Octavia Butler Short Stories

Octavia E. Butler didn’t seem to write a lot of short stories, but the ones she wrote are highly regarded.

“Bloodchild”

Gan and his family are humans living in the Preserve on another planet. It’s ruled by the Tlic, an insect-like species. On the last day of Gan’s childhood, the family is visited by T’Gatoi, a Tlic politician in charge of the Preserve. Humans and the Tlic have an arrangement—they’re protected in the Preserve in exchange for incubating the Tlic eggs. Gan has been chosen by T’Gatoi.

Most of this story can be read in the preview of the anthology Invaders!

“The Evening and the Morning and the Night”

Lynn suffers from DGD, as did both her parents, which is unusual. The disease can be slowed but not stopped with a restrictive diet. Sufferers eventually deteriorate into extreme self-harm and violence toward others. There’s generally a warning, a “drift” that occurs before loss of control, allowing time to institutionalize people before they become dangerous. Lynn’s father didn’t drift; he snapped suddenly. Lynn deals with her diagnosis and the stigma it brings.

“Near of Kin”

A woman who was raised by her grandmother is at the home of her mother who has died. The only other relative who really paid attention to her, her uncle, is there too. She doesn’t feel any closeness to her deceased mother, and doesn’t care what happens to her things. Her uncle’s view of his sister’s behavior is more charitable.

“Crossover”

Jane has a difficult factory job soldering J9 connectors. Someone is unhappy whether she works fast or slow. She goes to the liquor store after work, and runs into an old acquaintance.

“The Book of Martha”

Martha had just gone to her kitchen for some food after a night of writing. She suddenly finds herself with God, surrounded by grayness. God has selected her for a job—to help humankind through its tumultuous adolescence and enable it to live better. She can ask questions and think about her decisions as long as she wants. It’s an overwhelming job with many potential pitfalls.

“Amnesty”

Noah is the intermediary between humans and the stranger-Community, a globular, plant-like species of aliens. She has a history with them and has now applied for a new assignment—to instruct the six recruits, particularly to calm them and assure them there’s no danger. They’re looking for jobs, but they have many questions and concerns about the Community. The Community captured and experimented on humans in the past.

“Speech Sounds”

Rye is on a bus heading for Pasadena. She might have a brother there who’s still alive. Two passengers, young men, start getting hostile. When one inadvertently falls into the other, a fight breaks out. This leads to further hostilities. The driver stops the bus. There is lots of grunting and other sounds and many gestures, but no one talks.