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25th May 2017

A few weeks ago my friend [personal profile] electricant  helped me to obtain a copy of the 2014 ebook, Unexpected Stories, that contains Childfinder and A Necessary Being.  The two stories are framed by a very short foreword, short afterword, and short biography. Both stories were completed in the Seventies, and never published until they were found in Butler's papers after her death.

Cover of Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler

A Necessary Being is a novella. It tells the story of one of the background events to Butler's novel, Survivor, which was published in 1978. The encounter between the leaders of two tribes will determine their own fates and those of the tribes they lead.

The story turns on the political and social structure of the tribes, the Rohkohn and the Tehkohn. The Hao, the parent, leads the tribe of judges and hunters, who are the warriors, and the nonfighters. I particularly enjoyed the way the Hao are challenged by their peoples.

The notes say that Butler failed to sell the story several times during the 1970s, and eventually let it lie. Which seems reasonable, because although it is a perfectly good story, it adds little or nothing to Survivor. Butler later refused to allow Survivor to be republished, and I suspect that had the question arisen in her lifetime she would have included this alongside Survivor in her refusal. I enjoyed reading it.

Childfinder is a very short story. It was finished in 1971, and given to Harlan Ellison for Last Dangerous Visions. It was thus never published until Ellison released it for this ebook in 2014.

The Organisation is a group of telepaths, hidden among the ordinary human population, that is trying to grow by recruiting new members. One of its members, the childfinder, has a gift for identifying the children who are pre-telepaths, who will mature into telepaths if they get the right kind of experiences and education. There is conflict among the group.

It's short. It reads like a fragment of an early or alternative version of Mind of My Mind. The story is told in conversation. The teller is a Black woman, and the conflict among the telepaths is racially charged. It's interesting, and I can see why Ellison would have bought it, but it's not very good.

The foreword by Walter Mosley is brief and laudatory. The afterword, by Butler's agent, Merrilee Heifetz, is brief and anecdotal. A very nice bonus is the photographs of Butler from babyhood to maturity: she was a very striking woman.



This entry was originally posted at http://coth.dreamwidth.org/378833.html. In April 2017 I'm still hanging out on LiveJournal, and comments here and there are both fine.

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