I read Octavia Butler’s last book, Fledgling. I’ve talked about what Butler meant to me as an Afrofuturist. On one level Fledgling is a very simple book, attempting to answer a series of very simple questions. Reading it I can see the gears turning in Butler’s head.
- What if the first black vampire was a modern creation?
- What if vampires could be explained scientifically?
- What type of social structure would vampires need to survive?
The protagonist of Fledgling is a 53 year old vampire named Shori. Bred to create a group of vampires who could traverse the Earth during the day, Shori has the body and the appearance of a ten year old girl. Further, because of an attack on her extended family (vampire and human) that leaves her alone, she has amnesia. It isn’t that difficult to imagine a narrative using the same central character that focuses on how weak she is, how powerless. But Butler doesn’t roll like that. Shori’s strength comes because of, not in spite of her status. Because of her amnesia she’s not grief stricken by the death of her family. Because of her size, she’s able to slip in and out of spaces without too much attention. And because of her blackness, she is a Daywalker.
There are a whole host of black writers who either consciously or unconsciously ignore the power of black people. To quote Albert Murray they’ve effectively bought into the fakelore of white supremacy–believing there’s something “broke” about black people. As long as the work of Octavia Butler lasts, we’ll have at least one model of how to get out of that trick bag.