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horny spit venom

I read Fledgling by Octavia Butler a few weeks ago. This was the last novel she wrote before her death. It's more about deathlessness than death.

So, yeah, i’ve been thinking about death. I always saturate myself with death during October, also the other months, but especially this one. I would even see a show about death. My birthday happens this month, and who doesn't ponder mortality around their birthday? If i could i would celebrate my death day. The dates that pin us down. Always gives me the chills to think about. In a good way i think?  

For some reason, i just checked if Joyce Carol Oates is still alive. Lately i’ve been indulging in that type of morbid check-up. I’ve also been looking up the ways some writers died and what age they were. Octavia Butler was 58 when she died of a stroke, head injuries, or both. She would be 73 if still alive today.

Fledgling is about vampires basically, but, as multiple characters emphasize throughout, these vampires are crucially different from the nocturnal creatures of folklore and fiction. They’re way more interested in dry court procedures than your garden variety Dracula. Something like a fourth of the book is relatively lowkey court drama, where the court is a modest meeting room in a library or something. They even struggle with a few banal av issues. 

These vamps are big fans of consent. For starters, they don’t kill the people they feed upon. It’s an honest, open seduction. Spit venom allows the feedings to feel good and horny to their meals. Usually feedings bleed into sex, or sex into feedings, so yeah it’s a sex thing, and that part tracks for typical blooksuckers. Cocksucking vampires is a real idea i have, by the by, like they suck blood out of cocks obviously. Just thought i would mention it because i think that hasn’t been done yet (?). Trying to manifest what i want to see in the world. 

Important to note: instead of dying, those who are lucky enough to join a vampire’s food supply are treated to a life expectancy well over a hundo years, in exchange for an existence within their feeder’s thrall (it’s impossible to disobey one’s vampire), but since everyone’s having a sexy time living a long extra-healthy life, and the vampires treat their people lovingly enough, seems like nobody really complains. This trade-off is central to the consent, as the vampires can basically propose their benevolent partnership to whatever human they like. It gets pointed out that this symbiotic method makes more evolutionary sense than the kill-someone-everytime-you-eat approach favored by vampires of lore. These responsibility kink vampires don’t waste blood and they place some meaningful value on human life. 

Except they’re not really called vampires most of the novel. The real term for them is Ina. And their living blood suppliers are symbionts.

That court business I earlier mentioned concerns an attack on an Ina, Shori, that left her without home, family, or any specific memories. 

I was gonna go into more plot, but i’m stuck on that venom. So the spit arouses the symbionts and yet there aren’t any hot saliva-centric scenes. There are some sex scenes kinda, but those are straight-laced and very uncomfortable for as long as they last. Shori has the body of a ten or eleven year old. Her first symbiont is a Very Annoying Man (he gets petty and jealous real fast) who is all, “gee i’m not sure if we should do this you seem young” but he ultimately can’t resist the venom in Shori's spit. See what i mean this isn’t hot at all. So rather than a cool moment where an Ina slowly licks up someone's throat, we get borderline pedophila. Wow that's an alarming use of borderline.

But i say borderline because Shori isn’t truly ten years old, she’s like fifty. So all this is fine? Ehhhh. I can see why this didn’t catch on like, say, Twlight did, published the same year (2005...early on in Fledgling an apartment is described as flaunting a combination dvd/vhs collection, which amused me, because i feel like that was a common thing for three brief years in the early oughts). Twilight also has problematic shit going on with a vampire’s body age vs. actual age, but in that book it was a centuranian teen dating a normal teen with no boning, while in this book the sex gets brought up a fair amount, it’s with multiple partners, and there's a body involved that's younger than a teen's.

Some of my favorite parts of Fledgling deal with the drama and dynamics between symbionts. It’s basically poly. A symbiont polycule literally held together with horny spit venom, this would be a total romance if the protagonist wasn't a corporeal ten year old, albeit with an adult's mind.

I guess Octavia Butler didn’t want to write a good-times sexy vampire novel, even though many of her concepts lean in that direction. It's all presented with a focus on biological necessity. Although there’s about equal opportunity for it, there’s none of Twilight’s vore humor, which is to say, of course, pas de romance. Shori, like the other Butler protagonists i’ve read, is protective and compassionate, but she doesn’t think sentimentally, because she’s too busy thinking survivalist stuff like who’s trying to kill me and why.

But this novel seriously could have been crowded with swoons. In a different universe maybe. I haven’t even mentioned Shori’s relationship with an older librarian woman. If she didn’t have a child's body, it would be a dreamy lesbo fantasy.

If an Ina offered me the chance to be their symbiont, i'm pretty sure i wouldn't accept. Sure, an extra century of life sounds nice, but it would also feel like putting off an inevitable date, maybe the hottest date of my life. Would i gain anything from a second lifetime, or would i just be disorientated, increasingly soul lonely, and overwhelmed with existential tedium? It would be surreal and sad to experience the total death of literally everyone I know outside the polycule: i would be essentially stuck with my Ina dom and their other symbionts no matter what. Super health sounds nice too, but i think i would cling to my ability to fully think as an independent organism. Writing about it like this, the Ina-symbiont bond feels like a marriage but worse.

And the more i think about it, the more the trade-off seems like a bad deal: a symbiont becomes totally dependent on an Ina's blood to live, so the entire setup can even be viewed as extreme codependency. It would be like ruining the rest of my life to have more of my ruined life.


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