In the late seventeenth century, two immortals meet in an African forest. Anyanwu is a healer, a three-hundred-year-old woman who uses her wisdom to help those around her. The other is Doro, a malevolent despot who has mastered the power of stealing the bodies of others when his wears out. Together they will change the world. Over the next three centuries, Doro mounts a colossal selective breeding project, attempting to create a master race of telepaths. He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, splitting the human race down the middle and establishing a new world order dominated by the most manipulative minds on Earth. In these four novels, award-winning author Octavia E. Butler tells the classic story that began her legendary career: a mythic tale of the transformation of civilization. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate.
About the Author
Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) was a bestselling and award-winning author, considered one of the best science fiction writers of her generation. She received both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and in 1995 became the first author of science fiction to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also awarded the prestigious PEN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. Her first novel, Patternmaster (1976), was praised both for its imaginative vision and for Butler’s powerful prose, and spawned four prequels, beginning with Mind of My Mind (1977) and finishing with Clay’s Ark (1984).
Although the Patternist series established Butler among the science fiction elite, it was Kindred (1979), a story of a black woman who travels back in time to the antebellum South, that brought her mainstream success. In 1985, Butler won Nebula and Hugo awards for the novella “Bloodchild,” and in 1987 she published Dawn, the first novel of the Xenogenesis trilogy, about a race of aliens who visit earth to save humanity from itself. Fledgling (2005) was Butler’s final novel. She died at her home in 2006.
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Seed to Harvest
By Octavia Butler
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1980 Octavia E. Butler
All rights reserved.
Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages. The village was a comfortable mud-walled place surrounded by grasslands and scattered trees. But Doro realized even before he reached it that its people were gone. Slavers had been to it before him. With their guns and their greed, they had undone in a few hours the work of a thousand years. Those villagers they had not herded away, they had slaughtered. Doro found human bones, hair, bits of desiccated flesh missed by scavengers. He stood over a very small skeleton—the bones of a child—and wondered where the survivors had been taken. Which country or New World colony? How far would he have to travel to find the remnants of what had been a healthy, vigorous people?
Finally, he stumbled away from the ruins bitterly angry, not knowing or caring where he went. It was a matter of pride with him that he protected his own. Not the individuals, perhaps, but the groups. They gave him their loyalty, their obedience, and he protected them.
He had failed.
He wandered southwest toward the forest, leaving as he had arrived—alone, unarmed, without supplies, accepting the savanna and later the forest as easily as he accepted any terrain. He was killed several times—by disease, by animals, by hostile people. This was a harsh land. Yet he continued to move southwest, unthinkingly veering away from the section of the coast where his ship awaited him. After a while, he realized it was no longer his anger at the loss of his seed village that drove him. It was something new—an impulse, a feeling, a kind of mental undertow pulling at him. He could have resisted it easily, but he did not. He felt there was something for him farther on, a little farther, just ahead. He trusted such feelings.
He had not been this far west for several hundred years, thus he could be certain that whatever, whoever he found would be new to him—new and potentially valuable. He moved on eagerly.
The feeling became sharper and finer, resolving itself into a kind of signal he would normally have expected to receive only from people he knew—people like his lost villagers whom he should be tracking now before they were forced to mix their seed with foreigners and breed away all the special qualities he valued in them. But he continued on southwest, closing slowly on his quarry.
Anyanwu's ears and eyes were far sharper than those of other people. She had increased their sensitivity deliberately after the first time men came stalking her, their machetes ready, their intentions clear. She had had to kill seven times on that terrible day—seven frightened men who could have been spared—and she had nearly died herself, all because she let people come upon her unnoticed. Never again.
Now, for instance, she was very much aware of the lone intruder who prowled the bush near her. He kept himself hidden, moved toward her like smoke, but she heard him, followed him with her ears.
Giving no outward sign, she went on tending her garden. As long as she knew where the intruder was, she had no fear of him. Perhaps he would lose his courage and go away. Meanwhile, there were weeds among her coco yams and her herbs. The herbs were not the traditional ones grown or gathered by her people. Only she grew them as medicines for healing, used them when people brought their sick to her. Often she needed no medicines, but she kept that to herself. She served her people by giving them relief from pain and sickness. Also, she enriched them by allowing them to spread word of her abilities to neighboring people. She was an oracle. A woman through whom a god spoke. Strangers paid heavily for her services. They paid her people, then they paid her. That was as it should have been. Her people could see that they benefited from her presence, and that they had reason to fear her abilities. Thus was she protected from them—and they from her—most of the time. But now and then one of them overcame his fear and found reason to try to end her long life.
The intruder was moving close, still not allowing her to see him. No person of honest intentions would approach so stealthily. Who was he then? A thief? A murderer? Someone who blamed her for the death of a kinsman or some other misfortune? During her various youths, she had been blamed several times for causing misfortune. She had been fed poison in the test for witchcraft. Each time, she had taken the test willingly, knowing that she had bewitched no one—and knowing that no ordinary man with his scanty knowledge of poisons could harm her. She knew more about poisons, had ingested more poisons in her long life than any of her people could imagine. Each time she passed the test, her accusers had been ridiculed and fined for their false charges. In each of her lives as she grew older, people ceased to accuse her—though not all ceased to believe she was a witch. Some sought to take matters into their own hands and kill her regardless of the tests.
The intruder finally moved onto the narrow path to approach her openly—now that he had had enough of spying on her. She looked up as though becoming aware of him for the first time.
He was a stranger, a fine man taller than most and broader at the shoulders. His skin was as dark as her own, and his face was broad and handsome, the mouth slightly smiling. He was young—not yet thirty, she thought. Surely too young to be any threat to her. Yet something about him worried her. His sudden openness after so much stealth, perhaps. Who was he? What did he want?
When he was near enough, he spoke to her, and his words made her frown in confusion. They were foreign words, completely incomprehensible to her, but there was a strange familiarity to them—as though she should have understood. She stood up, concealing uncharacteristic nervousness. "Who are you?" she asked.
He lifted his head slightly as she spoke, seemed to listen.
"How can we speak?" she asked. "You must be from very far away if your speech is so different."
"Very far," he said in her own language. His words were clear to her now, though he had an accent that reminded her of the way people spoke long ago when she was truly young. She did not like it. Everything about him made her uneasy.
"So you can speak," she said.
"I am remembering. It has been a long time since I spoke your language." He came closer, peering at her. Finally, he smiled and shook his head. "You are something more than an old woman," he said. "Perhaps you are not an old woman at all."
She drew back in confusion. How could he know anything of what she was? How could he even guess with nothing more than her appearance and a few words as evidence? "I am old," she said, masking her fear with anger. "I could be your mother's mother!" She could have been an ancestor of his mother's mother. But she kept that to herself. "Who are you?" she demanded.
"I could be your mother's father," he said.
She took another step backward, somehow controlling her growing fear. This man was not what he seemed to be. His words should have come to her as mocking nonsense, but instead, they seemed to reveal as much and as little as her own.
"Be still," he told her. "I mean you no harm."
"Who are you?" she repeated.
"Doro?" She said the strange word twice more. "Is that a name?"
"It is my name. Among my people, it means the east—the direction from which the sun comes."
She put one hand to her face. "This is a trick," she said. "Someone is laughing."
"You know better. When were you last frightened by a trick?"
Not for more years than she could remember; he was right. But the names ... The coincidence was like a sign. "Do you know who I am?" she asked. "Did you come here knowing, or ...?"
"I came here because of you. I knew nothing about you except that you were unusual and you were here. Awareness of you has pulled me a great distance out of my way."
"I had a feeling ... People as different as you attract me somehow, call me, even over great distances."
"I did not call you."
"You exist and you are different. That was enough to attract me. Now tell me who you are."
"You must be the only man in this country who has not heard of me. I am Anyanwu."
He repeated her name and glanced upward, understanding. Sun, her name meant. Anyanwu: the sun. He nodded. "Our peoples missed each other by many years and a great distance, Anyanwu, and yet somehow they named us well."
"As though we were intended to meet. Doro, who are your people?"
"They were called Kush in my time. Their land is far to the east of here. I was born to them, but they have not been my people for many years. I have not seen them for perhaps twelve times as long as you have been alive. When I was thirteen years old, I was separated from them. Now my people are those who give me their loyalty."
"And now you think you know my age," she said. "That is something my own people do not know."
"No doubt you have moved from town to town to help them forget." He looked around, saw a fallen tree nearby. He went to sit on it. Anyanwu followed almost against her will. As much as this man confused and frightened her, he also intrigued her. It had been so long since something had happened to her that had not happened before—many times before. He spoke again.
"I do nothing to conceal my age," he said, "yet some of my people have found it more comfortable to forget—since they can neither kill me nor become what I am."
She went closer to him and peered down at him. He was clearly proclaiming himself like her—long-lived and powerful. In all her years, she had not known even one other person like herself. She had long ago given up, accepted her solitude. But now ...
"Go on talking," she said. "You have much to tell me."
He had been watching her, looking at her eyes with a curiosity that most people tried to hide from her. People said her eyes were like babies' eyes—the whites too white, the browns too deep and clear. No adult, and certainly no old woman should have such eyes, they said. And they avoided her gaze. Doro's eyes were very ordinary, but he could stare at her as children stared. He had no fear, and probably no shame.
He startled her by taking her hand and pulling her down beside him on the tree trunk. She could have broken his grip easily, but she did not. "I've come a long way today," he told her. "This body needs rest if it is to continue to serve me."
She thought about that. This body needs rest. What a strange way he had of speaking.
"I came to this territory last about three hundred years ago," he said. "I was looking for a group of my people who had strayed, but they were killed before I found them. Your people were not here then, and you had not been born. I know that because your difference did not call me. I think you are the fruit of my people's passing by yours, though."
"Do you mean that your people may be my kinsmen?"
"Yes." He was examining her face very carefully, perhaps seeking some resemblance. He would not find it. The face she was wearing was not her true face.
"Your people have crossed the Niger"—he hesitated, frowning, then gave the river its proper name—"the Orumili. When I saw them last, they lived on the other side in Benin."
"We crossed long ago," she said. "Children born in that time have grown old and died. We were Ado and Idu, subject to Benin before the crossing. Then we fought with Benin and crossed the river to Onitsha to become free people, our own masters."
"What happened to the Oze people who were here before you?"
"Some ran away. Others became our slaves."
"So you were driven from Benin, then you drove others from here—or enslaved them."
Anyanwu looked away, spoke woodenly. "It is better to be a master than to be a slave." Her husband at the time of the migration had said that. He had seen himself becoming a great man—master of a large household with many wives, children, and slaves. Anyanwu, on the other hand, had been a slave twice in her life and had escaped only by changing her identity completely and finding a husband in a different town. She knew some people were masters and some were slaves. That was the way it had always been. But her own experience had taught her to hate slavery. She had even found it difficult to be a good wife in her most recent years because of the way a woman must bow her head and be subject to her husband. It was better to be as she was—a priestess who spoke with the voice of a god and was feared and obeyed. But what was that? She had become a kind of master herself. "Sometimes, one must become a master to avoid becoming a slave," she said softly.
"Yes," he agreed.
She deliberately turned her attention to the new things he had given her to think about. Her age, for instance. He was right. She was about three hundred years old—something none of her people would have believed. And he had said something else—something that brought alive one of her oldest memories. There had been whispers when she was a girl that her father could not beget children, that she was the daughter not only of another man, but of a visiting stranger. She had asked her mother about this, and for the first and only time in her life, her mother had struck her. From then on, she had accepted the story as true. But she had never been able to learn anything about the stranger. She would not have cared—her mother's husband claimed her as his daughter and he was a good man—but she had always wondered whether the stranger's people were more like her.
"Are they all dead?" she asked Doro. "These ... kinsmen of mine?"
"Then they were not like me."
"They might have been after many more generations. You are not only their child. Your Onitsha kinsmen must have been unusual in their own right."
Anyanwu nodded slowly. She could think of several unusual things about her mother. The woman had stature and influence in spite of the gossip about her. Her husband was a member of a highly respected clan, well known for its magical abilities, but in his household, it was Anyanwu's mother who made magic. She had highly accurate prophetic dreams. She made medicine to cure disease and to protect the people from evil. At market, no woman was a better trader. She seemed to know just how to bargain—as though she could read the thoughts in the other women's minds. She became very wealthy.
It was said that Anyanwu's clan, the clan of her mother's husband, had members who could change their shapes, take animal forms at will, but Anyanwu had seen no such strangeness in them. It was her mother in whom she found strangeness, closeness, empathy that went beyond what could be expected between mother and daughter. She and her mother had shared a unity of spirit that actually did involve some exchange of thoughts and feelings, though they were careful not to flaunt this before others. If Anyanwu felt pain, her mother, busy trading at some distant market, knew of the pain and came home. Anyanwu had no more than ghosts of that early closeness with her own children and with three of her husbands. And she had sought for years through her clan, her mother's clan, and others for even a ghost of her greatest difference, the shape changing. She had collected many frightening stories, but had met no other person who, like herself, could demonstrate this ability. Not until now, perhaps. She looked at Doro. What was it she felt about him—what strangeness? She had shared no thoughts with him, but something about him reminded her of her mother. Another ghost.
"Are you my kinsman?" she asked.
"No," he said. "But your kinsmen had given me their loyalty. That is no small thing."
"Is that why you came when ... when my difference attracted you?"
He shook his head. "I came to see what you were."
She frowned, suddenly cautious. "I am myself. You see me."
"As you see me. Do you imagine you see everything?"
She did not answer.
"A lie offends me, Anyanwu, and what I see of you is a lie. Show me what you really are."
"You see what you will see!"
"Are you afraid to show me?"
"... No." It was not fear. What was it? A lifetime of concealment, of commanding herself never to play with her abilities before others, never to show them off as mere tricks, never to let her people or any people know the full extent of her power unless she were fighting for her life. Should she break her tradition now simply because this stranger asked her to? He had done much talking, but what had he actually shown her about himself? Nothing.
"Can my concealment be a lie if yours is not?" she asked.
"Mine is," he admitted.
"Then show me what you are. Give me the trust you ask me to give you."
"You have my trust, Anyanwu, but knowing what I am would only frighten you."
"Am I a child then?" she asked angrily. "Are you my mother who must shield me from adult truths?"
He refused to be insulted. "Most of my people are grateful to me for shielding them from my particular truth," he said.
"So you say I have seen nothing."
Excerpted from Seed to Harvest by Octavia Butler. Copyright © 1980 Octavia E. Butler. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Mind of My Mind,
A Biography of Octavia Butler,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Octavia E. Butler will always be one of my favorite authors. I have read and reread most of her work multiple times. The Patternmaster series deserves attention not only because it is entertaining reading but you can really see the development of a true artist from the beginning. My favorite thing about OEB is she was always tackling social issues along with telling a good story.
This is a collection of four novels that make up Butler¿s Patternist series: Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay¿s Ark and Patternmaster. I found this to be the weakest of Butler¿s works yet. The third in the series, set in a near-future similar to that of Parable of the Sower, was my favorite of the lot: dark, violent and ultimately rather hopeless. Still, none of the novels felt really complete or satisfying. It was clear that Butler was still honing her chops with these early efforts. All that being said, even her mediocre books are fast and entertaining reads.
This is an omnibus of four of the five novels of the Patternist series, Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay's Ark and Patternmaster. For some reason unknown to me, the third book in the series, Survivor, is not included in this omnibus.The first novel, Wild Seed, was by far my favorite. It is the story of Doro, a man with a special power that allows his spirit to jump from body to body, leaving the discarded bodies dead. He quickly discovers that it gives him more pleasure to occupy the body of a person who also has some sort of special power, be it telekinesis, telepathy, shapeshifting, or the power to heal self or others. He starts collecting these people and breeding them, creating offspring with greater and greater powers for his personal use. Eventually he comes across a woman who is as long-lived as he and more powerful than any he has come across before. He realizes that she is more useful to him alive as breeding stock than the short-term pleasure he could get from her by occupying her body, and realizes that she already has many children who could also be useful to him. But she won't submit easily. She only agrees to do his will if he agrees not to harm her children. But Doro is not to be trusted and conflict ensues. This breathtaking story spans several centuries. I was blown away by the writing style, I felt the author was speaking directly to me. By the end of the novel I found Doro's single-mindedness a little disturbing, but otherwise this was an awesome novel.The second novel, Mind of My Mind, picks up a few hundred years after the first leaves off. Doro's creations have gotten stronger--strong enough to begin challenging him. This book was still quite good but somehow not quite as good as the first one. I was left at the end wanting to know what could possibly happen next, but that will be left to the imagination.The third novel, Survivor, is not included in this omnibus and I have not read it.The fourth novel, Clay's Ark, is completely different from the first two. One of the minor characters from the second novel is briefly mentioned in the third novel, but otherwise it is completely unconnected (perhaps explained by the missing third novel). This could easily have been a stand alone novel and I quite liked it. This is set in the dystopian near future. The first starship (named Clay's Ark) ever to carry humans to another planet has just returned to Earth, but it is bringing with it a highly infectious microorganism that changes the very essence of those it infects. Infected people are compelled to spread the disease to as many as possible and to reproduce as quickly as they can. The first infected people try desperately to retain their humanity--they live in the middle of a desolate desert and kidnap and infect only enough people to quiet their compulsions in an attempt to protect the rest of the world from their disease. This works for several years until one of the people they capture and infect escapes and heads straight for LA. A very chilling story and my second favorite in this omnibus.The last novel, Patternmaster, was definitely my least favorite. This is set even father in the future when most of the people on the planet are either powerful descendants of Doro or are infected with the Clayark disease from the previous novel. These two factions are at constant odds and each would like nothing better than to wipe the other out. The descendants of Doro, with all of their amazing mental powers, have lost almost all of their mechanical ability. The future has developed into what is almost a typical fantasy world. Everything is low tech and "magic" is common. Outside city walls are evil creatures, the Clayarks, that want to kill everybody. The story involves the interaction of some very powerful brothers vying for leadership positions in this setting. Somehow I just didn't find it to be very interestin
My mind is reeling right now and I am not sure what to think. Makes me sad that she has gone on to be with the ancestors, but she has left a wonderful, marvelous and powerful piece of herself with us.
I orginally read this author for a class in college and every book I have read from her since has been entertaining and thought provoking. She is one of my favorite science fiction writers.
I can't get enough. I read it 3 times!!!!
Wild Seed is by far the best story in this collection.
Mind of My Mind follows behind it with Clay's Ark being a little vacant like Fledling.
Definitely a thought provoking collection of stories.