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100 sci fi women #44: Lilith Iyapo

Before getting to the usual list today, I wanted to draw attention to an excellent post over at Hoydon About Town about the invisibility of women in science fiction. In particular it talks about the manner in which female science fiction writers tend to be overlooked in any of the discussions of the “canon” – unless you are Ursula Le Guin.  To prove its point of how many female authors are being overlooked, it links to this Periodic Table of Female Sci Fi Writers. I haven’t read them all, but I have read a lot of them – and now more authors to explore. I can also think of a few others I would have added to the list.

Anyway, this prompts me to feature a canonical female science fiction writer and one of her strongest female characters for my entry tonight.

Lilith Iyapo Lilith’s Brood/Xenogenesis Trilogy Octavia Butler

Lilith is one of the few survivors of a nuclear holocaust on earth, a black woman who has been saved by aliens, along with a number of other humans. She awakes, hundreds of years later, in an alien place, naked and alone and is forced to make difficult choices about her own reproduction, relationship with the Oankali (the aliens) and also her interactions with the other remaining humans. Lilith has to make the choice of whether she is willing to trade her genes and her reproduction, to create new children which are a mixture of human and Oankali, as this is the purpose for which the human have been saved. Lilith is also recognised as a natural leader by the aliens and trains a group of humans who will be returning to recolonise Earth. Lilith’s relationships with the aliens become based on them as individuals, as similarly are her relationships with humans. Lilith has to later guide and love her children who are half alien. Not a simple one dimensional character, or a hero whose every move is simple to understand, or even sensible. instead she is a complex woman, shattered by grief and confusion, who yet remains strong and helps to build something, even if in building it she is not always convinced it is right.

“I started out wanting to do exactly that” Lilith said.  “Snoop. Seek. It seemed to me that my culture – ours – was running headlong over a cliff. And, of course, as it turned out, it was. I thought there must be saner ways of life.”


2 responses to “100 sci fi women #44: Lilith Iyapo

  1. Joachim ⋅

    Her difficult choices – submit to rape? Then help abuse more humans? Time people critically questioned the appalling message in Butler’s book.

  2. Tea Drinker ⋅

    Reading this at the moment and totally loving it.

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