A Science-Fiction “Genius”

(June 22, 1947- February 24, 2006)

Octavia Estelle Butler

Octavia Butler, a writer of science fiction, brought elements of African and African-American spiritualism, mysticism, and mythology to her novels and stories.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born an only child on July 22, 1947, in Pasadena to a housemaid Octavia Butler and shoeshine man Laurice. Her father passed away when she was a baby, so she was raised by her grandmother and her mother. As a girl, she was known as Junie, derived from “Junior” since her mother was also named Octavia. Butler’s mother worked as a maid to provide for the family after her father died, but nonetheless they continued to struggle in a poor but racially mixed neighborhood throughout her childhood. At the time, Pasadena was a more racially integrated city than others around the country. Still, Butler would later recount memories of blatant racism her mother endured at the hands of her employers — including racial slurs and not being allowed to enter residences through the front door.

Bulter grew up shy, losing herself in books despite having dyslexia. Bulter’s mom could not afford books, but she brought home the discards of the white families for whom she worked. Butler began writing when she was 10 years old.

Butler earned an associate’s degree from Pasadena City College in 1968, and later studied at California State University, Los Angeles. Over the years, Bulter would religiously get up each day at 2 a.m. to write.

Her novel, Kindred (1979), introduced the science fiction community to slavery in the United States through a narrative involving time travel, while Parable of the Sower (1993) raised questions about the environment, technology, theology, and metaphysics.

Butler’s Patternists series includes five novels published between 1976 and 1984, and investigates issues of gender and class identity within a society managed by an elite group of telepaths. Her Xenogenesis trilogy, including Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989), depicts the near destruction of the human world due to prejudice, class conflict, and violence.

In 1995 Octavia Butler was given a MacArthur Fellowship, the first science fiction writer to receive the award. She also received two Hugo Awards from the World Science Fiction Society and two Nebula Awards from the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Butler died on February 24, 2006, after falling and striking her head on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park, Washington. Her books have been translated into 10 languages and have sold more than a million copies altogether.

References for post:

Historylink.org

Goldenstate.is

Latimes.com

Theguardian.com

Theportalist.com

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