Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

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Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby strawman » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:03 pm

Feature: Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
No drabble for this episode.
Genres: Drama Horror Sci-Fi

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Thursday, October 31st, 2013
My last night of childhood began with a visit home. T’Gatoi’s sister had given us two sterile eggs. T’Gatoi gave one to my mother, brother, and sisters. She insisted that I eat the other one alone. It didn’t matter. There was still enough to leave everyone feeling good. Almost everyone. My mother wouldn’t take any. She sat, watching everyone drifting and dreaming without her. Most of the time she watched me.

Episode Art: Soren James
Read by: Veronica Giguere, Delianne Forget, Ray Sizemore

Twabble: “ Waking with her arm draped across him, he smiled recalling the night. Gently lifting it, he wondered where the rest was. ” by Farseeker
Last edited by Algernon Sydney is Dead on Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Used "standard" format. Added hyperlinks

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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby tbaker2500 » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:52 am

Prior to to the end of the story, I said to myself "Self, that story was full of metaphors!" Then Norm had an outro, describing the metaphors. "Yes!" I said. "I'm getting good at this literature thing!"

This was an exceptionally well crafted story. I really enjoyed it. My only regret is listening to it at bedtime. And the artwork! That'll give you shivers!

Great job and happy 300th, old man!
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby strawman » Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:38 am

I couldn't quite shake the idea of Octavia Butler as Crazy Eyes in Orange is the New Black. That probably wouldn't have been the case if Norm had not introduced her as a black lesbian. My feeling that the story idea was bound up in her sexuality was pretty much reinforced by her own comments. For that reason, I would have preferred to hear the bio afterward.

The larger premise of the story is about unwilling/unnatural dominant/submissive gender roles plus the principle that you always hurt the one you love. Octavia gives us a pretty good sense of the feelings of the human character, but not much of T’Gatoi's. I couldn't tell whether T’Gatoi was voiced by Delianne or Veronica, and don't know if it was the reading or the text, but T’Gatoi's level of emotion didn't seem to vary from one scene to the next.
Of course, what the hell should one expect from a bot fly? (One thing about sci-fi, the author has access to unusual defenses).

Well, Octavia's fascination with bot-flies certainly makes her a natural for the Drabblecast. And if I must consider childbirth from that perspective so soon after having my first grandchild, I must say that makes the story especially nightmarish. And makes me grateful for the natural order of things.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Varda » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:48 pm

I dunno, it seems a tad silly to me to categorize human childbirth as natural and the botfly lifecycle as unnatural. After all, botflies really do lay their eggs in humans (including men) just like in this story; the only difference being the aliens in “Bloodchild” are sentient and can tell you how much they love their children, and are also stronger than you. In our species, it’s the males that lay their evil eggs in you which burst out several months later to great pain. The circle of life ain’t always pretty, but you’ve got to bring forth the next generation of grubs somehow, right? :)

I think what really clinches it for me is the discussion at the end of the story between the narrator and the alien, where the alien apologizes to him that he had to see the, hrm, shall we call it the C-section? He rightfully criticizes the practice of shielding humans from the full facts of this reproductive cycle up until the very last minute, pointing out that human children should be told young and often the unvarnished truth. I mean, imagine how you’d feel if the facts of human reproduction were societal secrets, and the only childbirths you heard about were violent, emergency C-sections filmed on a cell phone and uploaded to Youtube. We would probably think the whole thing horrific and unnatural as well.

So I didn’t see this as a story about unnatural gender roles, but rather a clever exercise in empathy. She’s written a story that asks men to imagine themselves pregnant in a sense devoid of warm, fluffy euphemisms about the Miracle of Life, and she’s done it in a way that’s more complex than simple horror (as in the “Alien” movies). After all, human women already have to weigh the physical pain and risks and decide if it’s worthwhile (and some, like the humans in this story, aren’t even given the choice). This is the story of a man who has to make the same choice, and like many women, he comes to the conclusion that maybe it’s not so bad after all if it lays its evil eggs in you.

Also: Now I'm totally picturing Octavia as Crazy Eyes! :shock:
Also also: Classic DC-wise, I'm trying to decide if this is more "The Beekeepers" or more "The Worm Within". :lol:
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby strawman » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:48 pm

Yeah, what's "the natural order of things? From whose perspective? Okay, I get that I have to have the bot-fly POV. (But that's asking a LOT.)
Also, do not confuse egg and sperm. Only hens have eggs. And we can agree that they are not evil (unless they're deviled).
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby normsherman » Sat Nov 02, 2013 10:06 pm

strawman wrote:I couldn't quite shake the idea of Octavia Butler as Crazy Eyes in Orange is the New Black. That probably wouldn't have been the case if Norm had not introduced her as a black lesbian. My feeling that the story idea was bound up in her sexuality was pretty much reinforced by her own comments. For that reason, I would have preferred to hear the bio afterward.


We just happen to live in a world where you can write a story as a white straight male and people won't picture Gary Busey when you do it. Lucky you. ;)

But I do agree with you that she's toying with gender roles here-- I think she's doing it in the context of empathy that Varda is talking about though. In that light, there's definitely also some dominant/submissive going on here that you can apply to all sorts of relationships between people in today's context, as well as some women's rights issues, civil rights issues and all sorts of other stuff I'm sure Butler had no intention of directly speaking on here.

I really just wanted this story for 300 because of the world she builds, the unique questions she asks and the gross botfly angle. There are deeper nooks and crannies but none so in your face as the realities of childbirth and life, and with Adam and Chelsea's baby fully extracted at this point I can't help but sigh in relief it wasn't N'Tlic.
Also, the biological imperative is a fascinating subject, and I love James Tiptree's stories for the same kinds of reasons.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby strawman » Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:09 am

In the last century century plus, the topic of species-splicing became the most horrifying of horror topics, beginning (I suppose) with Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), going on to Stevenson's Jekyl and Hyde (1886), and Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), all presuming the agency of scientists run amok, or "sins against nature".

But now, thanks to scientific progress, the bot-fly, parasitology, and Ridley Scott's Alien, we can make the case that there is nothing unnatural about it, and point out that carrying alien parasitic creatures that rip out their host's bowels to be born is a choice every mother makes.

Where might we be 100 years from now?
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Varda » Sun Nov 03, 2013 1:04 am

strawman wrote:But now, thanks to scientific progress, the bot-fly, parasitology, and Ridley Scott's Alien, we can make the case that there is nothing unnatural about it, and point out that carrying alien parasitic creatures that rip out their host's bowels to be born is a choice every mother makes.

Where might we be 100 years from now?


In all seriousness, I think this is a product of:

a) the rise of SF as a genre. Interesting you picked Shelley; some people consider Frankenstein to be the first true SF novel.

b) inviting women's voices to the table. Women have been dealing with living things ripping out of their bowels since the dawn of human history, so it's not exactly a newsflash. I hardly think N'Tlic is any worse than an ectopic pregnancy when you get down to it, and in fact sounds a heck of a lot safer.

normsherman wrote:We just happen to live in a world where you can write a story as a white straight male and people won't picture Gary Busey when you do it. Lucky you.

Word.

Also: bring on the Tiptree! :D
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby jkjones21 » Sun Nov 03, 2013 1:51 am

strawman wrote:In the last century century plus, the topic of species-splicing became the most horrifying of horror topics, beginning (I suppose) with Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), going on to Stevenson's Jekyl and Hyde (1886), and Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), all presuming the agency of scientists run amok, or "sins against nature".

But now, thanks to scientific progress, the bot-fly, parasitology, and Ridley Scott's Alien, we can make the case that there is nothing unnatural about it, and point out that carrying alien parasitic creatures that rip out their host's bowels to be born is a choice every mother makes.

Where might we be 100 years from now?


I think you're making a false division between what's horrific and what's natural. Frankenstein is horror because it involves the reanimation of dead flesh into a new life form, which is only unnatural because there wasn't a chemical breakdown and conversion first (we are all made from stardust and whatnot). Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is horror because it explores the psychology of maintaining dual identities that are so completely divorced from each other that the one can't acknowledge its complicity in the actions of the other, which is unnatural only in the sense that most people have the brain chemistry necessary to recognize this kind of moral failing; even then, people who don't have the right brain chemistry aren't unnatural so much as aberrant within the normal natural parameters. The Island of Dr. Moreau is horror because it was adapted into a movie starring Val Kilmer, which is not unnatural so much as just an unfortunate blip in cinema history (I've never read that book, though I do understand it revolves around artificial gene splicing, which, finally, is an actual, unnatural thing--I think).

In the more recent examples, we know that bot-flies reproduce through parasitism, which we find really squicky, but that's a naturally developed process for the propagation of that life form. In Alien (which, now thanks to what we learned in Prometheus) we know the reproductive cycle of the xenomorphs is designed to be as brutal and deadly as possible with an eye towards terrorizing whomever they've been unleashed upon. They are now unnatural monsters, but before the recent prequel, they were simply an organic life form that we found horrific because of the innate violence of their life cycle.

Natural and horrific are two separate characteristics of various phenomena which can coexist thanks to the fact that nature is objective while horror is subjective. We have to keep in mind that viewing the reproductive cycle of the bot-flies as horrific involves our own subjective experience a species that has a reproductive cycle that doesn't revolve around parasitism. The parasitic parallels that are often drawn in discussions over human reproduction are a rhetorical flourish that's intended to help promote empathy with the carriers of human children by pointing out that pregnancy has a real cost and real risks associated with it. I think this story was spinning that metaphor out to its logical conclusion by depicting aliens that rely on real species parasitism for reproduction with primarily human males as the hosts.

If it is horrific, it's because it's demonstrating the realities of natural horror bound up with positive biological functions, which we should be willing to recognize whether our biological role is to be the carrier or not in our own reproductive cycle.

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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby tbaker2500 » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:13 am

Good points, Mr. Varda.

To roll this back to the story, the humans fled from earth. They ended up on this new planet, and fought (but did not win the fight) to become the dominant species. They decided that coexisting with another species was better than not existing at all. They chose to accept this new method of surviving as "normal", even though from some's perspective it is horror. But to the sister, it seemed fine.

My good friend's wife recently had severe eclampsia. Only through extreme luck and quick access to medical care did she survive. The baby, amazingly, survived also, and is healthy. Nothing in this story was worse than that experience.
Now, if you you don't believe the aliens, and all "births" are in fact this bad, the statistics make the comparison of this story to human birth further apart. But if you believe that this, in fact, was a unusual experience, it draws direct parallels to real fears that humans must deal with. The only difference was making a male deal with them. And I think the author was effective in doing this! I don't know why she hasn't gotten recognition outside of the DC, keep an eye on this one. She'll go far! :)
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby sandrilde » Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:11 pm

I happened to read a bunch of her books the summer before she died and got to see her speak in NYC, too. Big fan. This story had a lot of shades of her xenogenesis series, I thought, and it was good stuff, but on some level I'd prefer more than acceptance of reality as the climax. I'd like to see change or some members of either species considering different ways to co-exist.


I feel like she presented impregnation and pregnancy both as things forced on the main character (in some sense, through heavy emotional manipulation if nothing else) and in the end, he just accepted that. I'd have a lot more fun with it if he found a way to fight, no matter how bad the situation - and if it were pure horror, he'd probably lose in a gruesome way.

Also missed all the crude and inappropriate Halloween puns at the beginning ---- don't get too sophisticated, Drabblecast! Remember your roots in really embarrassingly awful poop stories!

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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:11 am

Typed before reading the other comments...

Disturbing, thought-provoking and a perfect allegory for male/female relationships -- harkening back to the (¿good old?) days when lots of women died in childbirth (and were often husbanded in manners reminiscent of a favored race horse).

As predator/prey/parasite/symbiotic relationships go, this seems rather balanced, from a logical perspective, while still being creepy as Hell.

Anyway, great DC episode and suitable Halloween fare.

I think it, and other holiday-themed episodes, would be more timely and effective if they were released a day or two before the holiday in question though. I know some people who would have loved to play this at their Halloween party, but it didn't get out in time. (I just heard the episode earlier today, for example.)






Varda wrote:like many women, he comes to the conclusion that maybe it’s not so bad after all if it lays its evil eggs in you.

You, romantic you! :wink:


jkjones21 wrote:I think you're making a false division between what's horrific and what's natural...

Some good points (especially about Val Kilmer), but slightly off.

"Natural" has been abused to almost uselessness -- artificially decrying the natural technological and environmental advances by Man, but failing to acknowledge that all life does the same thing to the utmost limit of its abilities.

A male monkey strips off a branch, to beat his girlfriend's kid to death (which is sometimes then eaten by the other monkeys) and that's "just nature's way"?! But try to pitch a reality TV series with the same premise and somehow it's abhorrent? :(

"Horror" has nothing to do with naturalness either, nor is horror completely (or even mostly) subjective.
Being horrified at the botfly life cycle is natural for humans and, best we can tell, other mammals. It's also logical and part of our pre-wired survival mechanisms.
In humans, studies have shown that such reactions are common across cultures and that, even if a person claims not to be wierded out by X, his physiological reaction and micro-expressions put the lie to that claim.

So, it's horrific AND natural to us, but sexy and natural to botflies. That does not mean that horrific and sexy are subjective. It does mean that they have nothing to do with "naturalness".

See, also, the "Uncanny Valley" studies. We can find very "unnatural" things to be cute, even alluring, and fully "natural" things the same. But, when it's a close approximation to "natural" with just the right kind of slight differences; that's when it gets ultra-creepy. (This explains much about clowns and plastic surgery.)

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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby tbaker2500 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:49 am

Good points.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Varda » Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:06 pm

Great thoughts, ASID. You've really got the ol' Varda brain whirring with that. I especially liked this:

Algernon Sydney is Dead wrote:"Horror" has nothing to do with naturalness either, nor is horror completely (or even mostly) subjective.
Being horrified at the botfly life cycle is natural for humans and, best we can tell, other mammals. It's also logical and part of our pre-wired survival mechanisms.
In humans, studies have shown that such reactions are common across cultures and that, even if a person claims not to be wierded out by X, his physiological reaction and micro-expressions put the lie to that claim.


I agree completely that the word “natural” can mean so many different things that it very nearly loses meaning. On the one hand, it can mean “that which can be found in nature”, which basically encompasses anything in objective, external reality. Let’s call this "Natural Type 1." This category would classify as “natural” things that seem odd or outside of the typical pattern, such as birth defects, botflies, and Nicolas Cage. They exist in nature, therefore they are natural, if uncommon.

But people also use “natural” in a philosophical or religious sense to encompass the idea of the way things should be ideally. Let’s call it "Natural Type 2." That’s where you’d classify birth defects, botflies, and Nic Cage as “unnatural”. It’s also where you get stuff like the idea that it’s “unnatural” for two people of different racial backgrounds to intermarry, or for two men to fall in love. What you deem "unnatural" depends on what ideal you start with, which makes Type 2 much more subjective.

I hadn’t thought about how horror is often (and perhaps predominantly) a visceral reaction in response to our survival mechanisms. That makes a lot of sense. We don’t want to be parasitized, so botflies = yuck. Botflies are natural in a Type 1 sense (they do indeed exist in nature) but unnatural in a Type 2 sense (most people don’t at this point in time consider it ideal to be colonized by botflies), but either way, they are horrific because it triggers a survival reflex to deny another species the chance to prey upon your limited physical resources. I think this horror exists apart from the question of “naturalness” entirely. We would probably still have the visceral response even if we had a really good reason to view botfly infestation as a good thing, as in “Bloodchild,” (or "The Beekeepers" for that matter). A close comparison may be trypanophobia (fear of needles). We all know the needle is doing only good things for us (vaccines, medicine, blood transfusion), but our visceral response can be uncontrollable anyway.

What’s interesting, though, is when horror explicitly draws on Type 2 fears, overlaying them on the visceral response in ways that aren't so set in stone. I’d put Lovecraft in this category specifically for the problematic racist undertones in his obsession with bloodlines and “don’t mix with the wrong people” logic. While you can definitely trace this general category of horror back to some real evolutionary responses related to tribalism etc, I wouldn’t go so far to say that a visceral dislike of racial intermarriage is common to all humans. More of a nurture over a nature thing, if you will. It's a case where a survival mechanism has been grafted upon something not really related to survival, if that makes any sense.'

(I don't speak for Mr. Varda by the way; he's gonna have to delurk to defend his own dang self! :twisted: )
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby strawman » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:55 pm

Interesting discussion.
Since our ancestor's survival depended greatly on the family and tribe, it isn't surprising the strong taboos against marrying outside the tribe. Seems to me this is the most likely root of racism, and could be classed as Type 1 and 2 natural.

The same might classification might apply in the case of sexuality when tribal and genetic survival is related to maximum fertility. The deeply imbedded attitudes are passed on when the conditions no longer pertain.

In a story like Nanuck that explores the matter in a neutral manner, it's safer to speculate.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Varda » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:02 pm

Yeah, I see your point about racism. If Type 1 lacks value judgment - that is, it's a definition of nature which says "If it exists within the realm of nature, it fits the definition of natural" - then racism, as objectively existing, would be called "natural" in this sense. And if you're a member of the KKK, you might also call it "natural" in a Type 2 - e.g. morally desirable - sense. For that matter, a Calvinist might call racism Type 2 natural, but in that whole "the world is by nature a deeply depraved place" frame of mind.

As far as racism being helpful, all that speculation falls within Type 2, as it depends heavily on your assumptions and what you believe is morally desirable or ideal. It's true that tribalism may have some evolutionary benefit, but so does mixing - inbreeding isn't a very good deal genetically, so tribalism carries its own evolutionary tradeoffs, which is probably why the tribalistic impulse is easily quelled or nurtured depending on your circumstances, unlike the very strong trypanophobic impulse.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby strawman » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:36 pm

Trypanophobia is probably a very good thing, since mainlining is more addictive than smoking or snorting.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Spindaddy » Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:55 am

This story was insanely awesome and freaked me out for the rest of the day. I don't know why, but I thought Norm's character was a chick all the way up the end of the story. The Afterword made me rethink it. WHen i got into work, I made some other guys listen to the story and watching their reactions was like watching peoples reactions to slenderman.

Keep up the good work guys, finding those strange stories, from strange authors for strange listeners... such as myself.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby tbaker2500 » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:00 am

I thought the main guy was a girl, too, until I forced myself to stop and double check that assumption. For me it was how close "he" cuddled with his sister. Not behavior I expected from a guy.
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Re: Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild

Postby Algernon Sydney is Dead » Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:13 am

Ditto. I also thought the main guy (His name was Gan, BTW), was a girl. And two of the female voices sounded a bit muddy to me.

I first suspected he might be male when Gan's brother (Qui) said, "They don't take women."

This is what happens when you don't use decent American names, like "Frank", "Mary", "Shlomo", etc., people! :evil:

~~~~~~~~~~
On a side note, this story didn't have the text posted on the episode page... Are we not doing that anymore?

But an online copy can be found on the Wash-Po site, for the moment.


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