It has always been incredibly common for me to be surrounded by a pile of books. It is even more common now that I am working on my thesis.
The other day, my 3 1/2 year old son walked up to me while I was taking notes, stared intently at the book on top, and asked,
“Will she walk out of the book? Will the alien walk out of the book?”
The book he was looking at was Xenogenesis (also known as Lilith’s Brood), and the characters he referred to are Lilith and one of the Oankali, perhaps Jdhaya or Nikanj. Lilith looks somewhat concerned, and the Oankali has placed a hand on her shoulder.
My son proceeded to tell me that Lilith is his friend, the alien is his friend, and, “someday, I will be the alien’s kid.”
Given that the premise of the book is a future in which posthumanism or transhumanism (I would argue it is transhumanism) is nearly inevitable, I was astounded. I still am.
I vaguely recall discussing Xenogenesis with my son only once before. I believe I told him that the characters featured on the cover are friends.
Perhaps he retained that information in forming his conclusions about a possible relationship between himself and the characters, but I am still heartened by his apparent sense of a connection to a book I love so dearly.
When I was 13, Xenogenesis was simultaneously an escape from the world, and a promise of something more. Since then, it has become a research interest, and led me to a community of people who enjoy Butler’s work as much as I do. Finally, reading Xenogenesis and Butler’s other work has led me to think about difference in ways I probably would not have otherwise.
I like the idea that my son could embrace difference in such a way, imagining himself in – or after – the story. The experience also made me wonder about the images with which we surround ourselves. What do they teach us? What do they teach our children?
I don’t know. I am interested in finding out, though.