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  1. #1
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    Memorial Book Club Discussion: Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler

    Due to the recent death of Octavia Butler, many of our members have moved the Xenogenesis Trilogy to the top of their to-read pile. To honor Ms. Butler's memory, we've decided to open a discussion on the Xenogenesis Trilogy. I'll open this thread for discussion around the 15th or 20th of March.

    The books in the trilogy are:

    Dawn
    Adulthood Rites
    Imago


    They are also collected in two different omnibus editions, one entitled The Xenogenesis Trilogy and the other called Lilith's Brood.

    I hope many can take part. I can see no better way for us to honor Ms. Butler's life work than to talk about her books.

  2. #2
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I'll go ahead and open this thread for discussion.

  3. #3
    Prefers to be anomalous intensityxx's Avatar
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    I finished this trilogy last night, and am so pleased I finally got around to reading it. I can't remember how long it's been since I read about interesting aliens, and in such depth. I've been occupied with cyber- and post-human sf, contemporary fantasy, and it feels good to go back to the familiar old roots of sff.

    Not that there's anything too familiar in these books. Butler's original and complex society of Oankali captivated me from the beginning. I liked the biological twists and the cultural ramifications, both in the Oankali themselves, and in the ways humans and Oankali came together. The resistance, the acceptance, the blending, the numerous possible outcomes of the genetic mixing, were all involving at both the level of society and at the individual character levels. I found the construct characters fascinating and enjoyed how the characters in the first book didn't fade from view, because I cared about them too.

    What'd you think, Erf?

  4. #4
    Yobmod Yobmod's Avatar
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    I finished this trilogy last night, and am so pleased I finally got around to reading it. I can't remember how long it's been since I read about interesting aliens, and in such depth. I've been occupied with cyber- and post-human sf, contemporary fantasy, and it feels good to go back to the familiar old roots of sff.
    I just finished Dawn this morning, and i'm enjoying the series. I noticed from the very first chapter that it felt more like a golden age SF story, with some modern sensibilities included, especially those of gender and race. The clothing being made of some strange silk-like material, with its magical invisible fastenings, and the walls that grow doorways open and closed could be from a pulp story from the 50's - I wonder if inclusion of some of these things was an intentional attempt at making traditional SF readers feel at home, before challenging them with the complex moral dilemas.

    Not that there's anything too familiar in these books. Butler's original and complex society of Oankali captivated me from the beginning. I liked the biological twists and the cultural ramifications, both in the Oankali themselves, and in the ways humans and Oankali came together. The resistance, the acceptance, the blending, the numerous possible outcomes of the genetic mixing, were all involving at both the level of society and at the individual character levels. I found the construct characters fascinating and enjoyed how the characters in the first book didn't fade from view, because I cared about them too.
    Lilith's characterisation is ok so far, but for me she is a little bit too flat and sensiible. It certiainly felt that she was somewhat of a mouthpeice for Butler's opinions. I don't mind this, but considering the amount of stress Lilith is put under, i would expect a few more incidents of loss of self control, or simply less consistency. I understand that the Onkali are supposed to have selected her for these attributes, but they have done an impossible good job IMO.

    In fact i often find the Onkali to be too perfectly capable at everything; we are constantly shown being stupid or unreasonable or incompetent humans are, but never the Onkali. At most they make minor errors in judgment, but from their point of view the consequences are always minor (a few human are put into suspended animation again).

    The omnipotence of the Onkali (so far), does force the reader and chharacters into a corner when it comes to the moral decisions, the simplistic option of just resisting and fighting is not really a possibility. I think its the best example so far of a book i've read in which supposedly benificient uber-aliens come to Earth to transform and improve humanity (cf. Clarcke's Childhood's End, Tepper's The Fresco). There is always the opposition between wanting humanity to not be interferred with, and wanting to applaud the improvments. In Dawn, i'm feeling both, but i do hate the Onkali more.

    The parallel that came to mind, was a man saving a child from drowing, than taking her home and making her a sex slave. He rapes her while she's too young to understand, when she get big enough to fight back, he drugs and rapes her, when she has children he either rapes them or seperates them and teaches them to be rapists. I'm usually dismissive of people who say 'rape is the worst thing that can happen to a women', but in this case i am leaning toward thinking it would be better for the child to have drown.

    So at the moment i'm feeling it would probably be better for humanity to have been left to destroy itself rather than being enslaved and raped. I guess drug rape wasn'r a crime when these books were written? I wonder if Butler even saw it as rape to drug someone so they enjoy the experience. I particularly didn't like the times when Onkali to individuals ''your mouth says no, but your body says yes'' - i don't see the victim being sexually aroused as any kind of excuse for forcing sex against someones stated wishes.

    But after all that i can accept that there is an argument, that survival is the most important point in the long tem for humanity, i just don't agree with it. Unlike historical slavery, it doesn't seem likely humanity will ever be free again due to the interbreeding. This also has parallels to the systematic rape of black slaves, which has resulted (so i've read) in all their 'black' western decendents being mixed race to some extent. If it had continued until eveyone was mixed race, i wonder what would have ahppened to the concenpt of one race being the slaves of the other?

    That will do for now
    Last edited by Yobmod; March 29th, 2006 at 06:19 AM.

  5. #5
    the puppet master ArthurFrayn's Avatar
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    I'm still thinking about what to write here but:


    So at the moment i'm feeling it would probably be better for humanity to have been left to destroy itself rather than being enslaved and raped.
    It's important to point out that humanity is about to cease to exist. The remnant (at least as far as Dawn is concerned) are transformed,into something that is really no longer human. Not enslaved.The Oankali are transformed in the process as well.The lack of prudence that you say you never see the Oankali guilty of, is that they bother to engage with the human race; they are of two minds about the whole notion of joining with us.
    Don't underestimate Butler's misanthropy-she doesn't think much of the human race at all.

    You stack the deck emotionally with your rape analogy, but you're leaving out-the part about being healed of all illness and made practically immortal. There are real boons to this admittedly ambiguous trade. That's not the usual rapist's deal.

    The alternative is death -not due to the Oankali, but death due to our own self destructive tendencies.
    Last edited by ArthurFrayn; September 10th, 2007 at 08:09 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User odo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArthurFrayn
    Don't underestimate Butler's misanthropy-she doesn't think much of the human race at all.
    Yes, I was very surprised by it. I really liked the book, but I find very difficult to believe that *nobody* was excited about meeting an alien race. Is it really so? I don't know how I would react in such an extreme situation, but I think that the possibility of improving my body (no more illness!!!) would be very apealing and I wouldn't care too much about not being human anymore... Specially because there is nothing to loose (the alternative is death)!

    I would dislike being told what to do everytime (that was the most disgusting part of the treat for me) but anyway I'd be excited about the new chances and possibilities (I guess).

    In fact, I liked more the Oankali than the humans as depicted by Butler
    Last edited by odo; March 29th, 2006 at 09:38 AM.

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