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Sun, 06.22.1947

Octavia Butler, Science Fiction Writer born

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler was born on this date in 1947. She was a Black writer and the first Black woman to gain popularity and critical acclaim as a major science fiction writer.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born in Pasadena, CA, the only living child that her mother was able to carry to term out of five pregnancies.  Her father’s name was Laurice and her mother was Octavia M. (Guy) Butler.  Her father was a shoeshine man and died when Butler was very young.  She and her mother lived in a very racially mixed neighborhood, where she heard many stories from her mother and grandmother. Butler was very shy in school, a daydreamer, and that made school very difficult as did her dyslexia, which she overcame.

She began writing at age ten to escape loneliness and boredom.  Around the age of 12, she became interested in science fiction. Much of her eventual success came because of the Open Door Program of the Screenwriters Guild of America and the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop.  Butler received an Associate of Arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena City College, then attended California State University, Los Angeles, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Butler also spent time researching developments in biology, the physical sciences, and genetics.  While attending school, Butler held down a lot of odd jobs.  Her work experiences come through in the character of Dana in her novel “Kindred.”

Butler has won several awards for her writing.  In 1984, she won a Hugo Award for her short story, “Speech Sounds.” In 1985, she won another Hugo for her novella “Bloodchild.” "Bloodchild" also won the 1984 Nebula Award. Other science fiction writers and fans decide on the Hugo and Nebula Awards.  Butler's “Patternists Series,” published between 1976 and 1984, tell of a society that is run by a specially bred group of telepaths.  This series includes the books “Patternmaster,” “Mind of My Mind,” “Survivor,” “Wild Seed,” and “Clay's Ark.” n 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant. Butler has been well received by the critics.

Butler has been quoted saying: "Every story I write adds to me a little, changes me a little, forces me to reexamine an attitude or belief, causes me to research and learn, helps me to understand people and grow... Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself.”

Her novel “The Parable of the Sower” (1993), was a finalist for the Nebula Award and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. A sequel, “Parable of the Talents,” was published in 1999. A lesbian and bisexual woman, Octavia Butler died in 2006.

I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America
Edited by Barbara Summers
Photos and Interviews by Brian lanker
Copyright 1989, workman Publishing
ISBN 1-555670-063-6

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