Octavia E. Butler was a science fiction author who had a very close connection to the Los Angeles Public Library and made an impact on our organization, community, and the world that will last forever. She was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, CA, and died of a stroke at the age of 58, in 2006.
During her career Octavia published 12 novels and a book of short stories. She won many science fiction writing awards, including the Hugo and Nebula Awards, as well as a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work in speculative fiction made a profound impact on the genre and will continue to influence authors of diverse backgrounds into the future. The library was an important part of Octavia’s life and in return, she was and continues to be an important part of the library.
Here are three ways to honor Octavia E. Butler’s legacy on what would have been her 75th birthday:
- Take a trip to the Octavia Lab, a do-it-yourself studio space here at Central Library!
- What would Octavia E. Butler think about what is happening in the world now? Octavia was tuned in to the problems facing our modern world. Her canon of books foretold the future and will continue to do so. Why not try using the following writing prompt and reimagine your future? Prompt: What will be the future of food? Will all food be made in a lab?
- We hope Octavia E. Butler would have been proud of all the authors and future writers that she has influenced. Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl, Tananarive Due, and N.K. Jemisin are just a few of the many authors inspired by Butler and her legacy. Check out the book, A Phoenix First Must Burn: a collection of sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.
I realize I don’t know very much. None of us knows very much. But we can all learn more. Then we can teach one another. We can stop denying reality or hoping it will go away by magic.—Parable of the Sower
“Why aren’t there more Science Fiction Black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume, can’t be. What a destructive assumption.”— Octavia E. Butler
Recommended Books About Octavia E. Butler
Here are some recommendations for reading Butler if you are new to her works. Start with Kindred and then the Parable series. (The Parable of the Sower should give you chills from how prophetic it is in describing a Los Angeles plagued by fires, droughts and designer drugs). If you want to read her life story and her advice to writers, two essays, Furor Scribendi and Positive Obsession, are collected in Bloodchild. Below is the complete works of Bulter in the library's collection.