The Bloodchild is a story that describes a rather unusual bond between the colony of human who are living on an alien planet and a race of insect-like lifeforms that are referred to as Tlic. After escaping the earth and landing on Tlic planet, harmony between them and their alien hosts is formed after the aliens realized they could use humans as hosts for other “worm-like” children. In this story, Butler, manages to turn our human experience on earth into something strangely familiar (Freud 12). The author takes us through an imaginative journey where we toss with the idea of the man bearing the children and torments our psychological experience with a horrifying birth of alien creatures that are removed from the body of a male host in a bloody operation. Through, neatly interwoven themes of domination, interdependence, and gender pervasion, Bloodchild succeeds in tiring our human experience into something uncanny.
Sigmund Freud defines uncanny as “belonging to all that is terrible – to all that arouses dread and creeping horror…” (Barkai 115). This definition is embodied in Butler’s story “Bloodchild” where unfamiliar things get added to familiar ones. For example, we are used to the interdependence between living organisms on our planet. It is usual for human beings to rely on other living organisms such as plants, insects, and animals for food, beauty and nature experience, and these organisms, in turn, depend on human being foo and survival. Bloodchild portrays a strange kind of interdependency between species. The Tlic are powerful creatures that dominate Tlic lane but are unable to survive on their own. Their future depends on Terrans cooperation. Likewise, Terrans depend on Tlic to survive. Terrans have found themselves in an unfamiliar environment in an alien planet. They rely on shelter and food provided for them by Tlic. This is a strange kind of relationship where humans play hosts to alien eggs and depend on insect-like creatures to provide them with food.
The notion of inter-species dependence as embodied in Bloodchild can be explained using the works of microbiologist Lynn Margulis. Margulis partnered with Lovelock to come up with “Gala Hypothesis” that challenges Darwinian ideas of survival of the fittest, by bringing to light the symbiotic relationship that exists between all organisms. According to Margulis and Lovelock, the development of human species was as a result of a symbiotic relationship between free-living cells and humans (Lovelock and Margulis 7-9). However, while interdependency among the species well documented, Bloodchild creates a rather unfamiliar world of harmony among sexes and races. While some creatures like fleas are known to lay eggs in human hair and use human as their host, Bloodchild gives us a strange psychological experience where after realizing humans can act as good hosts for their eggs, Tlic creates a preserve for human protection and in return oblige humans to select a child for implantation. It is the uncanny experience for human beings to consent to be implanted with Tlic egg (become N’Tlic) in return for preservation by aliens.
Bloodchild is no stranger to strangeness in the ordinary. Bloodline tells a story of Gan, a young man whose mother consents to allow her son host alien eggs, in exchange for the permission to bear and bring up her own children. T’Gatoi, a female Tlic, occupies an honored place at home, but there is hostility between T’Gatoi and the mother, Lien. Gan, torn between a desire to secure the wellbeing of his family and horror f witnessing an alien birth, consents to be impregnated b T’Gatoi. In the normal world, the most female carries embryos after being impregnated by the males. In this situation, it is familiar for one living creature to be impregnated by another but is unfamiliar for female creatures to impregnate the male one. While Gan impregnation by T’Gatoi is a grotesque human sexuality reminiscent, it depicts a rather strange occurrence of reversing the male and female roles. Gan assumes the role of “woman” in the society while T’Gatoi does so for “man”.
Bloodchild spins science fiction to accommodate a very interesting commentary on the reversal of gender roles. The process of implantation involves male human and female alien which eventually switches power dynamics between the two genders. If one goes through this line “Yet I undressed and lay down beside her. I knew what to do, what to expect. I had been told all my life” (Butler, 27), it is interesting to see that it is full of feminine qualities. While the narrator in the line says that he is laying down next t “her”, the lie implies some aspects of hesitancy and submissiveness – two characters that are often associated with the behavior of the female. The act of knowing “what to expect” and “undressing” suggests some kind of sexual behavior or tension, which is characteristically feminine. However, the fact that the narrator in the story is a male and that his dominant, overpowering partner is a female indicates the reversal of gender roles. Reading the lien makes one to automatically assume the scene is beginning of intercourse, and thus T’Gatoi is transformed into a man.
Butler’s story creates an aesthetic instantiation of strangely familiar, as opposed to simply mysterious turn of events. in the governance structure of the world, human beings control every other human creature. They control both domestic and wild organisms by determining where they ought to live, what they eat, and ending their lives at will. This is not the kind of world that are treated to by Butler. In Bloodchild human beings are living in the plane dominated by Tlics. For example, the main character in the story narrates how he made a decision to be impregnated by T’Gatoi, an alien creature with high dominance over his life Gan’s mother struggles with domination by Tlics, her role as a mother is challenged because she is not in a position to protect all her children. As a mother, she is supposed to protect her child from been used by another creature against his (child’s) will. But because they are dominated by Flics and cannot cope with life if they are at loggerheads with these aliens, she has to agree to allow her child to be impregnated by the alien.
In the Bloodchild, families come together to create a hybrid unit, but there is tension because Tlic is in control of politics. The human beings (Terrans) are caged or trapped with the preserve (which links t species preservation). Terrans are only preserved by the Tlics because they are able to host their (Tlic’s) eggs and help them in their multiplication. While the two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, human beings occupy the lowest end of the social structure. The human families are rewarded with eggs that prolong their lives and ease their suffering in exchange for their role as hosts also act as narcotic. In some situation, given birth to this aliens are highly horrendous as witnessed by Gan. After impregnation, an animal must be slaughtered to provide hatchlings with food, otherwise, they will consume the host. This shows the strange position that human beings find themselves in, having to carry hatchlings that can internally feed on them. When one is able to deliver successfully they are operated” by aliens in a horrific event. For example, T’Gatoi performs caesarian on Bram Lomas by creating an incision using his claws. The distressful nature of the event changes Gan’s perspective from having the honor of hosting, to being very terrified about it.
Bloodchild gives an account of family life that goes on in strangest of the ways ranging from living in a strange plant and environment to being dominated by strange creatures with the strange condition on the human race. The story provides new insights about a totally different life where human is used as a procreation tool by other living creatures in return for their preservation. The story puts the human experience in a strange world where the dominance of human over other creatures is cut short. By successfully exploiting themes of gender perversions and role reversal, domination over human beings by Tlics, power dynamic, and strange interdependence, Butler turns our human into something uncanny in order to provoke our thinking and challenge the present male-dominated world order.
Barkai, Sigal. “Between the Joy of the Woman Castrator and the Silence of the Woman Victim: Following the Exhibition the Uncanny XX.” Sensational Pleasures in Cinema, Literature and Visual Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2014. 115-126.
Butler, Octavia E. Bloodchild and other stories. New York Emeryville, CA: Seven Stories Press Publishers Group West distributor, 1996. Print.
Freud, Sigmund, David McLintock, and Hugh Haughton. The uncanny. New York: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.
Lovelock, James, and Lynn Margulis. “The Gaia Hypothesis.” (2007).