Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title page

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. i-viii

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xi-xii

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xiii-xiv

Like some supercharged Oankali mating ritual, this book has many parents. I dedicate the book to the two teachers who first introduced me to Octavia Butler’s work. John Barbaret taught Parable of the Sower in a “utopias” course my freshman year of college at Case Western Reserve University, one of the classes that was most important in setting me on the long path toward graduate school in literature and beyond. My friend and advisor, the incomparable Priscilla Wald, taught Dawn in her amazing “Human Being after Genocide” course at Duke University early in my time there, which was probably the...

Chronology

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xvii-xx

read more

Introduction: Beginning at the End

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-12

“I am a 34-year-old writer who can remember being a 10-year-old writer and who expects someday to be a 70-year-old writer,” writes Octavia E. Butler in the short autobiographical author’s note she updated year after year and decade after decade between 1981 and the publication of her final novel, Fledgling , in 2005. By and large the nearly forty separate versions of this “Brief Conversation with Octavia Butler” that can be found in the Huntington Library’s archival collection of her papers are strikingly identical to one another: “I'm also comfortably asocial—a hermit in the middle of Seattle—a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination...

read more

Chapter 1. Childfinder (1947–1970)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 13-29

Octavia Estelle Butler was born June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California, to Laurice and Octavia M. Butler. She’d had four brothers, all of whom died before she was born. Though she talked about this aspect of her biography in interviews only rarely, the fact of these lost siblings hung over her life, as did the very early loss of her father, who died while she was still a toddler. “I often wonder what kind of person I would have been if my brothers had lived,” she told Charles Rowell in 1997. “I wonder what kind of person I would have been if they had lived and if I had had more of the society of kids when...

read more

Chapter 2. Psychogenesis (1970–1976)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 30-57

Any optimism that Butler felt about her writing as she returned from Clarion evaporated as The Last Dangerous Visions —the book that was supposed to make her career—languished, and her subsequent stories accumulated rejection after rejection. At times she felt like the only thing that Clarion had gotten her was additional debt, as she struggled to pay back the loans she had undertaken from friends and family to attend the workshop in the first place. Her letters from this period to her Clarion friends evince a preoccupation with the sales...

read more

Chapter 3. To Keep Thee in All Thy Ways (1976–1980)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 58-75

In interviews Butler often reflected on a singular incident from her college days :

When I got into college, Pasadena City College, the black nationalist movement, the Black Power Movement, was really underway with the young people, and I heard some remarks from a young man who was the same age I was but who had apparently never made the connection with what his parents did to keep him alive. He was still blaming them for their humility and their acceptance of disgusting behavior on the part of employers and other people. He said, “I’d like...

read more

Chapter 4. Blindsight (1980–1987)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 76-92

In 1980 Butler published a short essay in the science fiction magazine Transmission titled “Lost Races of Science Fiction.” The essay did not make an especially large splash, but it was very important to Butler—she often included copies of it in her letters to interviewers and to her fans as a way of explaining her attitude toward race and racism both within SF texts and within the real-world SF community. What prompted the essay, she says, was hearing a fellow SF writer in 1979 give the same bad advice she was given in...

read more

Chapter 5. The Training Floor (1987–1989)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 93-122

The first mention of the “Oankali” in the stories in the Butler archive is from the early 1970s, in another planned extension of “Missionary” stories set in her Patternist universe. In one strain of incomplete stories, the “Thomas” captivity narratives, human Missionaries fleeing Earth encounter a race called the Ooankali, who enslave them; in surviving fragments we see the Ooankali “buyers” strip humans naked, evaluating them before “selling” them. The Ooankali brutalize their slaves; Thomas has seen the “scars” on those they had bought. But he knew he would be sold to some Ooankali, so he has little hope but to anticipate a rich buyer, who would be “less likely to be brutal or...

read more

Chapter 6. God of Clay (1989–2006)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 123-151

The plan was for a book—the first in a long and, naturally, best-selling series—set on extraplanetary colonies founded by human explorers. But this would not be the haphazard flight into the night of the Missionaries of Survivor and the other aborted Patternist stories; it was a completely new narrative situation, even (perhaps) a chance for Butler to correct the scientific and imaginative mistakes she’d made in Survivor that had haunted her ever since. The antagonist of the novels, too, was totally new, something she’d never presented before, and perhaps something never before attempted...

read more

Chapter 7. Paraclete (1999–2006)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 152-172

In the last years of her career Butler had become something more than just another science fiction writer: she had become a public intellectual, particularly in the black community that had by now embraced her as one of its great and most celebrated futurists. She received fan mail and accolades from celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, and Queen Latifah; she was a frequent visitor and guest of honor not simply at science fiction conventions but at countless colleges and universities (including Kenyon College, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1997); she was an important and influential capital-A Author, with a back catalog being taken up in very different ways...

read more

Conclusion: Unexpected Stories

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 173-180

“When I began writing science fiction,” Butler once told an interviewer, “when I began reading, heck, I wasn't in any of this stuff I read. [...] The only black people you found were occasional characters or characters who were so feeble-witted that they couldn't manage anything, anyway. I wrote myself in, since I'm me and I'm here and I'm writing.” 1 Butler’s act of writing herself in transformed the science fiction genre in ways that are still being felt today. When she began her career she was (with Samuel R. Delany and Stephen Barnes) one of only a handful of African American authors writing science fiction, and for the bulk of her career she was the only black woman...

Appendix: “Lost Races of Science Fiction” by Octavia E. Butler (1980)

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 181-186

Octavia E. Butler Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 187-192

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 193-208

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 209-218

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 219-228