As the semester nears the end, I am finally writing about the concept of consent illustrated in Octavia Butler’s fictional short-story, Bloodchild. This blog post is long overdue, but considering how this class consists of recursion and repeated themes, I think it’s safe to say that writing about consent in any area is always relevant. Also, considering how Ricky Rice in Victor LaValle’s Big Machine experiences nonconsensual conception shows the narrative of consent that science fiction, more specifically in Afro-Futurism portrays with men.
*Pictured: Assumed Illustration of Gan from Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild
When it comes to male characters and impregnation in this genre, they tend not to have a say in what enters their bodies. In Bloodchild, Gan is the chosen male family member to be impregnated by their assigned Tlic partner, T’Gatoi. Even though Gan has been conditioned his whole life to host T’Gatoi’s embryo, he becomes more frightened by what his future holds and the process he has to go through, especially after seeing what happens when a Tlic abandons its Terran/human (Butler, 10-15). The question of consent is relevant in the sense that Gan is the first male family member, which makes him the carrier of Tlic offsprings in this environment by default. It’s unfortunate to think that he had this pressure on him since the day he was born. “The whole procedure was wrong, alien. I wouldn’t have thought anything about her could seem alien to me” (Butler, 17). After witnessing what the Tlic are capable of when a ‘pregnancy’ goes wrong, Gan’s love for T’Gatoi declines and he is reluctant towards being with her anymore. In the end, he follows-through with this tradition to protect his sister, Hoa, from being T’Gatoi’s next host. Gan never had the chance to give his consent for hosting these beings; it was all based on the probability of the order he was born. Even when he wanted to back out of the situation, Gan knew that he had to protect his loved ones more than the sake of caring for a species he was assigned to protect.
As for Ricky Rice in Big Machine, he was flat-out attacked by one of Solomon Clay’s followers. Solomon’s followers, who are revealed as the Devils of the Marsh, claim to follow a Voice and carry out bombings and other malicious attacks against innocent citizens. In an attempt to cease further chaos from being committed by this group, Ricky and Ms. Henry/The Gray Lady went into the sewers to find clues about Solomon’s Devils and their intentions. Unfortunately, while searching for clues, a Devil injected something into Ricky that left him ill. By the time Ricky made it to the hospital and was tested, the doctor said, “well, if it weren’t impossible, I’d shake your hand and say congratulations, Mr. Royce. You’re pregnant” (LaValle, 223).
From that quote alone, another one of my many theories for this book was born. Like I stated earlier, recursion and repeated themes hold value in this class, and the fact that another main male character is pregnant can’t be a coincidence. The reason why I decided to focus more on the topic of consent in this genre is due to the commonality of this reoccurrence. In Bloodchild, Butler wrote in her afterword the meanings behind her story, which doesn’t allow for the audience to come up with their own interpretation of the plot. I related this idea of literary consent to institutional consent in Big Machine as a whole. In my next blog post, I’ll expand more on my skepticism of institutions that it brought up into question in LaValle’s book. For now, just a glimpse into seeing how Ricky not only questions the unwanted inoculation that was afflicted on him in the sewers, he continually questions the reasons for why he follows orders towards an unnamed purpose within the Washburn Library.
Male pregnancies in the science fiction/Afro-Futurism category is a small, but this growing phenomenon should allow for theories to arise when not a lot of conversations nor criticism takes place. Personally, I believe that the reader has the right to interpret things differently than the author’s original intention. This not only allows for more discussions to occur but for the genre as a whole to evolve more into the mainstream literary world too.