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Reading gives us some place to go                                                                                                         When we have to stay where we are                                                                                                                                           -Mason Cooley

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Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler, first published in 1980. I was five years old.  My kindergarten teacher had given me a small poem to recite on graduation day to wow the parents and other adults.  I proclaimed that when I was an adult, I would be a librarian.  I knew nothing about the job except that I was expected to read.  I was fine with using my newly acquired skill.

In the mid 90’s, I had strained from that profession and dreamed of being a celebrated African American Author, {a triple A}.  Despite the fact that my parent are from the West Indies and South America.  There are cultural differences that can be explored in anther website/blog. As a writer, I had difficulty with the concept of describing a black person in fiction.  I was too use to harlequin books and the Sweet Valley series.  Once I realized my problem, I questioned my calling as a story teller.  Then I came across Wild Seed and other books by exceptionally great authors, which help me through my problem.   I was inspired to write the stories I develop today.

Up until then, I never thought black people wrote or thought about fantasy, sci-fi or speculative fiction {a term I think I will continue to use for the rest of the essay}.  African American Authors wrote about the horrible past and the struggling present, nothing beyond those two points.  Dawn, another great book by Ms. Butler and Wild Seed blew me away.  I later learned through the Dark Matter Anthology that Ms. Butler was not the only speculative fiction author out there.  Black people have been writing about the beyond for generations.

It is hard to explain this epiphany, I hope that is a better term for what I am talking about.Tmasks 1 It had been over 10 years since, I looked at Wild Seed.  It is still one of my favorites, a unique story put together by an irreplaceable creative mind.   When I first read this story, I wasn’t a parent.  I missed things.  I thought the story meant one thing.  Last month I re-read the book, it was part of a compilation and I listened to the audio book.  I found a whole new meaning in the story I had not notice before.  It is something that other readers of Ms. Butler might have already knew but it is new and profound to me. I am pleasantly satisfied, bemused that I missed it the first time.  {There may be some spoilers after this, I apologize in advance} 

In the first reading, I just thought that the story was a drawn out love relationship between two unique individuals, Anyanwu, a near immortal female shapeshifter and Doro a hard to define being who identifies himself as male.  My second reading revealed how complicated their relationship really was.  Both characters were ancient when they met for the first time.  Anyanwu still had standards, social customs and mores that linked her to her land and people in Africa.  Doro, who was probably ancient before Anyanwu was born and originated in Africa, had given up on all those customs and belief system, centuries ago.  He delved in taboo practices and encouraged others to do the same.  He had a vision of a future that only he could see.  He was cruelly ambitious to whatever he was creating the people no longer had value for just being people.  Doro used everyone. He had no corporeal body and was compelled to take over another’s.  This action killed the person.  Years of performing this action had changed Doro, at least that is what I would like to think.   The brief revelation of his past didn’t endear me to Doro.  It is a safe bet, that he was conscious for so long, he forgot more than he remembered.

quill 1Although she was not taken in chains like so many at that time, Anyanwu was forced out of Africa.  Taken to a new unrecognizable world.  Forced to do as Doro dictated.  She struggled with new social mores, food and standards eventually she succeeds, learning to abandon some old customs to survive in a new and brutal world.  However still keeping a powerful sense of self.  Anyanwu was satisfied with herself and had a fierce independence that made Doro love and hate her I think.

I read in another review that Doro was pure evil.  A black and white statement, with no room for details.  Now I haven’t typed this before but Wild Seed is book one of a quartet.  I read somewhere that it is actually a quintet but Ms. Butler did not want to acknowledge the fourth book in the series.  {I have some thoughts on that subject but I think is better explored on addictivewriter.blogspot.com}.  I don’t think his character could be described that simply. The lengths in which he got his way and revenge against people was malicious and distasteful.  His ideology could be explained in his origin story. However he did watch over  the people he took care of his own.  He regarded and valued their strange abilities, in a time where discovery would lead to death.  His attention and haughtiness could make a person cringe.   He was never repulsed or shocked by the behaviors of his people and others like them.  In some cases he encouraged aberrant activities. My understanding of Doro is that his unique being had changed how he viewed the world and the people in the world. His true qualities have yet to be revealed in the course of the series.

So there they were, independent Ayanwu and controlling Doro both stuck in their ways and at odds with each other.  At a time when the Americas was still a colony and throughout it becoming a nation.  Ayanwu realized she would do anything to survive the new biased world she was forced to live in.  Doro realized that he needed someone like Ayanwu, to  keep what little of humanity he had left in him and possibly find more.  I would like to say that it was all but Doro spent many years trying to make a replacement for Ayanwu  and I am  not done with the series, which is called by Open Road media, publishers of the omnibus, the Seed to Harvest series.   My goal is to finish this series before my birthday. Doro’s vision moves into the present that was the 80’s and 90’s into space and the future.  So even though there is peace, I believe it is only for time. It may be a couple of centuries but still only a measure of time for near immortal beings.  That is the feeling I get from the story.  Stay tuned for the next installment, my thoughts on Mind of My Mind.

 Please leave a comment 

Peach Lotus

P.S. Extra thank you to my niece RD.  She helped with editing. 

 

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About J.C. Henry

I am a writer and Podcaster. Most of my stories are in the speculative fiction genre. The Red Mushroom Podcast is about writing and the writing business, is currently in development.
This entry was posted in Books, Reading, Reading/Listening, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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