Discover more from Aambe: where books collide
modern parables on world building
This is the year of reading Octavia Butler. In January I read Parable of the Sower and in February I read Parable of the Talents. March was Kindred. In April I’ll start the Patternist series because I have it on good authority that it’s excellent. Periodically I make it a resolution to spend a year focusing on a particular kind of writing and this year with most of my Twitter feed going on about Octavia Butler, I decided to read one of her books every month. I began with Parable of the Sower because, although I’d already encountered it as an audiobook and hadn’t cared for it, that’s the book that everyone on my twitter feed was talking about. I thought I might have missed something and decided to give it another go.
I had missed something. Or maybe it wasn’t just that I had missed anything, but that I was a different person and therefore noticed things in the book differently. It’s a book about building community in the midst of destruction and looking around at this world Octavia so presciently described, that’s a beautiful thing to be reading about. You can imagine my relief upon reading NK Jemison’s foreword and seeing that she had a very similar relationship with the book and the protagonist. Initially thinking, as I did, that Lauren was a know-it-all teenager. This time around I decided that if she didn’t actually know it all, she knew a lot.
The two books focus on Lauren Olamina and her attempts to build community in the midst of social collapse. In the first book Lauren finds herself homeless, separated from her family who are either dead or believed to be dead, after their community gets destroyed and, as happens in most apocalyptic narratives, she finds others who are also homeless and travelling. Together they build a community that they call Acorn using the principles of the Earthseed philosophy/religion that Lauren has developed. Near the end of Sower, and with a violence that mirrors her previous displacement, the extremist arm of the Christian Church of America destroys Acorn and enslaves the people.
The second book, which continues to tell the story of Lauren’s Earthseed communities, is told largely through Lauren’s daughter Larkin, whose perception of her mother was very similar to my initial reaction which was interesting to me because when I got to Parable of the Talents after reading Sower for the second time I quite liked Lauren so her daughter’s hostility was surprising.
Surprising but also understandable. Larkin had, after all, not been raised by her mother but taken as an infant in an early raid that destroyed and enslaved the Acorn community. Larkin was raised in a Christian Church of America family who benefitted from the violence of the extremists even while they disavowed them as not being True Christians. Much like we see in our current world. The abuses of Christian nationalists or residential schools or slavers creating a world that more moderate Christians are safe in and benefit from. Jemison also notes that this disavowal means that they cannot truly see the harms that were done, they have to minimize those harms as being not that bad or unintentional or some such, and so those like Lauren who insist on being seen become the problem, become the target of hostility.
Through a series of events exacerbated by the actions of the CCA, like digging up the trees whose roots give stability to a hillside, the members of this little community are able to escape but they can’t stay together. For safety sake they have to split up, which is where we get the Parable of the Talents. This is the parable in which different workers are given different amounts of money by the master who, after a period of time, returns and is enraged by the one worker who just buried his talent in the ground. The master rages, “you didn’t even give it to a banker where it could make interest let alone spread the money out where it could grow” … and are you seeing the parallel I’m about to draw here?
Parable of the Sower is the story of planting a seed. Parable of the Talents is what happens after the seed that was planted, the talent that was buried in the ground, is forced to spread out. And this is how I feel about what is happening on Twitter.
I’ve been on Twitter for about 10 years. Most of those haven’t been very active but for the past few years I’ve worked it like a job and not only built a decent following but there are connections and communities that form through the various overlaps between Native, Black, and Jewish Twitter. There are people who have become familiar to me; even if I wouldn’t call them friends and we don’t interact much, their contributions to my feed are valuable. This is where I go for news and gossip and why can’t we have anything nice. Why.
I mean. I know why.
So here we are again. The walls have been breached and that emerald mine nepo-baby has not only bought Twitter but he’s made so many changes that it’s not even a lot of fun to be there anymore. So we’re scattering. Some of us have gone to mastadon which is where you’ll find me. Others have gone to spoutible or hive or any number of other platforms. In Parable of the Talents, the Acorn community scattered, but they maintained letter drops where they stayed in touch which is kind of how I’m using Twitter and Facebook. Dropping in to stay in touch with those communities I worked so hard to build but spending more and more time elsewhere. Because, as so many others have said, why am I creating content for somebody who is so hateful?
So if you miss me on Twitter, I haven’t ghosted you. I’m just part of a new diaspora building community elsewhere. Which brings me to another kind of ghosting. Over the next few weeks you will notice that the url for this blog has changed. You don’t need to do anything. Not as a free subscriber and not as a paid subscriber. Everything is being migrated behind the scenes thanks to the good people at Project Mushroom. Project Mushroom is a community-led space on Al Gore’s internet that runs on a number of platforms depending on what you are looking for. Social media is on mastadon and newsletters run on ghost. And there are more options for other forms of content waiting in the wings. Why did I choose this platform? Well, in a world of too many choices I went with the one endorsed by Mariame Kaba. One day on Twitter she posted about Project Mushroom and commented that if Eric Holthaus was behind it, that was good enough for her and if it’s good enough for Mariam Kaba it’s good enough for me.
The good news is that as painful as that scattering was for the Acorn community, they did eventually go to the stars. God is, indeed, change. We shape God, and are in turn shaped by God. There are a thousand worlds waiting to be born. Let’s get busy.