Category: Racialicious Reads

Survivor Cover

So, Book Clubbers, I need to resolve a little problem that’s popped up.

Over the weekend, I read Survivor using the link that commenter FtrYBFMD provided.

On one hand, I can see why Butler hated the novel. Her novels are generally known for complicated morality – this one reads pretty clearly. There aren’t really good guys but there are clear bad guys, and it’s more in line with a lot of the other sci-fi I read. (As a matter of fact, it’s forcing me to reflect on how easily I accept the idea of colonizing other planets, lands, and worlds – and how easily authors accept human superiority, even when they question it.) Jo Walton, writing for Tor, provides some context for Butler’s distaste:

Survivor (1978) is part of the Pattern series, but has not been reprinted since 1981. Butler repudiated the novel and refused to allow it to be reprinted:

    When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, “No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage.” People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.

All I can say is, she clearly watched a better grade of Star Trek than I ever did. I can understand her problem with the biology, but what she seems to be saying there is that Survivor is a dishonest novel. Well, I kind of like it. I’m sorry you can’t read it.

Oh, but we can. In addition to the link, Racialicious readers have emailed in and volunteered to scan their copies. So if we wanted to, we could. But there’s a couple ethical questions here. Read the Post Vote: Should We Read Octavia Butler’s Survivor?

Wild Seed cover

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. Read the Post Wild Seed [Octavia Butler Book Club]

From Seed to Harvest Cover

Octavia Butler was Racialicious before we even existed.

The late author is a cult icon, being a boundry breaking black woman in Science Fiction who infused her writing with rich societal commentary on race, gender, dominance, and much much more.

Last year, the University Press of Mississippi was kind enough to send me a review copy of Conversations with Octavia Butler, a collection of her interviews, edited by Consuela Francis. The interviews (some of which I will excerpt in later posts) were illuminating, revealing Butler’s damn near prophetic grasp of the underlying challenges facing our society. Quite a few of these interviews are from the 1980s and 1990s – her words still apply in 2011.

I savored the book as long as I could, but when I finally finished, I felt a deep and profound sense of loss. As just a casual reader before, I was suddenly confronted with the magnitude of exactly what went with Octavia Butler when she departed from this earth.

So I decided the best tribute would be to read, share, and enjoy her work.

Readers, welcome to the book club. Read the Post Introducing: The Octavia Butler Book Club

June 27, 2011 / / LGBTQ

by Latoya Peterson

Jose Antonio VargasLast year, at a Poynter function, I had the privilege of meeting Jose Antonio Vargas in person. Both charming and interesting, with a huge drive to make journalism a true tool of democracy, he seemed like someone I wanted to get to know.

Last week, Vargas wanted the world to get to know exactly who he was. So he took the bold step of writing a piece that could change his life forever. Called “My Life as an Undocumented Worker,” Vargas used the New York Times platform to reveal his secret:

Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

Vargas artfully describes the pain of the political becoming personal:

The debates over “illegal aliens” intensified my anxieties. In 1994, only a year after my flight from the Philippines, Gov. Pete Wilson was re-elected in part because of his support for Proposition 187, which prohibited undocumented immigrants from attending public school and accessing other services. (A federal court later found the law unconstitutional.) After my encounter at the D.M.V. in 1997, I grew more aware of anti-immigrant sentiments and stereotypes: they don’t want to assimilate, they are a drain on society. They’re not talking about me, I would tell myself. I have something to contribute.

Read the Post Now Reading: Jose Antonio Vargas on “[His] Life As an Undocumented Immigrant”

December 21, 2010 / / Racialicious Reads

by Guest Contributor Ay-leen the Peacemaker, originally published at Beyond Victoriana

In the wake of the Steampunk Kurfluffle that started with Charles Stross’ complaint against steampunk, Tobias Buckell wrote an interesting response about fantasy’s tendency to romanticize the past and mentioned his own work:

But ultimately, I share Stross’s discomfort, which is why my steampunk plays have often been about adopting the style and nodding to the history. Crystal Rain, what I called a Caribbean steampunk novel, is about Caribbean peoples and the reconstituted Mexica (Azteca in the book) of old with a Victorian level of technology, using the clothing/symbols of steampunk, but making their artificiers black.

Sadly, Crystal Rain, written in 2006, seems to have come out just before all the hotness, as it rarely gets mentioned as a steampunk novel whenever these celebrations happen.

So, now that my curiosity was piqued, I had to go out and get the book to see for myself how he handles steampunk before “the hotness.”

What’s so refreshing about Crystal Rain, besides the setting, is its clear positioning as a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel. The book takes place in the multicultural, multiracial country of Nanagada, a land outside of our known history. Little touches hint that Nanagada is a society rebuilding itself from a cataclysmic disaster that occurred centuries ago. A mysterious object called the Spindle drifts in the sky. Barren areas exist that sicken the men who attempt to cross them. The Preservationists work to restore some of the lost technologies from “the old fathers” from long ago under the authority of the new governess Dihana and engineers have just started taking advantage of steam technology. Over the mountain range beyond Nanagada, however, lives the society of Azteca, a fearsome rival. Equipped with air ships and goaded to war by their gods called the Teotl, the Azteca are preparing for invasion with Nanagada in its sights. Read the Post Caribbean Steampunk on a Distant World: A Review of Tobias Buckell’s CRYSTAL RAIN