The legacy of Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Octavia E. Butler persists with her critically acclaimed Patternist science fiction series. The series' fourth installment, Will Seed, is the first story in the series’ timeline, and centers around the relationship between two immortal beings, Doro and Anyanwu.
The brutal Doro survives by stealing the bodies of others, making him practically unstoppable, whereas the kindhearted Anyanwu is a shapeshifter and healer who naturally maintains her immortality. The two meet when New World slavers raid and destroy Doro’s village, forcing him to travel west where he encounters Anyanwu. Once the two meet, their lives become intertwined as Doro tries to influence humanity through a series of selective breeding experiments, while Anyanwu struggles to get through to Doro and reshape his morality.
This story by Butler explores the dynamics of gender roles, power, and the dark implications of genetic engineering. Living during both the pre and post-Civil Rights era in America, Butler made a name for herself in the science fiction genre at a time when the genre’s writers were still primarily white and male. Throughout her career, Butler used her writing to touch on issues of race, femininity, and inequality.
The story is currently set for a television adaptation on Amazon Prime Video from Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s company, JuVee Productions. Nnedi Okorafor and Wanuri Kahiu will write the adaptation. During an interview with Deadline, Davis remarked on how much the story impacted her: “Wild Seed is a book that shifted my life,” Davis said. “It is as epic, as game changing, as moving and brilliant as any Science Fiction novel ever written.”
Take a dive into the fantastical world of Wild Seed in this excerpt. In the following passage, Doro and Anyanwu meet for the first time. While both deities introduce themselves, Anyanwu tries to uncover Doro’s true intentions.
Read an excerpt from Wild Seed below, then download the book!
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. ”
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“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.
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