'Parasites In Octavia Butler's Bloodchild'

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Parasites have gained a bad reputation within popular imagination. Mention any organism that parasites humans such as worms, head lice, scabies, malaria or even its vector the mosquito, and the most likely response will be a mixed sensation of dread and disgust. In popular culture, parasites are often cast as intruders from outer space, starring as antagonists turning humans into their unwilling hosts in thriller movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) to science fiction novels like Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters (1951) or entering the comic book multiverse as Spiderman’s infamous symbiont archenemy Venom, appearing in the mid-eighties.1 These narratives all feature humans who struggle to conquer the parasite. Eventually they succeed and humanity continues on. There are also the social parasites that likewise are met with ambivalence and given other insulting (parasitic)…show more content…
Significantly, the story emerged from Butler’s great fear of the parasite. She wrote the short story before a trip to the Peruvian Amazon, an area rich in insect life. The botflies in Peru specifically horrified her. She states that: The botfly lays its eggs in wounds left by the bites of other insects. I found the idea of a maggot living and growing under my skin, eating my flesh as it grew, to be so intolerable, so terrifying that I didn’t know how I could stand it if it happened to me […] The problem was to do what would seem to be the normal thing, to squeeze out the maggot and throw it away, was to invite infection. The maggot becomes literally attached to its host and leaves parts of itself behind, broken off, if it’s squeezed or cut out. Of course, the part left behind dies and rots, causing infection. Lovely. (“Afterword”

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