Cover Image: Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338)

Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338)

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Octavia Butler is a literary legend and this collections of her novels (Kindred and Fledgling) and stories illustrate how talented she truly was. This collection is sure to introduce Butler to a new generation of readers with her timeless, yet, timely commentaries on race in her stories. I'd recommend Octavia Butler to anyone interested in Black literature and science fiction.

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Even as I got into Butler's work over the past few years, this one was never top of my list, despite being the hit. The premise sounded a lot like sending someone from the present back to the past to remind them (and us) that it was a bit rubbish, which has always been one of my least favourite ways to use time travel (there's a reason I've never read Doomsday Book despite enjoying To Say Nothing Of The Dog). But then I heard about the complication, and the quote which inspired Butler to write it: a more radically Black Power classmate lamenting "I'd like to kill all these old people who have been holding us back for so long. But I can't because I'd have to start with my own parents." The wrinkle, if you likewise don't know it, being that narrator Dana doesn't just find herself back in 19th century Maryland, with her enslaved ancestors; she gets pulled there whenever one of her other ancestors is in danger. The white ancestors she never knew about, who owned the black ones. Meaning that she has to be complicit in the horrible implications of that, or risk her own nonexistence. And complicity is one of the big themes here, the way that even someone from the future who knows how obscenely wrong this all is, and that she shouldn't be here, can find herself thinking of the plantation house as 'home', and then kicking herself for that. There's also a dogged insistence on the practicalities of time travel, where rather than slipping into the past being treated with the leeway SF often applies, Dana is endangered not only by her race but by her accent, her vocabulary, her outfit – all of them dangerously out of place. And such knowledge of the future as she has is often so incomplete as to be more frustration than use, as it would be for most people – so she knows that a doctor who trades mainly in bleeding and purging is worse than useless, but often has minimal idea what to do instead, which itself puts her in a tough spot with people who assume she should be able to do more. It's a harrowing read, but I think maybe the worst of it is the suspicion that, whereas in 1979 Butler's emphasis was on the differences between the antebellum South and the more humane present-day America, a book along the same lines now might well find it easier to pick up on the far too numerous similarities.
Octavia Butler's last novel, and like many of the characters who most interested her, it's a curious combination of apparently disparate elements. As our conveniently amnesiac, blood-drinking narrator evades the mysterious teams of killers on her trail, in many ways it feels like standard vampire thriller territory. Details such as not needing to kill to feed, and the sexiness of being fed on, feel outright Vampire: The Masquerade; the idea that Shori is an experimental hybrid, her darker skin making her less vulnerable to sunlight, makes me wonder whether Butler had seen the Blade films and decided there was something worthy of further exploration in the visible but never really addressed difference between the Daywalker and his paler, more traditionally Western-idea-of-vampiric-looking foes. But at the same time there's a lot which feels familiar from Bloodchild and Xenogenesis – a disruption of heteronormative human pair-bonding, a symbiosis with a non-human entity, the knotty question of how free consent can ever be once desire and need and collateral benefits enter the occasion (which, of course, they always do, if not necessarily in quite such spectacular fashion as the ways Butler crafts). And good heavens, I know that Butler was never one for easy, affirmative books, but even so 15 years almost feels too short a span to have elapsed since a writer who has now been adopted as pretty much the patron saint of progressive SF could publish a book about a vampire who looks like a ten-year-old girl happily rewarding her harem of human minions/food sources with sex. Even the length of the book feels slightly ungainly; perhaps because of what publishers and markets wanted in the noughties, its 310 pages feel at least 50 past what I'd have expected from the pace with which Butler addresses her material in her other novels I've read – but of course, set that against how a lot of vampire books of the time would have run at least 100 pages, and quite possibly more, longer than this. In the final act, as we get into the vampires' political-legal system, there's some horribly prescient (tautology?) stuff about how a greater ability to detect untruth doesn't count for very much when set against the incentive prejudice and tribalism can give for affecting to believe a barefaced liar, although that's then backed away from in favour of an ending which, after the recent years Butler was lucky enough to miss, can't help but now feel weirdly pat and cheerful.
Octavia Butler's limited output of short fiction, plus two essays, whose insistence above all on the virtue of sheer doggedness deserves to see them mentioned more often among the usual suspects of writing advice round-ups. The stories, meanwhile, are an unsettling bunch. Like Dawn, the one novel of hers I've so far read, they feature recurring notes of body horror and whatever you want to call the mental equivalent (I tend to go with Howard Ingham's coinage 'identity horror'). But equally, there's often a seduction co-existing with the repulsion, a lure or a comfort in the monstrous and distressing. One could perhaps tie this to the historically greater violability of the black female body and person, though at the same time that might risk perpetuating the phenomenon it describes by eclipsing the right of every writer to their own individual fascinations. Whatever the balance, this is excellent writing, and deeply uneasy reading. I was even thrown by one story having no SF elements at all, which itself feels like a surprise twist, the same as reading a vampire or ghost story must have been back when such developments could still be the twist rather than the selling point. Though I suppose there's nothing to say this painful part-resolution of long-standing family tensions isn't happening in a world with aliens and time travel and the rest somewhere offscreen.

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This is an amazing collection of Octavia E. Butler's works. Kindred is one of the best known of her works, but her other works are just as fantastic. I am so happy to own a collection because I hadn't read Fledgling prior to this and loved it!

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I first read this author in my undergrad program so I was very thrilled to find this title here. What a great opportunity to read more of her work. Fantastic!

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Wow can she write. I loved both of these stories so much, esp Kindred. She had such a unique voice that manifests current day fears and concerns into a future setting. Her characters come alive and make you want to know more.

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This was a masterclass in writing science fiction by Octavia E. Butler. There is nothing to say but buy this anthology and learn about this masterful writer.

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I really hate to say this but … no bueno. I love Octavia Butler novels like Kindred and the Earthseed novels. I’ve read those fantastic books multiple times. Kindred in fact is part of this collection of stories by Ms. Butler and I fully recommend that wonderful book.

In Kindred, Dana, a Black woman whose husband is white, is pulled back and forth between the California present and the pre–Civil War South, where she finds herself enslaved on the plantation of a white ancestor whose life she must save in order to preserve her own. Gripping and suspenseful, the novel uses the conceit of time travel to plumb the mutilating structures of slavery and the terrible cost they continue to exact. – Goodreads

However, the first story in this collection turned me off so bad I quit reading and put it in my DNF.

A woman wakes up covered in burns in a mountainside cave with no knowledge of who she is or what has happened to her. In time she discovers that she is a vampire, and that there are others like her. Among the long-lived Ina, though, Shori is something new: an experimental birth, containing African American human DNA that gives her brown skin and the feared and fearful ability to go out in sunlight. Part murder mystery, part fantasy thriller, Fledgling is Butler’s incomparable take on the vampire novel. – Goodreads

Sounds good right? Admittedly, I’m not a big vampire fan. For some reason the whole thing with vampires just kind of skeeves me out, but this story really turned me off. The “woman” in this story actually lives in the body of a child. I think she looks like a pre-teen. When I got to the part where she seduces and has a sex scene with a grown man who is attracted to her youthful looks I had to let this one go. I’m sure Ms. Butler had things she was trying to say, but I’m not interested in sticking around to find out. This is just not for me.

It’s unfortunate, and I probably should have gone on to look at more of the other stories included in the collection, but that story left a bad tasted in my mouth and once I DNF I try not to look back. But please, by all means read Kindred. It does not disappoint.

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How did I live this long and not read Octavia Butler before? Just stunning. I couldn't put Kindred down. It's the standout in this collection, but really all of the stories were enjoyable and impressive in their crafting. What a loss for the world that this author died so tragically soon.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to review a temporary digital ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Butler's writing is hauntingly evocative. There is a reason why she is the queen of sci-fi, period. Afrofuturism is here to stay, and Butler is the pioneer.

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I’m SO glad to see Butler receiving some more mainstream attention lately; it is much-deserved. I’ve read all of her work (except Survivor, but working on it) and just adore her. This edition has an excellent intro by another amazing author and editor, Nisi Shawl, and I hope it helps get some of Butler’s short fiction especially into new hands. Speaking of which, my favorites of hers are Bloodchild, Speech Sounds, and The Evening and the Morning and the Night, all of which will stay with you long after the final page.

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This book includes an impressive set of works by Octavia E. Butler. It starts with her possibly best-known novel, Kindred and also includes a number of short stories and essays.
This book is a good starting point to her works but also a perfect chance to get to know this extraordinary writer better. I have the copies of Kindred and Parable of Sower in my library and I think they are very powerful works, but this volume presents a unique opportunity to read her short stories and essays in one volume and this is a welcome addition.
Thank you to the publisher for this opportunity.

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Octavia Butler is a master sci-fi writer and this is an excellent story. It you never read them do it.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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I might have avoided Octavia Butler out of some erroneous association of Kindred with Toni Morrison's Beloved. I'd seen the movie for the later and said nope, never, to the books. But I was way off base there. Kindred is a time-travel story and I'll leave it at that. With respect to Fledgling, Kindred was a joy. But this anthology was a great introduction to Butler and a selection of her work. I really enjoyed her short stories and essays, possibly more than the novels. Which is funny considering she seemed to have preferred her novels herself. In any case, I'm glad I decided to push myself into a space I had trepidations about entering because a fine time was had.

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Original, deep, and thought provoking. I will continue to read other books by Octavia E. Butler after this awesome collection.

Kindred - Not an easy read, but deeply touching. - 5 stars!

Fledgling - This YA vampire style story with weird adult content (pedophilia) is well written but the mentioned content made me not like this part of the book. Adding to that, I have already read too many vampire stories so it's nearly impossible for me to be surprised by any vampire tropes. - 2 stars

Collected Stories
I really like the short stories, they are extremely well written.

Childfinder - Interesting short story. I would like to read a whole novel about that world. It felt like a chapter of a longer story. 4 Stars

Crossover- Great, well-written and deeply touching short story of real life struggle. 5 Stars!

Near of Kin- I won't say much not to spoil it, but quite original. 4 Stars.

Speech Sounds - Well written, dystopic short story with a dash of hope, beautiful and touching. - 5 Stars!

Bloodchild - Original story about humans and aliens. - 4 Stars

The Evening and The Morning and The Night - 3,5 Stars
Intriguing story about a genetic disease and its implications.

Amnesty- Very original story about alien invasion and first contact. - 5 stars!

The Book of Martha - A short story that makes you wonder what would you do if you were in Martha's place. 4 stars.


Her essays have a lot of awesome advice for writers. I was writing down my favorite quote: "It's amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up." - 5 stars!


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Why have I waited so long to read this author? If you like science fiction, you must give Butler a try. Nice to see her getting the LOA treatment.

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Thanks to NetGalley and publisher for an e-arc in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Library of America has composed a collection of Octavia E Butler's two standalone novels along with all of her essays and short stories and with extra commentary and notes as well. While I received an e-ARC, I have already ordered my copy. That should hint at my review 😉.
When I first heard about this it was a little disconcerting because at first glance it felt like a fraction of her entire catalog of books. Then I stopped and realized that she only had two standalone novels. Her only short story collection was Bloodchild, and that entire collection is included here, including the addition in the 2015 edition. There is also her first published short story that was never in Bloodchild as well as at least one, hitherto unpublished, essay.
This work is a comprehensive collection of Butler’s standalone works. Having the works compiled is nice by itself, but with her extra pieces, it becomes almost invaluable. What’s more, LOA includes the standard annotated notes of each work for a new level of reading. It also includes a fascinating introduction that discusses Butler and her writings, and it includes the standard timeline of OEB’s life and publications. For all these reasons, this is a must buy for any Octavia E. Butler fan.
In full transparency, I've only read the two novels in here. I have not read the essays or the collected stories. This review is of the Library of America edition. Of course, I’ve read enough to be able to highly recommend Octavia E. Butler’s writings at large. If you never read her, you absolutely should, and there's no question that Kindred and Fledging are amazing novels. Kindred is probably my favorite book of all time. Octavia E. Butler is the epitome of intentional writing. Her work is both engaging and creative, but it's also thought provoking and really stretches the mind. While I have not read everything in this collection, I can still say with confidence that it is worth buying.

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Octavia Butler has long been a blindspot in my reading and I was so glad to see it remedied by her induction to the literary canon with this inaugural Library of America volume. This edition collects her standalone novels together with her short stories and nonfiction.

Kindred is a rightfully hailed classic and makes a strong case out of the gate for Butler's inclusion in the series. I wish I could say the same about Fledgling. The world it creates has such potential and it is sad to see it used to support clunky and expository dialogue. Perhaps with a lot of the set-up out of the way, the sequels could have been much better but alas that will never happen. In addition, as someone who likes to visualize what is happening on the page, the numerous sex scenes between someone with the body of a 10 year old girl and a grown man in his 20s were extremely disturbing. Made even more disturbing on further thought when you realize she is actually 53 and has essentially drugged him into loving and serving her unwittingly.

The short stories are, as usual a mixed bag. Crossover and Near of Kin are forgettable but Bloodchild and Amnesty stick with you and do so much with so little, like all great stories.

Thank you to NetGallety and Library of America for the ARC.

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I jumped on the opportunity to read Octavia Butler’s short stories when I saw this Library of America volume on Netgalley. I rarely read true science fiction (I do some fantasy, some time-travel and some post-apocalyptic novels, but aliens and flying saucers? No thank you!), yet Kindred had been such a memorable book for me in 2019, and I couldn’t pass the chance to read short stories of this author. I was sad to learn that she has published so few short stories, preferring to publish bigger volumes and even series. I enjoyed this compiled edition edited by Gerry Canavan, and with an interesting preface by Butler’s friend Nisi Shawl, although the barebones ARC format makes it difficult to go back and forth within the volume. I didn’t read Fledgling, although I intend to come back to it one day.

The book collects all seven stories from Bloodchild collection, as well as Childfinder (from Unexpected stories). The themes and genres are very wide, and none are related to Kindred. Each story is followed by a short afterword by Butler who presents the context of the story, or why she chose this theme. I liked the Utopian vision of The Book of Martha, where God addresses a female writer (Octavia herself?), so that she would chose the destiny of humans. It was by far the lightest story of them all, and readers should be warned that the worlds Butler creates are often dark and disturbing. I was awed by Butler’s imagination in Bloodchild, when she imagines a sort of love relationship between a human young man and a powerful creature. Speech Sounds is more like a standard postapocalyptic book, but I liked the metaphoric themes. Childfinder felt more like an excerpt of a complete novel. And The Evening and The Morning and The Night dealt with the consequences of a rare genetic disease.

In all those stories, I could not help but wonder at the unique point of view that Butler takes. A bit like Ken Liu, humans are often weaker creatures who have little choice but to obey to greater alien powers, but the relationship with others is not just a confrontation, there are complex feelings on both sides and plot twists that are voluntarily uncomfortable for the reader.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I received a free copy of this book for review consideration.

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Finally! A oversight that was long overdue has been put right. This collection of the best works of the late Octavia E Butler, the queen of Afrofuturism and one of the best science fiction writers in America is a welcome addition to the Library of America.
"Kindred" is her masterpiece published in 1978 and still highly relevant today, was my first foray into African American literature upon my arrival in the US in the early 80s. A captivating story from start to finish, a time travel story that beautifully brings together science fiction, history and psychology. I never got tired of reading this wonderful novel over and over since I purchased it almost 40 years ago.
This new edition of some of her best works should definitely attract new readers. To be enjoyed without moderation

Many thanks to Netgalley and Library of America for the opportunity to read this wonderful collection prior to its release date

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An amazing collection of a treasured author, this collection of stories and two books is just outstanding. I came upon author Octavia Butler several years ago and her work never ceases to amaze me. I recommend this collection to anyone who wants to have ready access to a full scope of her work and just the joy of having it in one resource. It is such a pleasure. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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