This has by far been my favorite story that I’ve read this semester. So much so that I am dedicating an entire blog post to it instead of the mini review I first started with.
For me, the story marks the first truly weird story in the collection we’re reading for class. However, I would also say it has some science fiction and horror elements in it. It also made me very uncomfortable as I read it, but I imagine that’s exactly what Butler wanted to get across in this story.
Part of the reason I like it is because it sheds light on gender norms from an odd angle. The main character is a boy, but the circumstances he has to deal with is exactly what some women are forced to go through, unfortunately. The story was jarring because of the abuse that was taking place between the protagonist and his “Tlic”. It’s weird and abnormal to see a man in this vulnerable position but by placing them in that position, it becomes a reminder of what women have been forced to go through. As horrible as it sounds, I know I wouldn’t have felt as uncomfortable as I did if the protagonist had been a girl instead of a boy. I’m not sure if that makes sense or if I am making sense, but that’s how I felt when I read it.
Apart from the feminism and women’s rights issues one can talk about from this story, there are so many different aspects to look at from colonialism, mixing of cultures, imbalance of power, ecology, and so on.
The writing is superb and it made me want to know more and read more about this world. No other short story has made me feel that way. If I had it my way, there would be an entire book dedicated to this stranger world where aliens and humans co-exist for their survival.
On a side note, whenever I imagined the alien Tlic beings, I kept thinking of the insect lady from an episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (Season 1 “Teacher’s Pet”). However, I found this story much more disturbing and weird than that episode.
If you ever have the opportunity to read this short story, do it. It is strange and weird and it’s amazing.