This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler’s birthday. See all the posts here.
Octavia Butler inspired many writers — especially writers of color — by showing them that they could be writers, that there was a place for their fiction. That their dreams were worthy of following. These writers’ stories about Octavia Butler’s influence shows how important the Own Voices movement is in publishing. We need books written by black women, with black women on the cover, prominently displayed on bookshelves. We needed them yesterday, but today will have to do. Thankfully, for these authors, they found such a book. And that book was written more often than not written by Octavia Butler.
Her fiction fostered many creative geniuses, and many more to come. Far more than the writers inspired by Octavia Butler listed here.
Nnedi Okorafor, in an interview on Specter
“I first encountered Octavia Butler in 2000 while I was at the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. I was in the bookstore during one our breaks and I was perusing the science fiction and fantasy section. I’d never heard of Octavia Butler. At the time, however, I was writing a story about an angry, trouble-making promiscuous woman in pre-colonial Nigeria who had the ability to fly. I saw a novel with a mysterious-looking black woman on the cover. That was why I picked it up – because of the African woman on the cover of a book in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section. I read the first page and my eyes nearly popped out. The main character had an Igbo name and she was in Nigeria and she could shape shift! I bought that book and read the hell out of it and my mind was blown. Wild Seed showed me that the publication of the type of stories I was writing was possible. It showed me that I wasn’t alone and that what I was writing was ok. Octavia gave me strength.”
K. Tempest Bradford, Adrienne Maree Brown, Ytasha L. Womack, and Jason T. Harris discuss Octavia Butler’s influence on The Marc Steiner Show podcast (50 minutes)
N.K. Jemisin, on her blog in 2008, celebrating Octavia Butler’s birthday
“Because if she hadn’t become a writer, I’m not sure I would be writing today. It would’ve been all too easy to give in to the little voices in the back of my mind, or the not-so-little voices from doubters among my loved ones, who insisted that my dream was unrealistic at best, laughable at worst. She was my clarion call — the lonely beacon in the wilderness letting me know that I was on the right track, that someone had been along the path before me, and that it was possible to reach the end.”
Tananarive Due, mourning Octavia Butler on her blog
“I was introduced to the works of Octavia E. Butler when a friend of mine, a writer and columnist named Robert Vamosi, insisted I must read her. I read Kindred, her time-travel story of a contemporary black woman who is periodically flung back into the Antebellum slavery period, and I was floored. I often say that between Alex Haley’s Roots, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Butler’s Kindred, we can come no closer to experiencing slavery, and its legacy, in America.”
Nisi Shawl, in an Imaginary Worlds podcast (19 minutes)
“The other thing though is that she doesn’t flinch. Her specialty was to think about the things that people would rather not think about. One of the exercises that she gave to a class which I sat in on that I remember her asking everyone in the class to write about what they feared, because she thought that the emotion of being repelled and in fear would come out strongly in our work, and I think she did that a lot herself.”
Nalo Hopkinson, in an interview with Locus Magazine
“I’m sitting on a panel with Octavia Butler and remembering being 22 and discovering that there were black science fiction writers, and finding all her work and reading it in about a month. I just devoured it. As a 22-year-old, I hadn’t even thought I could become a writer, and now I’m sitting on a panel with this woman whose work meant so much to me, talking about our writing!”
Junot Diaz, in an interview with Salon
“And yet to a writer, a reader, a person like me, descended from the same nightmare processes that fueled her fiction, Butler was a model of artistic courage. Perhaps she was isolated, perhaps, but her work certainly kept me company, kept me from feeling alone.”
Interested in reading more writers discussing Octavia Butler? Then you should check out Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal and Strange Matings edited by Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl.
Science Fiction Short Story Collections by Authors of Color
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. Like so many fantastic genre writers before and since, Octavia Butler got her start when she sold the short story Crossover. Short story publishing has often provided authors of marginalized backgrounds with a better chance to get off the ground. Publishing a novel takes a greater commitment of time and money, so companies are more hesitant to pull the trigger on unknown authors with "non-traditional" backgrounds and stories. And yet, some of the most iconic works of fiction are only a few...
Fear and Butler in America
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. I spent most of my life afraid of Octavia Butler. A 1988 copy of Kindred sat on my bookshelf for years. It traveled across the country with me. Twice. Actually, I’ve had two copies; I traded in the one I had when I found an older version with a more interesting cover. I sort of knew what it was about. Something involving a black woman from the present traveling back to the Antebellum United States. I knew it...
Fierce: The Short Fiction of Octavia Butler
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. Fierce. That was my reaction when I read the work of Octavia Butler for the first time. This is a woman to be reckoned with. I don't say that just because she is a black woman writing in a genre that is dominated by white men - even more so than literature as a whole - and that is nothing if not impressive. I say it because she does something with her writing that so many authors attempt...
A Smurfette in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Octavia’s Legacy
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. Women writers have interesting barriers. The Mary Sue and Tor.com have discussed how female SFF writers, and SFF female characters, can easily become overlooked or forgotten. We don’t receive as much coverage due to implicit bias in our culture. This is ironic since according to history women like Mary Shelley have created the science fiction and horror genres. Tor.com mentions that the women that leave a legacy are the Smurfettes of the world, the token female authors that...
LUMINESCENT THREADS: Knowing Octavia Butler Through a Community That Loves Her
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. Do you often write dead letters - that you pen down in your journal on nights when you’ve been defeated - to your favourite author? I have done this, and I’m sure, dear Reader, that you have too. We have all bared our secrets and mysteries to our favourite authors at some point. A good thing about this habit is, of course, that at some point, brilliant people like Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal might want to consolidate and...
Is it Possible to Misread Octavia Butler?
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. "Bloodchild" is one of Octavia Butler's most haunting, disturbing, and memorable stories, and is also one of the greatest things she ever wrote. And I know that I am not alone in having completely misread the story and entirely missed what Butler had accomplished. The titular tale in Butler's one and only short story collection, "Bloodchild" describes a future where humanity has developed a complicated relationship with a race of insect-like creatures known as the Tlic. The Tlic chooses...
Why Octavia E. Butler is Essential SciFi Genre Reading
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. I'm not really sure when I became a huge fan of Octavia E. Butler, but I do remember the first novel of hers I read: it was Kindred. I had been loving sci-fi novels at the time, but everything I picked up after The Hunger Games felt stale and repetitive (Christ, did we really need a whole Divergent series? Sorry, not sorry). I picked up Kindred because it sounded genuinely original, and it is: I couldn't put it down and...
Writers Inspired by Octavia Butler
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. Octavia Butler inspired many writers -- especially writers of color -- by showing them that they could be writers, that there was a place for their fiction. That their dreams were worthy of following. These writers' stories about Octavia Butler's influence shows how important the Own Voices movement is in publishing. We need books written by black women, with black women on the cover, prominently displayed on bookshelves. We needed them yesterday, but today will have to do. Thankfully, for...
Science Fiction That Isn’t Quite; or, Books to Read if You Loved KINDRED
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. My first significant memory of Octavia Butler is from college, when I was in a class about representations and intersections of race and sexuality, and we read her Kindred. Kindred is a strange, beautiful, harrowing, painful book in which a black woman in the contemporary U.S. find herself repeatedly and inexplicably drawn back in time to an antebellum plantation. For me, the “inexplicably” was so important that, when a friend in the class described the book as “science...
Discovering Octavia Butler’s FLEDGLING And Rediscovering Genre Fiction
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of Octavia Butler's birthday. See all the posts here. I discovered Octavia Butler because of Betty Smith. Really! Ok, so what happened was: I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn many, many, many times, for the obvious reasons. It was about a girl who loved to read, and while my family was not as poor as Francie’s we were not well-off. We were both Irish! (Well, I’m a quarter, but it counts in my head.) And, like Francie, I often spent hours and hours in my local...
5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Women of Color Authors to Read After Octavia Butler
Already read everything by the majestic Octavia Butler? In honor of her birthday, check out these other science fiction and fantasy women of color authors who are writing innovative, mind-blowing novels today. N.K. Jemisin Honestly, if you’re a fan of Octavia Butler and you haven’t read N.K. Jemisin yet, where have you been? Since the publication of her debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in 2010, Jemisin’s ground-breaking, unique fantasy novels have only been getting better. To date she has three series to check out: the Inheritance trilogy, the Dreamblood series, and the Broken Earth series, the third novel of...
An Octavia Butler Reading Pathway
This is one of numerous posts written today at the Riot in celebration of the birthday of Octavia Butler. See all the posts here. Today at Book Riot, we're celebrating Octavia Butler day. If you're not already a Butler fan, we hope that our posts have piqued your interest! If you're interested in reading Octavia Butler's work but don't know where to start, this post is for you! These books will give you a great introduction to Butler's writing. Start with ... Kindred. This is where I started with Butler, and of all her books that I've read, I think it...