Essentially a novelist, Butler (Parable of the Sower, 1994, etc.) confesses that she finds short fiction arduous and frustrating. So this slim volume collects all her stories and, despite the misleading subtitle, two short essays; each piece is illuminated by a brief but rewarding afterword. The title story--about an isolated planet where, in a relationship of mutual dependence, even love, millipede-like aliens use human bodies to incubate their parasitic young (Butler describes it as her ""pregnant man"" story)--is justly famous; although in retrospect it does seem somewhat too compressed. Longer and even better, ""The Evening and the Morning and the Night"" presents a ghastly disease, characterized by self-mutilation, withdrawal, and violence, and its victims' efforts to come to terms with their symptoms. The other stories feature: incest (Butler's only non-sf/fantasy tale), alcoholism, and the role language plays in shaping our humanity. Finally, in the first essay, Butler ponders the relevance of sf/fantasy, and writing in general, to black people (she is the only black female sf/fantasy writer of note), while in the second she offers sound advice to aspiring authors: ""Persist!"" Splendid pieces, set forth in calm, lucid prose with never a word wasted.