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What will she give us all? Fur? Tails: Miscegenation and Medical Conditions in Octavia Butler's Science Fiction
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies. (Kulturvetenskapliga forskargruppen (KUFO))ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7640-0639
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Octavia Butler mentioned her “ongoing fascination with biology [and] medicine,” when commenting on one of her own short stories (first published in 1987) in which she has combined elements from three genetic disorders to create the premises for the story. This fascination locates much of her oeuvre at the intersection of miscegenation and the medical. In many of her novels, she addresses the racist notion of miscegenation both literally and figuratively, and in biological as well as cultural contexts. Many of her main characters are what other characters often regard as miscegenated offspring; most are placed in situations where they have to embrace, or at least accept, interracial or inter-species biological and/or cultural relations – hybrid lives – in order to survive and possibly develop. For instance, the quotation “What will she give us all? Fur? Tails?” comes from Butler’s last novel, Fledgling (2005). The protagonist of this novel is a genetic experiment, a hybrid, whose African American ancestry is the solution to a problem but, at the same time, means that her family members are murdered due to enduring racist ideas originating in American slavery, which in this speculative novel has spread to another humanoid species. In this paper, I will focus on how Butler portrays and comments on miscegenation in Clay’s Ark (1984), a science fiction novel that features a physician as one of the main characters and depicts an alien infection that changes not only people’s lives but also their offspring.

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Keyword [en]
Octavia Butler, miscegenation, medical conditions, African American literature, women writers
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-41954OAI: diva2:925193
European Association for American Studies Biennial Conference, Constanta, Romania, April 22-25, 2016
Available from: 2016-04-30 Created: 2016-04-30 Last updated: 2016-06-28Bibliographically approved

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