Xenogenesis Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1989, as Xenogenesis (includes Dawn, 1987; Adulthood Rites, 1988; and Imago, 1989)

Type of work: Novels

Type of plot: Science fiction

Time of work: 250–350 years after a fictional holocaust on Earth

Locale: Chkahichdahk, a living Oankali “spaceship,” and Earth

Characters Discussed<i>Dawn</i>, 1987Lilith Iyapo

Lilith XenogenesisIyapo, a survivor of a nuclear war that almost completely destroys Earth. Terrified to learn that her captors are aliens, Lilith gradually becomes used to the Oankali, but her fear is renewed when she realizes that they intend to breed with humans in a genetic “trade” and will no longer allow humans to breed among themselves. Lilith reluctantly agrees to awaken other humans and acclimatize them to their fate. Although she eventually cares for the Oankali, Lilith feels guilty and wonders whether she has betrayed humanity.


Nikanj, an ooloi (the Oankali third sex) specifically bred to live with humans. When Lilith’s human mate, Joseph, is killed, Nikanj uses Joseph’s sperm to impregnate Lilith with the first human-Oankali child.

Tate Marah

Tate Marah, the first human awakened by Lilith. Initially Lilith’s friend, Tate does nothing to prevent Joseph’s death when the humans rebel against the Oankali, thus choosing to side against Lilith.

Gabriel (Gabe) Rinaldi

Gabriel (Gabe) Rinaldi, a human awakened by Lilith. Gabe distrusts the Oankali and convinces other humans to rebel against them.

Curt Loehr

Curt Loehr, a human who is unable to accept the Oankali. Believing that Lilith is Oankali rather than human, Curt irrationally kills Joseph, reasoning that Lilith’s mate also must be an enemy.


Jdahya, the Oankali male who makes initial contact with Lilith. Jdahya helps Lilith overcome her fear of the Oankali.

Joseph Shing

Joseph Shing, Lilith’s lover and mate, who is killed by Curt Loehr.

<i>Adulthood Rites</i>, 1988Akin

Akin, the first human-Oankali male born to a human mother. When Akin is kidnapped by Resisters because he looks like a human baby, he begins to understand the Resisters’ motivation in fighting the Oankali. Akin eventually speaks on the Resisters’ behalf, asking the Oankali to restore the Resisters’ fertility and allow them to settle on Mars, even though he believes humans are genetically predisposed to destroy themselves.

Tate Marah

Tate Marah, a Resister in the village of Phoenix. Tate encourages the village to buy Akin from his kidnappers and becomes the child’s closest friend. When Akin’s family comes for him, Tate is tempted to join the Oankali but chooses to go to the Mars colony out of loyalty to Gabe.

Gabriel (Gabe) Rinaldi

Gabriel (Gabe) Rinaldi, a Phoenix Resister who treats Akin with kindness but who continues to hate the Oankali. When Tate is severely injured, Gabe only reluctantly allows Akin to heal him because the healing necessitates intimate contact with the Oankali.

Lilith Iyapo

Lilith Iyapo, Akin’s mother. Although she has borne and loved many human-Oankali children, Lilith still experiences moments of tremendous bitterness toward the Oankali.

Augustino (Tino) Leal

Augustino (Tino) Leal, Akin’s human father and a former Resister. Although Tino feels guilty about leaving his Resister village, he believes it is better to have children with the Oankali than to live a sterile, pointless existence.


Tiikuchahk, Akin’s paired sibling. Because Akin and Tiikuchahk are deprived of the sibling bonding process, Tiikuchahk develops as a male instead of a female as expected, and he and Akin are not able to mate, as do most Oankali siblings.

<i>Imago</i>, 1989Jodahs

Jodahs, the first human-Oankali ooloi. Jodahs is considered dangerous by the Oankali because it has trouble controlling its shape-changing and regenerative abilities. Jodahs finds its own human mates, proving that it has a special ability to win over humans, even those who have resisted the Oankali for more than a century.


Aaor, Jodahs’ paired sibling, who also becomes ooloi. At first unable to find the human mates it needs so desperately, Aaor becomes disconsolate and almost dies, but with Jodahs’ help it eventually finds human mates.


Jesusa, Jodahs’ human female mate, who is part of a small hidden group of still-fertile humans. Jesusa believes that it is her duty to bear human children, even though she is afflicted with a dangerous genetic condition and most of her children will die horribly. Jodahs and its family convince Jesusa that her people’s suffering can end if they accept the Oankali.


Tomás, Jesusa’s brother and Jodahs’ human male mate. He is almost blind and crippled from his genetic afflictions until Jodahs heals him. Tomás accepts Jodahs more readily than does Jesusa.

Lilith Iyapo

Lilith Iyapo, Jodahs’ mother. Lilith longs to warn Jesusa and Tomás that their mating with Jodahs will be permanent whether or not they want it to be. She keeps silent, however, because she loves Jodahs and knows that unless he finds human mates he will face exile or death.


Nikanj, Jodahs’ ooloi parent, who is dismayed when Jodahs becomes ooloi. Nikanj fears that its own desire for a same-sex child has caused it to turn Jodahs into an ooloi before the Oankali are ready to face this challenge.

BibliographyBeal, Frances M. “Black Scholar Interview with Octavia Butler: Black Women and the Science Fiction Genre.” The Black Scholar 17 (March/April, 1986): 14-18. A crucial interview in which Butler denies that her fiction is utopian, since she does not “believe that imperfect humans can form a perfect society,” stressing their lethal combination of intelligence and hierarchical behavior. Butler comments extensively on the recent emergence of women as science fiction writers and also cites examples of the prejudice with which a black science fiction writer must deal.Bonner, Frances. “Difference and Desire, Slavery and Seduction: Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis. ” Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction 48 (Spring, 1990): 50-62. Although this essay has a feminist emphasis, it is a thorough and thoughtful analysis. Bonner discusses each theme of the series at length, comments on the relative importance of gender and race in the works, and argues the rape/seduction question intelligently and fairly. Includes helpful endnote references. Essential reading.Newson, Adele S. Review of Dawn and Adulthood Rites, by Octavia E. Butler. MELUS 23 (Summer, 1989): 389-396. Comments that the works are important reading for African Americans, since the primary theme is the results of prejudice. Lilith is a prototype of the admirable African American woman, surviving in a situation not of her making. Unlike the first novel, Newson notes, Adulthood Rites has serious flaws such as weak characterization and prosiness.Schwab, Gabriele. “Ethnographies of the Future: Personhood, Agency, and Power in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis. ” In Accelerating Possession: Global Futures of Property and Personhood, edited by Bill Maurer and Gabriele Schwab. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Discusses the relationship between race and agency in Butler’s world, as well as the relationship between that world and the real one.Shinn, Thelma J. “The Wise Witches: Black Women Mentors in the Fiction of Octavia E. Butler.” In Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, edited by Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. A good essay on the feminine archetypes in Butler’s early work, arguing that her African American women provide hope for the future of humankind. Through them, society can learn to change its attitudes toward differences and toward power and politics.Zaki, Hoda M. “Utopia, Dystopia, and Ideology in the Science Fiction of Octavia Butler.” Science Fiction Studies 17 (July, 1990): 239-251. Disagrees with Butler’s denials of feminism and utopianism made in the 1986 interview with Frances M. Beal and argues that there are both utopian and, admittedly, dystopian elements in Butler’s fiction. Her feminism differs from that of female science fiction writers who are not black; at times her works seem more a critique of most feminist utopian science fiction than an affirmation of it.
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