Tag Archives: Jezebel

Octavia Butler, A Pioneer In Science Fiction

Last Saturday’s open thread asked who your fictional role models have been. As you’ll see from the comments on that post, they are many and varied. But some I hadn’t known about until I received Jezebel writer Anna North’s engaging profile of novelist Octavia Butler. It makes me want to buy her books immediately and start digging into them. Read on, enjoy, and keep adding to the list of female fiction role models who helped to shape you.

When an interviewer asked Hugo- and Macarthur-winning novelist Octavia Butler what she thought of her books being classed as science fiction, she said, “Really, it doesn’t matter. A good story is a good story.” Here is (some of) the story of Butler’s life.

Butler grew up in Pasadena, raised by a single mother who’d had to leave school after the third grade. Of her own early years, Butler has written,

At school I was always taller than the rest of my class, and because I was an only child I was comfortable with adults, but shy and awkward with other kids. I was quiet, bookish, and in spite of my size, hopeless at sports. In short, I was different. And even in the earliest grades, I got pounded for it. I learned that five- and-six-year-old kids have already figured out how to be intolerant.

But she also discovered writing at the age of 10 – 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.”

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Copyright 2010 Gloria Feldt