Octavia Butler, science fiction’s most notable and influential African-American woman writer, first published ‘‘Bloodchild’’ in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in 1984. The story was well received and won two of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo and the Nebula. Butler, who is known primarily as a novelist, did not publish the story in book form until 1995, when she collected five of her short stories and two essays in Bloodchild and Other Stories. By this point, Butler had gained a much broader critical and popular reputation, and the collection was praised highly in distinguished mainstream forums such as the New York Times and Booklist. That same year, Butler was awarded the celebrated MacArthur Fellowship—commonly known as the ‘‘genius’’ award—for the body of her work.
Butler has described ‘‘Bloodchild’’ as a story about male pregnancy. Set on a foreign planet inhabited by giant, powerful, and intelligent insect-like beings, ‘‘Bloodchild’’ is the story of a young human male coming of age and coming to terms with his role as the carrier of an alien species’ eggs. He witnesses the violent ‘‘delivery’’ of alien grubs from the abdomen of another man and is forced to question the relationship he has long taken for granted with the species whose planet he shares. Butler is acclaimed for her fully realized characters and her sensitivity toward the psychological dilemmas created by her imaginative science fiction scenarios. In the disconcerting world of ‘‘Bloodchild,’’ Butler raises provocative questions about sex roles, self-sacrifice, and the interdependence between different species.