizably at first glance about the history of America, yet that is exactly what the volume can be interpreted as to one degree or another: it is unwritten history of real time and place in America’s past.
In a non-fiction addendum following “Bloodchild” Butler is moved to specifically reject the notion that the story is to be read—as it often is nevertheless—specifically as an allegory of American slavery. She forwards the fact that within her story there exists the definitely possibility for love to exist and grow between the alien creature representing the slaveowner and young boy representing the slave in allegorical interpretations. The idea here is an abject rejection that this could also possibly exist in the reality of slave conditions. One is moved to suspect Butler is far too intelligent to actually believe this division between her fiction and slave reality existed in all cases. The human mind is capable of finding love—or fooling itself into thinking so—in even the most extreme cases, so the suggestion that this is the reason to reject the story as allegorical seems thin. And, besides, so many other stories in the collection also fit thematically into the idea of the collection being allegorical.
“Bloodchild” is essentially a genre-bending examination of the long history of forced miscegenation and childbirth upon black female slaves by white working on the plantation. It is about a young boy being forced to undergo what sounds very much like a rape in order to assist in the facilitate the process of producing offspring from the eggs implanted by the alien beings. Another element Butler points to as disproving the allegorical reading is that though under the domination of their abductors, they humans do enjoy freedom. But at a climactic point, it is revealed the human are now allowed to own weapons, much the same way that freed slaves were denied the right to gun ownership, supposedly for their own protection.
“Amnesty” is a story about an alien species which abducts and conducts painful experimentations on humans. This story brings to mind the infamous experiment upon black men in the study of the effects of syphilis. The emblem those who suffer the disease called DGD in “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” makes them easily identifiable targets for discrimination and abuse, much like the color of the skin of freed slaves. The pandemic which sweeps throughout civilization in “Speech Sounds” leaves some members no longer capable of producing speech or reading and writing which essentially devastates their ability to communicate. Or, in other words, replicates the experience of being ripped from Africa and forced to live on a plantation in Dixie.
Although the stories touch upon a number of other themes both common and singularly in their attribution, the overriding theme connecting these mostly futuristic or alien stories is allegorical in nature. Butler may deny this was the intention, but her denials have no power over interpretation. What is there in the text is not merely a manifestation of her conscious intent, but also a demonstration of unconscious motivation and drive. It is, as they say, what it is.