THINKING ABOUT WHAT’S GONE BEFORE

As we live through our present, whenever that is, we tend to forget what’s gone before. Good, bad, and neutral, our pasts influence our present. Some of our changes are bad, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the major impact it’s had on our lives, our economy, and our very lifestyles. But it didn’t appear out of nowhere, nor is it the first pandemic ever to hit humanity. The plague, various versions of the flu including the 1918 Spanish variety, typhoid fever, cholera, and others were happenings we had to live through and learn from.

So, too, with social change. The recent incidents that led to Black Lives Matter, #metoo, and other movements did not occur instantaneously, like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus. There always have been precursors leading to the development of change. We may not know of these, but they exist nonetheless.

That’s a major reason why I value fiction. It ushers us to the emotional tangle served up with mere facts. We could read treatise after book after study concerning the Vietnam war, and those numbers wouldn’t carry one-tenth of the impact of The Things They Carried. A volume on the causes and potential cures for COVID wouldn’t ring our chimes like A Year of Wonders, set in 17th century England during a plague.

So when I picked up Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler, I knew I’d get a story about the African-American experience, but the actual narrative was much more than a mere tale. Dana, the 20th century protagonist, is thrown back in time to the antebellum South where her white ancestor Rufus is drowning. She saves him but then only returns home when her own life is threatened. So the pattern is set, back and forth more than a century, as Dana learns Rufus is becoming more twisted and damaged by the economic and social system of slavery than Blacks.

Butler’s genius (and she was the first science fiction author to be awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant) was to imbue her characters with true humanity. They jump off the pages and create resonations in the reader’s mind and emotions that remain far after the last page in the book is closed.

It’s strange to me to think Butler passed away years ago, way too early in her career, and now people forget or overlook the strides people like her and other advocates for social justice made. We can’t live in any time other than our own, except through our imaginations. Butler was and remains a guide for our own confused, infuriating, and at times malevolent situations. Through her writerly gifts, we can extract not only a ripping good story but also the awareness and solace of human emotions. If you haven’t sampled Butler, now might be a good time to do so.




2 thoughts on “THINKING ABOUT WHAT’S GONE BEFORE

  1. Wonderful

    On Mon, Nov 9, 2020, 12:12 PM Bonnie McCune, author wrote:

    > Bonnie McCune posted: ” As we live through our present, whenever that is, > we tend to forget what’s gone before. Good, bad, and neutral, our pasts > influence our present. Some of our changes are bad, like the COVID-19 > pandemic and the major impact it’s had on our lives, our econ” >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s