Imagine a world in which aliens are coexisting with humans on the same planet. Each species has their own unique lifestyle that they are working to align with the other. This is the premise of Octavia Butler’s short story, “Bloodchild”, in the novel Bloodchild & Other Stories. “Bloodchild” describes the story of Terrans, which are humans and Tlics, an un-humanlike creature, from the perspective of Gan, the Terran narrator. Since the invasion of the Terrans, the Tlics have been inserting their eggs into the bodies of Terrans in order to boost their declining reproduction rates. In the case of Gan’s family, T’Gatoi, a grub-eating Tlic, has been observing his family to choose who she would insert her eggs into. T’Gatoi “liked the idea of choosing an infant and watching and taking part in all the phases of development” (Butler 8) and it becomes time for her and Gan’s family to make the decision. What begins as a mysterious, sometimes disturbing (from the description of egg insertion surgeries), science fiction story, ends with a romantic finale when Gan agrees to take T’Gatoi’s eggs in order to save his sister from the burden and to show his love for T’Gatoi. Butler’s “Bloodchild” illuminates the tensions, risks and rewards that I am experiencing here at Geneseo trying to create “a livable space” in a world that isn’t my “own” by illustrating examples of feeling like an outsider.
In “Bloodchild”, we can see the feeling of being an outsider through the Terran characters, which relates to the aspect of entering a world that isn’t my “own”. At first in the short story, it is unclear who the outsiders are, but we know someone does not belong. It may be common for the reader to assume in the beginning that the Tlic, including T’Gatoi, are the aliens, since she is described as a creature unlike a human. In Butler’s words, T’Gatoi has “bones–ribs, a long spine, a skull, four sets of limb bones per segment” (Butler 9). Since the Terrans and Tlics have such different lifestyles, Butler makes it clear that their ideals are foreign to the other and that this foreignness brings feelings of intimidation. This creature sounds foreign to us readers, and we know that it is not the description of a human or any being on Earth. This may also be why Gan’s family appears to be scared of her. However, we discover later on that it is in fact the Terrans that are the aliens when T’Gatoi mentions Gan’s “‘ancestors, fleeing from their homeworld’” (Butler 25). The realization that the Terrans were the aliens helps to acknowledge that humans often feel like outsiders and may be out of place. Their Terran ancestors took a risk in leaving their homeworld to this new planet. Additionally, humans and Terrans alike, like Gan, commonly feel intimidated by things and people they are unfamiliar with.
Since it is established that the Terrans are the “aliens” in “Bloodchild”, we can further identify the feelings of the Terrans who may feel like outsiders. Since it has been established that Terrans are very similar to humans, we can infer Terrans have a similar value and tradition system to humans. Therefore, when T’Gatoi begins eating a grub found inside a Terran she had cut open, Gan finds this practice disturbing. Gan doesn’t understand why T’Gatoi is engaging in this procedure. Trying to process this, he asks himself “Did she like the taste?” (Butler 17). In addition, although Gan lives on a foreign planet, he is not adapted to the Tlic way of life. Gan specifically says that “The whole procedure was wrong, alien. I wouldn’t have thought anything about her could seem alien to me” (Butler 17). This makes him question how well he understands his relationship with T’Gatoi, whom he thought he knew well before this interaction since he has known her all of his life. Also, Gan’s realization that T’Gatoi’s lifestyle is very different from his makes him feel like an outsider. Gan may feel like he stands out in a negative way by not engaging in the same procedure as T’Gatoi. This demonstrates that Gan felt intimidated by something he was unfamiliar with, but he did not let these feelings get in the way of confessing his love to T’Gatoi, and the rewards of having a relationship with an unexpected being.
In regards to my own life, during my time here at Geneseo, I have felt like an outsider. My journey of beginning college can be compared to “Bloodchild” by looking at my college experience through a similar lens. For instance, I could refer to college upperclassmen and professors as the “Tlic”. While they are not actual grub-eating, egg implanting people like in the story, they are people who are already content with the way of life in this “new world”. In other words, college upperclassmen and professors have previous familiarity with college life and the town of Geneseo. This makes them more likely to feel like they belong, opposed to someone like me, who has never been exposed to Geneseo and college life culture. Additionally, since they are people who are comfortable with Geneseo culture, they may seem intimidating to those unfamiliar with the culture.
Similarly, although I have my own lifestyle ideals, in this comparison I would consider myself a “Terran”. I am new to this world at Geneseo, and college life is “alien”. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with this “new world”, but it is only because I have never been in college before or lived in Geneseo that I do not know what it feels like for this to be my normal life. There is an initial risk by entering a “new world”; I may not enjoy college life, I might push myself too far out of my comfort zone, or I could worry that I made the mistake of choosing the wrong college. However, as I am adapting to my new environment, it is slowly becoming less obvious that I was just an outsider. I am now experiencing the rewards of stepping out of my comfort zone by exploring Geneseo, trying new things unique to college, and inviting the opportunity to make new friends.
As a reader of this essay, one may wonder- why does any of this matter? It’s beneficial for readers of fiction to make connections to their own lives in order to make their reading more meaningful. If a person can connect texts to themselves, they can better understand who they are as a person and they will likely enjoy their reading experience more fully. For example, if a person can find something to relate to in a text they read, like reading about building friendships while they themselves are trying to make friends, they may better appreciate what it is that they are reading since it helps them better understand their own lives. Through reading my connections between “Bloodchild”and my personal experiences at Geneseo, the reader of this essay will learn more about both this short story and about my college life. While this may not excite everyone, for some, it may be interesting to view a different person’s perspective on becoming comfortable in a world that isn’t your “own”, especially if the reader is going through a similar situation (as mentioned above). Everything considered, Butler’s “Bloodchild” is a strong representation of the tensions, risks, and rewards I have experienced at Geneseo while trying to create a “livable space” in a world that isn’t my “own” through the theme of feeling like an outsider.