“A partner must be biologically interesting, attractive to us, and you are fascinating. You are horror and beauty in rare combination.” —Nikanj in Dawn
In Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn (1987), humanity is saved from extinction by the Oankali, aliens who harvest useful genetic traits for their own evolution. They want cancer, which they see as a beautiful contradiction of a disease—mutable and immortal, yet pathological. Like all of Butler’s work, Dawn does not deal in good and evil, but with ambivalences…such as how one might make ethical compromises to survive an impossible situation under an indomitable power. Her characters generally aren’t lovable, or even likable most times, but contradictions and all, they’re always unambiguously relatable.