Going Back to the Beginning: Stigmergy in Bloodchild

To steer stigmergy away from Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy, I attempted to find a connection to stigmergy through Butler’s Bloodchild. As I was hunting for possible connections, I found a helpful hint in Heather Marsh’s article, Governance by User Groups”. Marsh states: “In environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic, the few who live in the area must have their rights considered along with the rights of the planet.” What stands out to me here is the term “environmentally sensitive.” From my understanding of Bloodchild, this “extrasolar world” (31) that the Terran and Tlic inhabit are faced with an environmentally sensitive issue. Meaning, for the Preserve to survive with both the Tlic and the Terran at peace with one another, there must be rules against firearms. This immediately makes me link Gan’s description of why firearms are illegal on the Preserve: “Firearms were illegal in the preserve. There had been incidents right after the Preserve was established—Terrans shooting Tlic, shooting N’Tlic. This was before the joining of families began, before everyone had a personal stake in keeping the peace” (14). Butler creates stigmergy through the firearms on this Preserve. The firearms are a “political middle-man” standing in between the Terran and the Tlic. This personal stake in keeping the peace brings me back to what Marsh considers to be the rights of the people and the planet. The Preserve is the environment that is left for both species. It is now imperative that both species do not destroy or damage it. By using firearms in the Preserve, the Tlic and the Terran will no longer be able to live together without hurting one another. This will lead to the destruction of one, or both, species along with their environment.

At the end of Bloodchild, Butler further unbalances the stigmergy between the Preserve, the Tlic and the Terran. This is purposefully done by having Gan stand up for himself when he finally lets T’Gatoi use him to lay her eggs. He tells T’Gatoi: “If we’re not animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is a risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner” (26). By keeping this illegal firearm that can cause so much destruction to their environment, Butler has turned the test of partnership and stigmergy to T’Gatoi. T’Gatoi wants Gan for her purposes of making her family. To have this successful family, she allows the gun. This shows that T’Gatoi has accepted the risk of this new partnership. Due to T’Gatoi planting her egg inside Gan, I believe there is still stigmergy between the environment and the species. Butler crafted an unbalanced situation of stigmergy so her reader can understand the consequences of what a powerful (and unnatural) object can do if the species do not properly care for their environment.

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