shteyngart and the glass

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When I was a geeky child, the highlight of each month was the arrival of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, with its lurid interstellar and darkly apocalyptic covers. In 1984, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” came out, a cyberpunk novel that proved to be incredibly predictive of what life would be like when we committed ourselves to the virtual world. But the narrative that really caught my imagination was a short story called “Bloodchild,” by Octavia Butler. The story takes place on a faraway planet dominated by a large insect-like species called the Tlic. The humans who have fled oppression on their own planet live on a so-called Preserve, where their bodies are used as hosts for the Tlic’s eggs, culminating in a horrifyingly graphic hatching procedure often resulting in the death of the human host. Many reviewers thought of the story as an allegory of slavery (perhaps influenced by the fact that Butler was African-American), but the author denied the claim. Butler wrote that she thought of “Bloodchild” as “a love story between two very different beings.” Although their relationship is unequal and often gruesome, Tlic and humans need each other to survive. Today, when I think of our relationship with technology, I cannot help but think of human and Tlic, the latter’s insect limbs wrapped around the former’s warm-blooded trunk, about to hatch something new.

more from Gary Shteyngart at The New Yorker here.

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