So, we very briefly touched on this in class today, but I was interested in the parallels between Oryx and Crake and Xenogenesis. Clearly, the biggest parallel was that the human race ends up wiped out and reformatted against its will, for its own good (or so someone claims). The narration of both novels takes place at least mostly in the immediate aftermath.
One thing that struck me about several of the novels we've read thus far is that their speculation is based on human biology; specifically, the attempt to alter and control it. In the past I came across a word for this; post-humanism, a nebulous and ill-defined term, but one ultimately centered around the concept of building better humans. There have been aspects of this in most of the books we've read, such as...
This book made me think entirely too hard about things I am not comfortable thinking about - what is human, what is free will, do humans really suck this much, etc etc etc. Now that I've finished, I'm still stuck thinking about it, but I am having a difficult time grounding what I have to say in the text, or even articulating it in something approaching a coherent fashion. I'll give it a shot, though.
In class Monday and Wednesday I was surprised that no one brought up the biblical aspects of Lilith's Brood. I know this a touchy subject, but there are so many references and similar story lines that I thought someone would have brought them up. The easiest to point out is Lilith, who distinguishes herself in a religious sense both in name and action. In Hebrew stories she is supposed to have been Adam's first wife, who would not submit to his supposedly male dominance (including during sex), and was thrown out of Eden for it.
So, I watched a bit of this movie the other day, a 1973 French cartoon called La Planete Sauvage. I only saw part of it because I got super creeped out by it, but the part that I did see was very reminiscent of Lilith's Brood to me. Humans are toyed with, what it is to be human is questioned, superior and uncaring aliens screw around with human lives, the whole bit.
I think you can find most of it dubbed over into English on youtube. Watch it if you want to feel like you are on hard drugs.
In the Lilith's Brood trilogy, "Imago" is the first time we get a first person narration. It's the voice of an ooloi, and therefore one of the most foreign to us in the world of the book. This functions on several different levels. It serves the utilitarian function of decreasing the number of "it"s in the text, making syntax more understandable overall. But it also sets up a very interesting self-and-other construct, removing it from the societal and making it far more individual.
Octavia Butler uses dialogue throughout the book to say a great deal more than one would initially interpret. She uses the Oankali and their projected image of omniscience to convey criticism of humanity and our civilization, even in situations where the Human culture is not specifically under scrutiny. Less helpful to the story is her tendency to constantly ram the "Human Conflict/Contradiction" down the throats of her readers, yet never properly investigating just what is so flawed in it.
I just realized why Octavia Butler wrote Imago in the first person. It is ridiculously hard to write a compelling sentence about Jodahs, when you constantly have to refer to it as "it".
As a humanist leech, I sometimes feel left out of certain SF authors' visions of the future. In Starship Troopers, disciplines like philosophy are entirely ceded to the sciences--viz. the constant references to "mathematically verifiable moral truths." And this is to say nothing of the uses of mimetic representation--a curious absence, given that such visions of the future are made via a sort of mimetic representation. We talked in class about whether there was art on Gethen in The Left Hand of Darkness. In Lilith's Brood, Butler explicitly states that there isn't art among the Resisters.
We spent a large part of our in-class discussion on Lilith's talking about the morality of the Oankali's actions toward humanity. They were described as immoral, amoral, devious. What I think Lilith's Brood shows us is that what we, as humans, think of as absolute morals are actually incredibly slippery and ephemeral things.