The Weekly Geek: Remembering Octavia Butler


I’m ashamed to admit that I, as an avid sci-fi fan, had never heard of Octavia Butler before reading this Jezebel piece (cross posted at I09). After reading a bit about her life, I’m ready to go on a little Amazon shopping spree. An African-American woman with a social justice bent and one hell of a writing career (including a MacArthur “Genius” grant – she is so far the only sci-fi novelist to have the honor), she was a true geek heroine.

From the post:

“…she chose science fiction, she says, because ‘because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.’ Her books — the first, Patternmaster, was published in 1976, and the last, Fledgling, came out in 2005 — did more than examine. They also reflected the deep inequalities plaguing America — and humanity as a whole — and sounded a warning for the future. Butler said her novel Parable of the Sower ‘calls people’s attention to the fact that so much needs to be done and obviously [there] are people who are running this country who don’t care.’”

All media – and of course, sci-fi/fantasy in particular — could use a hefty dose of diversity. Butler was a true pioneer – and much of her work contained themes of race, sexuality, power dynamics and community – you know, the sorts of topics that benefit especially from writers with fresh perspectives.

Despite the dark subject matter in much of her work – and her occasional cynicism about the world, she was also one hell of an inspiration.

From the post:

“And for anyone who wants to write, Butler too is a hero. Asked about her beginnings as a writer, she said, ‘writing was what I wanted to do, it was always what I wanted to do. I had novels to write so I wrote them.’ It sounds simple — but her perseverance in and mastery of a field dominated by white men can lead the way for women, for women of color, and for anyone who’s ever felt, as Butler did in school, like an outsider. She had novels to write, and so she wrote them, even in the face of great obstacles. Hers is a good story for all of us to know.”

With that, I need to go have an Octavia Butler reading spree. Who’s with me?

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