Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Octavia Butler’s “A Necessary Being”
By Briana Whiteside
Today, two newly discovered unreleased stories by Butler were released as an ebook entitled the Unexpected Stories. “A Necessary Being” and “Childfinder” were written in the early 1970s and were discovered at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. “A Necessary Being” is a story about two tribes of blue creatures—the Rohkohn and the Tehkohn—and their attempts to preserve their tribes.
“A Necessary Being” is important because it is the sister story to Butler’s Survivor (1978)—the discontinued book of the Patternist series. In the short story we learn about the growing tension between the Garkohn tribe and the Tehkohn tribe that is foreshadowed in Survivor, and the backstory between Diut the Tehkohn Hao and Tahneh the Rohkohn Hao and their tribes. Their relationship was briefly mentioned in Survivor once Alanna—Diut’s human wife— meet Tahneh and she (Tahneh) expressed hostility between the two.
Although we do receive useful information that is important to understanding Survivor, it is also noteworthy that we have the opportunity to witness another female governing presence—Tahneh—experience what it means to be a leader, possible trader, and governing mother. These experiences are shared between all the protagonists in Butler’s books, especially with Lilith.
Butler’s newly released story shows her creative ability to tell that same story from various perspectives. “A Necessary Being” is an exciting new edition to Butler's published body of works.
Briana Whiteside is a graduate student at the University of Alabama and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.