Women Writers to Know – Octavia E. Butler

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“I wrote myself in, since I’m me and I’m here and I’m writing. I can write my own stories and I can write myself in.” ~ Butler in a 2000 interview with the NY Times

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we want to highlight women authors you should know. Today we are excited to introduce you to the “godmother of Afrofuturism” Octavia E. Butler.

Octavia E Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler was born June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California. A shy child, she found escape in the Peter Pan room of the Pasadena Public Library. At the age of ten, she began writing fantasy stories. By the age of twelve, she encountered science fiction for the first time and found it lacking. So, she challenged herself to write it better.

As she wrote she enjoyed reading about scientific discoveries and speculating on what science could create next. She would take those speculations and use them in her fiction, building worlds that had a foundation within our own. Her knowledge of history and her fascination with science led her to write stories that seem a bit prophetic today. Some even believed that she was able to predict the future, that she had a crystal ball hidden away.

“[Sure] I make up the aliens and all of that, but I don’t make up the essential human character.”

What started as Butler just having fun, soon turned into journal submissions, and, eventually, winning the MacArthur Fellowship. She was the first science fiction author to win the award. This award allowed Butler to pursue her writing full-time. Her novels not only won her the Hugo Award and Nebula prize but changed the face of science fiction and more. Actually, she is cited as being the inspiration for the visual language of Beyonce’s “Lemonade.”

Octavia E Butler book signing

Butler is known for her believable protagonists, many of whom are Black women, as well as creating Afro-futuristic worlds and addressing themes such as Black injustice, climate change, and women’s rights. She was concerned with empathy and social commentary, especially after growing up with a hard-working single mother. She was a writer ahead of her time. Sadly, tragedy stuck in 2006 when Butler passed away leaving behind fifteen novels and a handful of short story collections.

If you want to dive into Butler’s work, there is no wrong place to start. Actually, you might want to get a head start on reading her work because many are currently in development as television shows and movies. A24 acquired Parable of the Sower. While HBO ordered a  Fledgling TV show and Fox ordered a show based on Kindred. Even Amazon is working on a TV adaptation of “Wild Seed.”