A Mini/Archival Review of “A Necessary Being” from Unexpected Stories

Octavia Butler’s Unexpected Stories comes is out todayunexpected cover, 6/24/14! The collection consists of two short stories, a forward by Walter Mosley and afterword by Butler’s literary agent Merilee Heifetz. Here is a spoiler-free mini review of “A Necessary Being.”

There are many things to love about “A necessary Being.” In the archive, there is a list of fight moves that Butler wrote down to keep herself on track while she was writing the fight scenes. The culture and world building are also tantalizing. For example, what is a bite on the neck? What does it signify? I will just say that the close relationships between intimacy, vulnerability, life, and death are all intertwined here.

I also enjoyed the lack of actual human beings in the story and the world that seems all too real! This doesn’t look like any kind of Star Trek novel prequel to me. The aliens in this story are not under the western/human gaze. She filtered out the colonial, paternalistic attitudes that are prominent in many other kinds of stories. She asked questions with her writing about leadership, service, community, and death that I will spend a lot of time unpacking. This story is no different.

The title is from the following quote:

If God were not a necessary Being of Himself, He might almost seem to be made for the use and benefit of men. (John Tillotson)

The handwritten quote is along  with the citation of where she found it is at the bottom of the cover page. I was wondering if they would include the quote at the beginning of the short story. The final draft is dated December 2, 1973 when Octavia was about 26 years old.

quote-if-god-were-not-a-necessary-being-of-himself-he-might-almost-seem-to-be-made-for-the-use-and-john-tillotson-334365You can get a copy here or wherever ebooks are sold.

There are an lots of little juicy tidbits and goodies from the archives that we hope to share with you as time allows. Until then, you can check out findingestella.com for cute snips and videos of archival materials compiled by Marisa Parham.

I am really excited about hearing what other folks in the @oeblegacy community are saying and feeling about this new offering? What are your favorite things about the Unexpected Stories?

~Ayana A. H. Jamieson

Founder of OEBLegacy

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