Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an African-American science fiction writer. A recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the Genius Grant.
Butler was born and raised in Pasadena, California. Since her father Laurice, a shoeshiner, died when she was a baby, Butler was raised by her grandmother and her mother (Octavia M. Butler) who worked as a maid in order to support the family. Butler grew up in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood. According to the Norton Anthology of African American Literature she was "an introspective only child in a strict Baptist household" who was "drawn early to magazines such as Amazing, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Galaxy and soon began reading all the science fiction classics."
Octavia Jr., nicknamed Junie, was paralytically shy and a daydreamer, and was later diagnosed as being dyslexic. She began writing at the age of 10 "to escape loneliness and boredom" and was 12 when she began a lifelong interest in science fiction. "I was writing my own little stories and when I was 12, I was watching a bad science fiction movie called Devil Girl from Mars," she told the journal Black Scholar, "and decided that I could write a better story than that. And I turned off the TV and proceeded to try, and I’ve been writing science fiction ever since."
She remained, throughout her career, a self-identified science fiction fan, an insider who rose from within the ranks of the field.
Butler moved to Seattle, Washington, in November 1999. She described herself as "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 of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive." Themes of both racial and sexual ambiguity are apparent throughout her work. Her writing has influenced a number of prominent authors. When asked if he could be any author in the world, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz replied that he would be Octavia Butler, who he claimed has written 9 perfect novels.
She died outside of her home in Lake Forest Park, Washington, on February 24, 2006, at the age of 58. Contemporary news accounts were inconsistent as to the cause of her death, with some reporting that she suffered a fatal stroke, while others indicated that she died of head injuries after falling and striking her head on her walkway. Another suggestion, backed by Locus magazine (issue 543; Vol.56 No.4), is that a stroke caused the fall and hence the head injuries.
Butler’s first story published was "Crossover" in the 1971 Clarion Workshop anthology. She sold another early short story, "Childfinder", to Harlan Ellison for the anthology The Last Dangerous Visions, which remains unpublished although Locus published its contents in June 1979. "I thought I was on my way as a writer", Butler recalled in her 2005 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." ISFDB places her second published speculative fiction story in 1979.
Butler used the hyperbolic reach of speculative fiction to explore modern and ancient social issues. She often represented concepts like race, sexuality, gender, religion, social progress, and social class in metaphoric language. However, these issues were not relegated only to metaphor. For instance, class struggle is an overt topic in the Parable of the Sower series. Her work has been more specifically associated with the genre of Afrofuturism, a theme in contemporary black works in various media (music, art, writing, film). Afrofuturism employs speculative fiction and the trope of space and/or abduction in order to draw parallels with a marginalized, black experience. In "Further Considerations on Afrofuturism, Eshun writes, “Most science fiction tales dramatically deal with how the individual is going to contend with these alienating, dislocating societies and circumstances that pretty much sums up the mass experiences of black people in the postslavery twentieth century” (298) Thus, Butler’s exploration of the themes of isolation and power struggles in futuristic settings, often with black protagonists, allows her work to fall under this critical category.
Octavia E. Butler – Dawn (read by Aldrich Barrett)
Octavia E. Butler – Adulthood Rites (read by Aldrich Barrett)
Octavia E. Butler – Imago (read by Aldrich Barrett)
Octavia E. Butler – Parable Of The Sower (read by Lynne Thigpen)
Octavia E. Butler – Parable Of The Talents (read by Patricia Floyd, Sisi Johnson, Peter Jay Fernandez)
Octavia E. Butler – Wild Seed (read by Dion Graham)
Octavia E. Butler – Mind Of My Mind (read by Christie Clarke)
Octavia E. Butler – Clay’s Ark (read by Neal Ghant)
Octavia E. Butler – Patternmaster (read by Eugene H. Russell IV)
Octavia E. Butler – Fledgling (read by Tracey Leigh)
Octavia E. Butler – Kindred (read by Kim Staunton)
Octavia E. Butler – Bloodchild And Other Stories (read by Janina Edwards)