|Who is it?||Science Fiction Writer|
|Birth Day||June 22, 1947|
|Birth Place||Pasadena, United States|
|Age||73 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||February 24, 2006(2006-02-24) (aged 58)\nLake Forest Park, Washington, U.S.|
Octavia Estelle Butler was born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California, the only child of Octavia Margaret Guy, a housemaid, and Laurice James Butler, a shoeshine man. Butler's father died when she was seven, so Octavia was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother in what she would later recall as a strict Baptist environment.
At age 10, she begged her mother to buy her a Remington typewriter on which she "pecked [her] stories two fingered". At 12, she watched the televised version of the film Devil Girl from Mars (1954) and concluded she could write a better story. She drafted what would later become the basis for her Patternist novels. Happily ignorant of the obstacles that a black female Writer could encounter, she became unsure of herself for the first time at the age of 13, when her well-intentioned aunt Hazel said: "Honey ... Negroes can't be Writers." But Butler persevered in her Desire to publish a story, even asking her junior high school science Teacher, Mr. Pfaff, to type the first manuscript she submitted to a science fiction magazine.
After graduating from John Muir High School in 1965, Butler worked during the day and attended Pasadena City College (PCC) at night. As a freshman at PCC, she won a college-wide short story contest, earning her first income ($15) as a Writer. She also got the "germ of the idea" for what would become her novel Kindred. An African-American classmate involved in the Black Power Movement loudly criticized previous generations of African Americans for being subservient to whites. As Butler explained in later interviews, the young man's remarks were a catalyst leading her to respond with a story providing historical context for the subservience, showing that it could be understood as silent but courageous survival. In 1968, Butler graduated from PCC with an associate of arts degree with a focus in History.
Butler's first work published was Crossover in the 1971 Clarion Workshop anthology. She also sold the short story Childfinder to Harlan Ellison for the anthology The Last Dangerous Visions. "I thought I was on my way as a Writer," Butler recalled in her short fiction collection Bloodchild and Other Stories. "In fact, I had five more years of rejection slips and horrible little jobs ahead of me before I sold another word."
Starting in 1974, Butler worked on a series of novels that would later be collected as the Patternist series, which depicts the transformation of humanity into three genetic groups: the dominant Patternists, humans who have been bred with heightened telepathic powers and are bound to the Patternmaster via a psionic chain; their enemies the Clayarks, disease-mutated animal-like superhumans; and the Mutes, ordinary humans bonded to the Patternists.
Scholars, on the other hand, focus on Butler's choice to write from the point of view of marginal characters and communities and thus "expanded SF to reflect the experiences and expertise of the disenfranchised." While surveying Butler's novels, critic Burton Raffel noted how race and gender influence her writing: "I do not think any of these eight books could have been written by a man, as they most emphatically were not, nor, with the single exception of her first book, Pattern-Master (1976), are likely to have been written, as they most emphatically were, by anyone but an African American." Robert Crossley commended how Butler's "feminist aesthetic" works to expose sexual, racial, and cultural chauvinisms because it is "enriched by a historical consciousness that shapes the depiction of enslavement both in the real past and in imaginary pasts and futures."
Next came Mind of My Mind (1977), a prequel to Patternmaster set in the twentieth century. The story follows the development of Mary, the creator of the psionic chain and the first Patternmaster to bind all Patternists, and her inevitable struggle for power with her father Doro, a parapsychological vampire who seeks to retain control over the psionic children he has bred over the centuries.
The third book of the series, Survivor, was published in 1978. The titular survivor is Alanna, the adopted child of the Missionaries, fundamentalist Christians who have traveled to another planet to escape Patternist control and Clayark infection. Captured by a local tribe called the Tehkohn, Alanna learns their language and adopts their customs, knowledge which she then uses to help the Missionaries avoid bondage and assimilation into a rival tribe that opposes the Tehkohn.
After Survivor, Butler took a break from the Patternist series to write what would become her best-selling novel, Kindred (1979) as well as the short story "Near of Kin" (1979). In Kindred, Dana, an African-American woman, is transported from 1976 Los Angeles to early nineteenth century Maryland. She meets her ancestors: Rufus, a white slave holder, and Alice, a black freewoman forced into slavery later in life. In "Near of Kin" the protagonist discovers a taboo relationship in her family as she goes through her mother's things after her death.
In 1980, Butler published the fourth book of the Patternist series, Wild Seed, whose narrative became the series' origin story. Set in Africa and America during the seventeenth century, Wild Seed traces the struggle between the four-thousand-year-old parapsychological vampire Doro and his "wild" child and bride, the three-hundred-year-old shapeshifter and healer Anyanwu. Doro, who has bred psionic children for centuries, deceives Anyanwu into becoming one of his breeders, but she eventually escapes and uses her gifts to create communities that rival Doro's. When Doro finally tracks her down, Anyanwu, tired by decades of escaping or fighting Doro, decides to commit suicide, forcing him to admit his need for her.
In 1983, Butler published "Speech Sounds," a story set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles where a pandemic has caused most humans to lose their ability to read, speak, or write. For many, this impairment is accompanied by uncontrollable feelings of jealousy, resentment, and rage. "Speech Sounds" received the 1984 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
Butler followed Clay's Ark with the critically acclaimed short story "Bloodchild" (1984). Set on an alien planet, it depicts the complex relationship between human refugees and the insect-like aliens who keep them in a preserve to protect them, but also to use them as hosts for breeding their young. Sometimes called Butler's "pregnant man story," "Bloodchild" won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards, and the Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award.
Adulthood Rites (1988) and Imago (1989) the second and the third books in the Xenogenesis trilogy, focus on the predatory and prideful tendencies that affect human evolution, as humans now revolt against Lilith's Oankali-engineered progeny. Set thirty years after humanity's return to Earth, Adulthood Rites centers on the kidnapping of Lilith's part-human, part alien child, Akin, by a human-only group who are against the Oankali. Akin learns about both aspects of his identity through his life with the humans as well as the Akjai. The Oankali-only group becomes their mediator, and ultimately creates a human-only colony in Mars. In Imago, the Oankali create a third species more powerful than themselves: the shape-shifting healer Jodahs, a human-Oankali ooloi who must find suitable human male and female mates to survive its metamorphosis and finds them in the most unexpected of places, in a village of renegade humans.
In the mid-1990s, Butler published two novels later designated as the Parable (or Earthseed) series. The books depict the struggle of the Earthseed community to survive the socioeconomic and political collapse of twenty-first century America due to poor environmental stewardship, corporate greed, and the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. The books propose alternate philosophical views and religious interventions as solutions to such dilemmas.
The first book in the series, Parable of the Sower (1993), features a fifteen-year-old protagonist named Lauren Oya Olamina, and is set in a dystopian California in the 2020s. Lauren, who suffers from a syndrome causing her to literally feel any physical pain she witnesses, decides to escape the corruption and corporatization of her community of Robledo. She forms a new belief system, Earthseed, in order to prepare for the Future of the human race on another planet. Recruiting members of varying social backgrounds, Lauren relocates her new group to Northern California, naming her new community "Earthseed".
In between her Earthseed novels, Butler published the collection Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995), which includes the short stories "Bloodchild", "The Evening and the Morning and the Night", "Near of Kin", "Speech Sounds", and "Crossover", as well as the non-fiction pieces "Positive Obsession" and "Furor Scribendi".
Her 1998 follow-up novel, Parable of the Talents, is set sometime after Lauren's death and is told through the excerpts of Lauren's journals as framed by the commentary of her estranged daughter, Larkin. It details the takeover of Earthseed by right-wing fundamentalist Christians, Lauren's attempts to survive their religious "re-education", and the final triumph of Earthseed as a community and a doctrine.
In 1999, after her mother's death, Butler moved to Lake Forest Park, Washington. The Parable of the Talents had won the Science Fiction Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Science Novel and she had plans for four more Parable novels: Parable of the Trickster, Parable of the Teacher, Parable of Chaos, and Parable of Clay. However, after several failed attempts to begin The Parable of the Trickster, she decided to stop work in the series. In later interviews, Butler explained that the research and writing of the Parable novels had overwhelmed and depressed her, so she had shifted to composing something "lightweight" and "fun" instead. This became her last book, the science-fiction vampire novel Fledgling (2005).
Charlie Rose interviewed Octavia Butler in 2000 soon after the award of a MacArthur Fellowship. The highlights are probing questions that arise out of Butler's personal life narrative and her interest in becoming not only a Writer, but a Writer of science fiction. Rose asked, "What then is central to what you want to say about race?" Butler's response was, "Do I want to say something central about race? Aside from, 'Hey we're here!'?" This points to an essential claim for Butler that the world of science fiction is a world of possibilities, and although race is an innate element, it is embedded in the narrative, not forced upon it.
After several years of writer's block, Butler published the short stories "Amnesty" (2003) and "The Book of Martha" (2003), and her second standalone novel, Fledgling (2005). Both short stories focus on how impossible conditions force an ordinary woman to make a distressing choice. In "Amnesty", an alien abductee recounts her painful abuse at the hand of the unwitting aliens, and upon her release, by humans, and explains why she chose to work as a translator for the aliens now that the Earth's economy is in a deep depression. In "The Book of Martha", God asks a middle-aged African-American Novelist to make one important change to fix humanity's destructive ways. Martha's choice—to make humans have vivid and satisfying dreams—means that she will no longer be able to do what she loves, writing fiction. These two stories were added to the 2005 edition of Bloodchild and Other Stories.
During her last years, Butler struggled with writer's block and depression, partly caused by the side effects of medication for her high blood pressure. She continued writing and taught at Clarion's Science Fiction Writers' Workshop regularly. In 2005, she was inducted into Chicago State University's International Black Writers Hall of Fame.
The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship was established in Butler's memory in 2006 by the Carl Brandon Society. Its goal is to provide an annual scholarship to enable Writers of color to attend the Clarion West Writers Workshop and Clarion Writers' Workshop, descendants of the original Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where Butler got her start. The first scholarships were awarded in 2007.
Butler's work has been associated with the genre of Afrofuturism, a term coined by Mark Dery to describe "speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of 20th-century technoculture." Some critics, however, have noted that while Butler's protagonists are of African descent, the communities they create are multi-ethnic and, sometimes, multi-species. As De Witt Douglas Kilgore and Ranu Samantrai explain in their 2010 memorial to Butler, while Butler does offer "an afro-centric sensibility at the core of narratives," her "insistence on hybridity beyond the point of discomfort" exceeds the tenets of both black cultural nationalism and of "white-dominated" liberal pluralism.
Butler began reading science fiction at a young age, but quickly became disenchanted by the genre's unimaginative portrayal of ethnicity and class as well as by its lack of noteworthy female protagonists. She then set to correct those gaps by, as De Witt Douglas Kilgore and Ranu Samantrai point out, "choosing to write self-consciously as an African-American woman marked by a particular history" —what Butler termed as "writing myself in." Butler's stories, therefore, are usually written from the perspective of a marginalized black woman whose difference from the dominant agents increases her potential for reconfiguring the Future of her society.
Parable of the Sower was adapted as Parable of the Sower: The Concert Version, a work-in-progress opera written by American folk/blues musician Toshi Reagon in collaboration with her mother, singer and Composer Bernice Johnson Reagon. The adaptation's libretto and musical score combine African-American spirituals, soul, rock and roll, and folk music into rounds to be performed by Singers sitting in a circle. It was performed as part of The Public Theater's 2015 Under the Radar Festival in New York City.
Kindred was adapted as a graphic novel by author Damien Duffy and Artist John Jennings. The adaptation was published by Abrams ComicsArts on January 10, 2017. To visually differentiate the time periods in which Butler set the story, Jennings used muted colors for the present and vibrant ones for the past to demonstrate how the remnants and relevance of slavery are still with us. The graphic novel adaption debuted as number one New York Times hardcover graphic book bestseller on January 29, 2017.