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

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Pub Date 19 Jan 2021 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2021

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The definitive edition of the complete works of the "grand dame" of American science fiction begins with this volume gathering two novels and her collected stories

An original and eerily prophetic writer, Octavia E. Butler used the conventions of science fiction to explore the dangerous legacy of racism in America in harrowingly personal terms. She broke new ground with books that featured complex Black female protagonists—“I wrote myself in,” she would later recall—establishing herself as one of thepioneers of the Afrofuturist aesthetic. In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, in recognition of her achievement in creating new aspirations for the genre and for American literature. 

This first volume in the Library of America edition of Butler’s collected works opens with her masterpiece,  Kindred, one of the landmark American novels of the last half century. Its heroine, Dana, a Black woman, is pulled back and forth between the present and the pre–Civil War past, where she finds herself enslaved on the plantation of a white ancestor whose life she must save to preserve her own. In Fledgling, an amnesiac discovers that she is a vampire, with a difference: she is a new, experimental birth with brown skin, giving her the fearful ability to go out in sunlight. Rounding out the volume are eight short stories and five essays—including two never before collected, plus a newly researched chronology of Butler’s life and career and helpful explanatory notes prepared by scholar Gerry Canavan. Butler’s friend, the writer and editor Nisi Shawl, provides an introduction.
The definitive edition of the complete works of the "grand dame" of American science fiction begins with this volume gathering two novels and her collected stories

An original and eerily prophetic...

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Featured Reviews

This collection is vibrant and essential, particularly in society now. Butler is a genius and deserves to be discovered, or re-discovered, by all.

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This was an excellent collection of Octavia Butler works (see table of contents at the end of this review) and perfect for long time fans and readers new to Butler. Prior to reading this collection, I had only read "Parable of the Sower," though "Kindred" had long been on my TBR shelf. I felt as though I read the full range of Butler in this collection. I'll leave my full reviews of "Kindred" and "Fledgling" with their respective full titles, but know that both are masterful explorations of race, gender, and power dynamics with elements of science fiction. "Kindred" involves mysterious time travel, and "Fledgling" involves vampires. The short stories are all wonderful, and each felt like they were seedlings for full blown novels. I am in awe of Butler's creative and imaginative mind, from alien creatures to post-apocalyptic worlds to stories of cultural heritage and family and mind reading. And the essays were the icing on the cake! Reading the collection in exactly the order presented was absolutely PERFECT, and the essays brought full illumination to Butler's mind and interior workings. She actually mentions in one essay that short stories were always her least favorite to write, finding them difficult to separate from novel projects. She also provides "afterword" for each of the stories, further illuminating where the idea sparked from or what the story was actually about, not leaving it to critics to find something that might not be there. From her autobiographical essay, we learn that Butler has always been painfully shy, finding it difficult to gain a foothold in the world. She also struggled with writer's block at varying parts of her life, and poverty, working odd jobs to piece together a survival. The book is a must read for any fan of Science Fiction - her essay on race in the genre was brilliant! Especially in today's world of continued racial issues and the book world movement to bring writer's of color and diverse voices to the publishing world en masse. Her mind was such a powerhouse, and I feel so lucky to have been able to read this wonderful collection.

Titles included in this collection --

Near of Kin Speech Sounds
The Evening and the Morning and the Night
The Book of Martha

Lost Races of Science Fiction
Furor Scribendi
The Monophobic Response
Preface to Bloodchild and Other Stories

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I’m so grateful that Octavia Butler has been getting her due lately and so sorry that all this recognition came after her death, as with many great women authors and Black artists. The juxtaposition of Fledgling, Kindred and these assorted short stories creates a rich discussion that will enrich any classroom. Thank you so much LOA and Netgally for the ARC.

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I am so excited that i was able to get Octavia Butler's stories and i love her work.

This has Kindred, Fledgling and I believe 9 of her collected stories.

Each very different and unique. Fledgling being one of my favorites due to vampires but I know a lot of people love Kindred.

If you haven't read any of Octavias books, I strongly suggest you do

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There are no words adequate enough to shower praise on this collection of works by Octavia Butler. One of the most prolific science fiction writers there ever was. An area where not many of people of color ventured, she opened the door widely. You can travel back in time or imagine a woman Professor X, keeping children with special abilities safe. She even breaches the subject of mental illness.

This collection will enthrall you, as Ms. Butler's stories pull you in.

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Octavia Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Stories and Essays: Library of America. This is a large omnibus of Octavia Butler's writings including: two very good novels, eight of her best stories, and several essays on science fiction, race, and other things. In Kindred a young black woman is transported back in time and place over and over in order to save her great-great grandfather from himself or she will cease to exist. In Fledgling, a young black girl finds out through harsh realities that she is part of a vampire clan and seeks to re-join them. The stories are excellent, like the award winning "Bloodchild" and the equally stunning "Childhunter". The Library of America volumes are always done very well. I don't read much paper anymore (digital/eyesight), but I've got their Philip K. Dick collections and Gary K. Wolf's Science Fiction Novels collections. They do a good job. This Butler collection is a great introduction to her work and a great collector's volume

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Octavia E Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338) is a wonderful volume of Butler's work. Like all of the Library of America volumes it is both attractive and includes an excellent introduction. Though not in the title, an element that makes this even more valuable for me is the inclusion of her essays. They are powerful and still, to this day, relevant.

Like many Kindred was my introduction to her writing. I quickly went back and caught up then waited eagerly for any new works. I taught Kindred several times and it never failed to generate amazing discussion among my students. And between rereading it and what my students talked about, I always learned something new each time. Such is the nature of Butler's writing.

I realize different people have books for reading repeatedly and those for reading once or twice. I will never get rid of my copies of her novels, but this volume, like similar volumes for other writers, seems to offer me something close to a fresh look. What I mean is this: when I pick up one of my weathered copies of Kindred, for example, I will remember previous readings of that specific copy. There will be notes in the margins. In other words, there is no way to even trick myself into approaching the novel as something new. When I open this and start reading, a nice copy that is not marked up either physically or psychically, it is as close as I can come to reading a familiar work with new eyes. And I welcome such an experience.

If you have not had the opportunity to read some of her essays, I think you will find them to be both powerful statements about her life and experiences as well as offering new insights into her fiction. Don't skip them, they are wonderful.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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Octavia Butler is one of my all-time favorite science fiction authors, so I was very excited to receive this book. Butler was one of the first authors I read when I started reading Science fiction. I've read most of her fiction, but not all of it, and I'm very excited to find that not only were there some old favorites here, like Fledgling, but some others I hadn't yet read.

That said, Fledgling is one of my favorite vampire stories, but I do like to warn everyone, there were some parts that were difficult to get through, not because of the writing, but because of the characters. The lead character appears to be a very young girl, but she had adult relationships with some of the characters, and some people might have trouble reading about that. All in all, though, just Fledgling alone is an excellent book, and a good reason to pick up this volume.

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It is fantastic to see Butler's work having a resurgence, thanks to increased public interest in her prescient 1993 novel, The Parable of the Sower. The beautiful collection from Library of America contains two of her more accessible novels, time-traveling epic Kindred, and Fledgling, an interesting spin on the traditional vampire tale. This collection also contains short stories and essays by Butler, and some new research and notes from scholar Gerry Canavan.

Kindred is the incredible tale, of Dana, a Black woman who travels through time back to the pre-Civil War South. It seems that her time jump is triggered every time a white ancestor of Dana's, Rufus, is placed in mortal danger. The book successfully shares details of slavery, without being didactic. It is also absolutely brutal from the offset; the opening chapter immediately pulls you into the story.

I was not as impressed with Fledgling, a story of a young vampire-like girl, who awakes in a cave one day with no recollection of who, or what, she is. Slowly, she discovers the truth about herself, and finds her people, but things go terribly wrong incredibly quickly. I found Fledgling pretty slow moving, and didn't really engage with any of the characters. The relationship between a grown man and a seemingly pre-teen girl also made me a little uncomfortable.

I am so glad Butler is finally get the recognition she deserves as a writer, and I hope it continues. This is a gorgeous collection, and a vital addition to any sci-fi or fantasy reader's bookcase.

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Although my reading interests tend more towards fantasy, I do enjoy a lot of science fiction too. This collection of works by Octavia Butler is an excellent introduction to the writer. I've been hearing about Octavia Butler for the past decade or two but hadn't taken steps to finally read her work until this collection appeared. I certainly intend to read much more. The highlight is obviously Kindred, a novel that evokes quite a few different emotions in the reader, particularly about race. The Fledgling does so in different ways with a totally different sort of story that is part fantasy and part science fiction. These novels are the centerpiece with a selection of short stories and other writings to complete this volume. Again, it's a wonderful selection to get the reader into Butler's work.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Library of America for sharing an advanced reader copy in exchange for a fair review.

I rate this 4.5 stars.

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I read this collection out of order, starting with the collected stories, then Fledgling, then Kindred. Butler is perhaps most well-known for Kindred, written in 1979. It is a story that is commonly considered sci fi and historical fiction, telling the story of a 26-year-old black woman who travels back in time to the 1820s. She sometimes makes some questionable decisions or says some things that make you go hmm, but she was trying to survive, which really meant letting things happen the way they would have.

Fledgling is a story of a young girl with amnesia. This story, more than any other I've read by her so far, accomplishes Butler's intent of making us uncomfortable. It's well-written and engaging, but there is an "ick" factor that I tried to forget as much as possible. This is probably my least favorite of the collection.

The rest of the collection consists of 8 short stories and 5 essays. They are all quite different. This was my favorite part of the collection, perhaps because there was commentary by Butler after each story. It was intriguing to see her thoughts and inspirations. I'm glad I started with the short stories, like an appetizer before the meatier meal.

While Kindred is considered a modern classic and should be on everyone's to-read list, the collection of short stories will appeal to many readers of science fiction and/or social commentary.

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Disclaimer: I received an e-Arc of this book from NetGalley and Library of America to read and review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was not familiar with Octavia Butler or her body of work. When presented with the chance to read and review Octavia Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, and Collected Stories (Library of America edition #338), I couldn't pass it up. Little did I know when I started this mammoth edition of her works, I would find a new favorite author.

At 790 pages, this collection is a masterclass in the genius that was Octavia Butler. This includes 2 full novels, 8 short stories, and 5 essays that discuss her writing process and how her race affected her work. There is also a chronology detailing the significant events of her life, which is interesting to see in comparison to where she was in her writing process and how it may have influenced her work.

The first novel in the collection is one of Butler's best known works, "Kindred." This story is about a young black woman named Dana who is sent back in time from 1976 California to Maryland 1819 rescue her white ancestor, who is also the eventual owner of her black ancestors . When Dana finds herself in danger, she mysteriously returns to present day California with little to no time passing. The next time Rufus, Dana's white ancestor, finds himself in peril, Dana and her white husband Kevin come back to 1819 to save him with serious ramifications to their future.

The second novel in the collection was "Fledgling," which was the last novel Butler published before her death. The main character of the book is a 53 year old vampire named Shori, who appears and is mentioned repeatedly as looking to be ten years in age. Shori awakens after a fire and experiences amnesia . She is found by a young man named Wright walking down a highway at night, who brings her home with him and allows her to feed on him. They begin a symbiotic feeding/sexual relationship. While investigating her origins at the site of the fire, she is met by her father who explains that unlike other vampires, she is the creation of genetic modification and can move about in sunlight. Soon after, her father and his compound of vampires are destroyed in a fire much like the one that killed Shori's mother and siblings in the beginning of the story. She, Wright, and two symbiotes from her father's colony seek to find who is set to destroy Shori and bring them to justice.

In addition to the novels, this volume also includes the following short stories and essays:

Near of Kin
Speech Sounds
The Evening and the Morning and the Night
The Book of Martha

Lost Races of Science Fiction
Positive Obsession
Furor Scribendi
The Monophobic Response

This collection was carefully curated to show the best of Ms. Butler's work and is a great opportunity to either start an Octavia Butler collection or to fill in the missing pieces in an existing collection.

#OctaviaEButlerKindredLibraryofAmerica #NetGalley

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What a treat! This book should be recommended reading everywhere. It was an amazing read and a welcome surprise, because, even if I had heard of Butler, I had never read her before, and I entered the book without expectations.

The book includes two novels and some short stories, and also a couple of short essays at the end. The two novels are "Kindred" and "Fledgling", both of which touch on gender and, in particular, race issues. Those topics are also more or less relevant in the short stories.

"Kindred" is the best of the two novels. It is just astonishingly good. It tells the story of a woman who time travels to the past, without her having a say in it. She finds herself around 150 years in the past and soon discovers that her time travelling seems to be connected to her ancestor and that her mission is to save his life. The thing is that she is a black woman and this ancestor is the son of a slave owner. Butler does an amazing job in creating a really good time travel story that touches on very important topics in a very sensitive and intelligent way. It is a story that makes the reader think, wonder, keep guessing and is a conversation starter. It is really well written, with great rhythm and very well developed and well-rounded characters. You won't find caricatures here. Everyone feels like a real person, and Butler is able to set up some very smart and ambivalent moments that don't give easy answers.

"Fledgling" is also really good, but it is not as well rounded as "Kindred", in particular because the way Butler handles the topics of the story is way more heavy-handed. Here we have a little girl that we soon learn is a vampire (or kind of), with amnesia, alone and lost. The first part, with her lost and trying to make sense of the world that surrounds her is amazing, and Butler creates a world that is believable and an array of very interesting characters. The second part, though, falters, is a tad too long and the behavior of a couple of the characters seems out of a B-movie as if she was in a rush to finish the story. It is a pity because it takes a little from the story and from the impact it has on the reader.

The short stories are all of good quality, with original set-ups and a surprising focus on relationships and what makes beings connect and respect one another. A couple might be a tad too short, but that is a minor quibble. The essays are also short, but interesting, even though she seems to be criticizing herself in one of them (in regards to the way of introducing characters of color and women in the stories when you compare it with the heavy-handed way in which she does this in "Fledgling"). Of course, being decades old, some of those paths have been well trodden, but it is always interesting and important to revisit why sci-fi and fantasy were (are?) so male and white dominated and how, because of that, some ideas and messages became habit (or rule).

To summarize: one incredible novel, one really really good one, some very interesting short stories and a couple of essays that will make you think. What else can you ask about a book? Little more. So, go and grab a copy as soon as you can!

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