Amazing and somber short stories by a unique writer. The grit and persistence of Octavia can be felt throughout her work. And it's admirable.
A disturbing exploration of how male pregnancies would be.
But in this story, the one who inseminates is a literal alien that cuts open its human and nestles its larvae inside, before sewing them back together and keeping them alive as a host for its offspring.
The evening and the morning and the night
Octavia plausibly shapes a world tainted by the fictional Duryea-Gode disease. People suffering DGD gradually lose control of themselves, they drift, leading to cases of self-cannibalism, neglect, and destruction.
We follow Lynn, a woman with DGD, who lives together with a group of others like her. Except, not really like her. Both her parents had DGD, and daughters in those families leave powerful pheromones that cause out-of-control DGDs to notice and listen to them. Lynn and her boyfriend Alan gradually start to uncover this when they visit Alan's mother in a DGD ward that has an exceptional track record. The woman in charge of the ward tries to recruit Lynn. But double-DGD women have a powerful instinct to hate each other. This makes it all the more difficult for them to coöperate on good care for regular DGDs.
Near of kin
A daughter is clearing out the house of her recently deceased mother, together with her uncle. She'd always disliked her mother, but got along very well with her uncle.
A sympathetic story of incest based on the bible (more like, inspired by). It's extremely good at engaging my attention span. Mostly just one single conversation or dialogue, in a single setting. This is an exceptionally good short story.
Some riff on post-apolacyptic dystopia and zombie stories. But instead, we are dealing with a disease that inhibits speech and writing. It has the effect of dumbing down humans back to a level where we've arguably lost precisely that which makes us human. Though the infliction comes at different levels of severity. The story actually ends on a hopeful note.
Menial little jobs that suck the will to live right out of you. This short story follows Jane as she relapses; gives in to alcohol, and apparently sees ghosts of her abusive boyfriend, who should be in prison. It has the definite autobiographical ring to it; as if writing this story was the therapy that Octavia created for herself.
Positive obsession (essay)
In the afterword of this autobiographical essay, Octavia writes:
I have no doubt at all that the best and the most interesting part of me is my fiction.
She describes how she's been positively obsessed with reading and writing since a young age. And how many obstacles she'd to suffer through. Near the end she tells of how rare it is for black people to be able to live from their writing work. And she describes herself as the only black woman who writes fantasy and science fiction for a living. This emphasizes the point of representation again, as a function of inspiration for new generations.
Furor scribendi (essay)
Or, how to live by writing for publication.
- Take classes and workshops
- Revise until you cannot make it better
- Submit your work (be ready for countless rejections and don't give up)
- Forget about inspiration, talent, and imagination. Habit, playfulness and persistence trump all of those.
A fascinating tale, past the first contact clichés.
Noah had been abducted by the "Communities" (big, plant-based colonies of sentience) for twelve years, and now she works for them as a translator. She helped develop a shared language based on touch; when a Community enfolds a human.
For the larger part of the story, Noah primes a group of applicants for the translator job. This makes for a brilliantly clever way to show the tension between everyone on earth, and it gives us hints about these mysterious lifeforms. Lifeforms that surprisingly enjoy the implicatively orgasmic sensation of enfolding humans.
The book of Martha
A new book for the bible, but thoughtfullly modern and self-conscious.
Martha (clearly Octavia herself) is summoned by God, who tasks her to change something about humanity in order to make them less self-destructive. God seems to take great pleasure in the uncertainty this creates, while Martha struggles with the responsibility of it.
A very good, pessimistic "utopia" story.