Sunday, April 01, 2007

slivers of memory

"I awoke to darkness.

I was hungry--starving!--and I was in pain. There was nothing in my world but hunger and pain, no other people, no other time, no other feelings."

So begins Octavia Butler’s last novel Fledgling. Although Shori awakens with no memory of who or what she is, she is the lone survivor of a brutal and racist attack on her home and family. She is a fifty-three-year-old "girl"~a youngster to her people, the Ina, a race of "long-lived blood drinkers" (they also walk the night~but of course) who have lived beside humans for at least ten-thousand years (as far back as their written history extends).

With the Ina, Butler has created a new race of vampires unlike those we have heard or read about before (although their presence on Earth may account for some of our legendary vampires) and she has managed to both integrate their story into current vampire mythos and make it believable and interesting. Through the character of Shori she builds on this new race even further. Shori is a result of genetic engineering, a mix of (dark-skinned) human and Ina DNA, an attempt to give the gift of day to the Ina.
As Shori works to relearn about her Ina heritage; to negotiate both the human, Ina, and symbiotic relationship she must forge with those she feeds on (but doesn't kill~the Ina don't kill i they can avoid it); as well as try to both avoid those who would try to destroy her and hers and figure out why they are aiming for her destruction; we are taken on that journey with her.

Butler once described herself as a

"fifty-three-year old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I'm also a comfortable asocial~a hermit in the middle of Seattle~a pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist, a black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive."

I can imagine that i hear in the confident, almost arrogant Shori, who is fiercely intelligent, intuitive and quick to action, some kind of strange autobiographical voice for Butler. Shori is forging, a new race in a new territory. It is a true loss that we did not hear Butler's voice as an eighty-year-old writer, Fledgling is one of the best from the best.

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