Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages. The village was a comfortable mud-walled palace surrounded by grasslands and scattered trees. But Doro realized before he reached it that it’s people were gone. Slavers had been to it before him. With their guns and their greed, they had undone in a few hours the work of a thousand years. Those villagers they had not herded away, they had slaughtered. Doro found human bones, hair, bits of desiccated flesh missed by scavengers. He stood over a very small skeleton – the bones of a child – and wondered where the survivors had been taken. Which country or New World colony? How far would he have to travel to find the remnants of what had been a healthy, vigorous people?
Finally, he stumbled away from the ruins bitterly angry, not knowing or caring where he went. It was a matter of pride with him that he protected his own. Not the individuals, perhaps, but the groups. They gave him their loyalty, their obedience, and he protected them.
He had failed.
He wandered southwest toward the forest, leaving as he had arrived – alone, unarmed, without supplies, accepting the savanna and later the forest as easily as he accepted any terrain. He was killed several times – by disease, by animals, by hostile people. This was a harsh land. Yet, he continued to move southwest, unthinkingly veering away from the section of the coast where his ship awaited him. After a while, he realized it was no longer his anger at the loss of his seed village that drove him. It was something new – an impulse, a feeling, a kind of mental undertow pulling at him. He could have resisted it easily, but he did not. He felt there was something for him farther on, a little farther, just ahead. He trusted such feelings.
He had not been this far west for several hundred years, this he could be certain that whatever, whoever he found would be new to him – new and potentially valuable. He moved on eagerly.
The feeling became sharper and finer, resolving itself into a kind of signal he would normally have expect to receive only from people he knew – people like his lost villagers whom he should be tracking now before they were forced to mix their seed with foreigners and breed away all the special qualities he valued in them. But he continued on southwest, closing slowly on his quarry.
- from the first page of the first chapter of Wild Seed
This is the first week of the Octavia Butler book club, and we are starting with the first of the Patternmaster series, Wild Seed. It is a little challenging to think of a question that will challenge new readers to the material and re-readers at the same time, but here’s the question to ponder while you read this week:
What ideas inform our conversations about slavery? What themes inform our conversations about romantic relationships? Are there places where the themes and ideas overlap?
Feel free to discuss in the comments. Readers should expect spoilers in all comments sections to these posts, though I will hide any questions that reveal particular plotpoints behind the jump. Our next discussion will be next Thursday. To stay on target, you should read up to page 67 (or whatever is equivalent to 1/4th of the way through your copy) before then.
Feel free to chat among yourselves, and happy reading!