Bloodchild cover art by Wayne D. Barlowe

Reproductive Rights and Alien Love in Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild"

Or how science fiction has plenty of philosophy and politics to discuss and speculate

Lidia Zuin
9 min readNov 17, 2023

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Warning: This article contains spoilers.

It's been 17 years since the science fiction writer Octavia Butler left us with a legacy of stories addressing gender, race, and love. One of her most famous works, Kindred, is about a black woman who travels in time from the 1970s to the period of slavery and southern plantations in the United States. More recently, this title was also adapted to a TV series by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. But another very relevant and intriguing work of Butler is the novelette Bloodchild, which received more than four prizes such as the Nebula and Hugo — two of the more important ones in science fiction.

Originally published in the Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in 1984, the novelette describes the strange relationship between human beings and extraterrestrial individuals that look like insects. In this imagined future, humans found an inhabited planet, where the Tlic species live. After a period of settlement, both species decide to cease fire and establish an alliance in which the Tlics offer protection, provided that humans offer an some of their own to become hosts of their eggs — thus being named N'Tlic.

This universe is revealed to us through the experience of Gan, a human child who was destined to become a host even before he was born. The boy would be responsible for carrying the eggs of a female Tlic called T'Gatoi, who, by the way, became a friend of his family and close to the children that learn early in life that this duty is a privilege. However, everything changes when Gan is surprised by an emergency that T'Gatoi responds to. A N'Tlic (human host) was abandoned by his Tlic and Gan watches the emergencial C-section of a man that was being devored by the larvae from the hatched eggs laid in his own body.

In the face of such a horrific scene where a man is split in two and is being consumed by maggots, Gan feels threatened by his own destiny, thus seeing it less as a privilege than suicide. However, the bonds firmed between T'Gatoi and the boy puts him in conflict: his affection for the alien who needs to lay her eggs in his…

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Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Technical and science fiction writer.