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?