Octavia Butler died yesterday at 58 in a fall that led to a fatal concussion. Creating strong, vivid female characters, Butler is one of my favorite authors and a personal inspiration when writing my own feminist scifi stories. She was the first woman of color to be published for writing science fiction, and the first genre author to win the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.
In my women’s studies course last quarter, I selected Butler for a presentation on an amazing women my classmates and I heard too little about growing up. I explained that Butler reached people who weren’t represented among the white supremacist, sexist voice dominating science fiction, and used the tools of speculative fiction to imagine alternatives. My peers responded well to my presentation, and a few remarked that that Butler’s stories sounded like ones they would enjoy; they previously had little interest in science fiction. I passed out URLs for a pair of Butler’s short stories available online, and hope that my classmates found their way to them. Iâ€™ve included the links at the end of this post.
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My lived sense of the way power and difference play out in the politics of futures our pasts propel us into easily owes as much to Octavia Butler as it does to Michel Foucault or to Donna Haraway or to Judith Butler, and that is saying something. It’s hard to convey what it means to me to know there will be no more Octavia Butler books to look forward to, each one always sure to be so much her own, never like anybody else’s, in a voice I felt I understood and came to crave, attesting to a world that seemed so painfully real and familiar to me, however alien.
I haven’t read any of her books, but yet, I find myself sitting in front of the computer almost in tears…I thought I had time! I thought I had time to get to know her style, form a critique, maybe see her at a speech and then maybe walk up to her, pages in shaky hand, mouth dry, and ask her to look over my stuff.
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