Hot, powerful and unpredictable, most vampires on the big and small screens also share the trait of bright white skin. Sure the lack of sun for a few centuries will make you lose your summer glow, but there must be some brown folks in the land of the undead and not just in Brooklyn either.
Octavia Butler thought the same thing. Back in 2005 she published Fledgling, a novel about an amnesiac vampire named Shori who has a distinct genetic advantage over her fellow blood-suckers. She has brown skin, which offers added protection against the sun and allows her to function during day light hours. Her condition inspires awe and jealousy among the other vampires. Imagine that, brown skin as the most beloved and sought after feature.
After waking up in a dark cave with unexplained injuries and no memory of who or what she is, Shori is overcome with hunger and her instincts kick in. She kills and eats the flesh of some unfortunate creature and she finds that her injuries heal on their own. The reader is along for the ride as Shori, narrating the tale in first-person, becomes aware of who she is and what she must do to stay alive. The equal parts horror and ecstasy she feels when she bites into human flesh for the first time is a testament to Butler’s unique writing style. She takes extraordinary circumstances and brings them to a relatable level. How would someone with no memory of clothes feel about being naked in today’s society? Is it easier or more difficult to feed since most people expect vampires to look like Brad Pitt or Bela Lugosi?
Shori is a 53-year-old vampire who looks like an adolescent. As a small, black woman-child who appears vulnerable, she experiences unpleasant things that little brown girls today go through except she has the ability to rip a man’s throat out with her bare hands. Like most sci-fi writers, Butler uses her work to make social commentary, but her books address issues of race, class and sex in a way that you rarely find in the white male dominated field of science fiction.
As Shori goes along in her journey to find her family, find where she belongs and determine who is friend or foe, the reader is given a fresh perspective on how and why being different or special triggers anger and hostility in others.
Brimming with great writing, a well-paced story and the most endearing vampire you will ever meet, Fledgling is the perfect sci-fi book for madames, even those who may not be sci-fi geeks. Octavia Butler died unexpectedly in 2006, but her novels and short stories cement her legacy as not just a great black woman science fiction writer, but a great writer.