Octavia Butler’s untimely death in 2006 silenced one of the finest voices in modern science fiction. So the release of this slim volume of unreleased short stories is a welcome addition to her already acclaimed oeuvre.
I admit, I had not read Butler’s work previously, although I know her reputation and have had her on my reading list for a while. Ordinarily I wouldn’t start with posthumous works, but this collection intrigued me.
The e-book consists of a mere two stories, the novella “A Necessary Being” and the short story “Childfinder”. Both were discovered amidst the fragments and false starts in the Huntington Library‘s collection of her papers.
The two works represent two sides of the same coin. “A Necessary Being” follows a lonely leader of an alien tribe who must decide whether to imprison a rival tribe’s leader to assure her people’s survival. The story of the choice between duty and freedom reminded me of Ursula K. LeGuin in its evocative beauty.
“Childfinder” is one of her earliest works. Written at Harlan Ellison’s Clarion West Writing Workshop in 1971, the story about race relations in a society where psionic abilities have been discovered was originally intended for publication in Ellison’s Last Dangerous Visions™, which never saw print.
Ordinarily, posthumous works aren’t particularly good for that matter (True At First Light, The Silmarillion, I’m looking at you), but Unexpected Stories was a wonderful gateway to Butler’s fanciful sci-fi filtered through the African-American experience.
I will be delving into Kindred soon.