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IN BRIEF

Fiction

November 26, 1995|MICHAEL HARRIS

BLOODCHILD and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler (Four Walls Eight Windows: $18; 145 pp.). Octavia E. Butler, who has published 10 science fiction novels (most recently "Parable of the Sower") and won Hugo and Nebula awards and a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, here repackages five of her short stories with two essays on writing that reflect her long, pioneering struggle, as an African American woman, to succeed in the genre. Her advice to young writers: "Persist." Butler, of Los Angeles, writes about people who make small, affirmative gestures within the limits of almost unbearable circumstances. "Speech Sounds" and "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" envision a future Southern California ravaged by disease--in one case, a mental impairment that blocks communication and triggers widespread anarchy; in the other, a genetic plague that gives its victims rare talents as well as a guarantee of a horrible death. In contrast to her imagination, Butler's prose is blunt, unadorned, relentlessly down to earth.

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