46 Righteous Octavia Butler Quotes

Octavia Butler: Sci-fi author extraordinaire. Awkward nerd. Genius. Literal queen of the patterned shirt. Seriously tuned in to the problems facing our modern world. Reading Butler in the Trump era is a challenge that’s worth the effort. She covers so many of the problems we’re currently experiencing and watching play out in the news. Here is a collection of Octavia Butler quotes on writing, sci-fi, and some absolute prescient gems from her books.

octavia butler quotes on writing

“I began writing about power because I had so little.” 

“Writers use everything. We can’t help it. Whatever touches us touches our writing.” 

“Why aren’t there more SF Black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.” 

“When I was a kid and read science fiction, the science fiction available for kids at the library that I went to was all boys books and you get tired of reading boys books where the girls just kind of sit on the sideline and cheer the boys on and I think one of the things I wanted to do when I began writing my own was […] being the one who’s actually doing instead of the one who’s standing off to one side watching.”

“Good stories are good stories, no matter how they’re categorized.”

It’s also worth checking out her papers housed with the Huntington Library for some of her handwritten notes and outlines. My favorites: look for Octavia Butler quotes where she is her own hype man.

octavia butler quotes

the Earthseed series

Parable of the Sower

“Embrace diversity. / Unite— / Or be divided, / robbed, / ruled, / killed / By those who see you as prey. / Embrace diversity / Or be destroyed.”

“There is no end / To what a living world / Will demand of you.”

“That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.” 

“We give lip service to acceptance, as though acceptance were enough.”

octavia-butler-phoenix-quote

By DiasporanSavantPress, Etsy

“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.”

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

God
Is Change.”

Parable of the Talents

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

“Beware:
Ignorance
Protects itself.
Ignorance
Promotes suspicion.
Suspicion
Engenders fear.
Fear quails,
Irrational and blind,
Or fear looms,
Defiant and closed.
Blind, closed,
Suspicious, afraid,
Ignorance
Protects itself,
And protected,
Ignorance grows.”

“We have, it seems, a few people who think Jarret may be just what the country needs—apart from his religious nonsense. The thing is, you can’t separate Jarret from the ‘religious nonsense.’ You take Jarret and you get beatings, burnings, tarrings and featherings. They’re a package. And there may be even nastier things in that package. Jarret’s supporters are more than a little seduced by Jarret’s talk of making America great again. He seems to be unhappy with certain other countries. We could wind up in a war. Nothing like a war to rally people around flag, country, and great leader.”  

“How much of this nonsense does he believe, I wonder, and how much does he say just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule?” 

“Jarret insists on being a throwback to some earlier, ‘simpler’ time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. The current state of the country does not suit him. He wants to take us all back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshiped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stopping anyone who was different. There was never such a time in this country…”

“…that guy who wants to be President, that Jarret, he would call you all heathens or pagans or something […] He does seem to enjoy calling people things like that. Once he’s made everyone who isn’t like him sound evil, then he can blame them for problems he knows they didn’t cause. That’s easier than trying to fix the problems.”

kindred

“As a kind of castaway myself, I was happy to escape into the fictional world of someone else’s trouble.” 

“Sometimes I wrote things because I couldn’t say them, couldn’t sort out my feelings about them, couldn’t keep them bottled inside me.” 

“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas.” 

“His father wasn’t the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.”

“The ease. Us, the children…I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” 

the Xenogenesis series (Lilith’s brood)

Dawn

“’Yes,’ he said, ‘intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter.’”

“’Down on Earth,’ she said carefully, ‘there are no people left to draw lines on maps and say which sides of those lines are the right sides. There is no government left. No human government, anyway.’”

“Human beings are more alike than different—damn sure more alike than we like to admit. I wonder if the same thing wouldn’t have happened eventually, no matter which two cultures gained the ability to wipe one another out along with the rest of the world.”   

Adulthood Rites

“Most Humans lose access to old memories as they acquire new ones. They know how to speak, for instance, but they don’t recall learning to speak. They keep what experience has taught them—usually—but lose the experience itself.”

“That’s what Humans are, too, don’t forget. People who poison each other, then disclaim all responsibility.”  

“You controlled both animals and people by controlling their reproduction—controlling it absolutely.”

“If you knew a man was out of his mind, you restrained him. You didn’t give him power.”

“’Human beings fear difference,’ Lilith had told him once. ‘Oankali crave difference. Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status. Oankali seek difference and collect it. They need it to keep themselves from stagnation and overspecialization. If you don’t understand this, you will. You’ll probably find both tendencies surfacing in your own behavior.’ And she had put her hand on his hair. ‘When you feel a conflict, try to go the Oankali way. Embrace difference.’”

Imago

“Listen, no part of me is more definitive of who I am than my brain.”

“Humans said one thing with their bodies and another with their mouths and everyone had to spend time and energy figuring out what they really meant.”

patternmaster-octavia-butlerthe patternist series

Patternmaster

“A long leash is still a leash.”

Mind of My Mind

“He showed me his fantastic library first, and that helped me warm to him a little. A guy with a room like that in his house couldn’t be all bad.”

“Could a creature who had to look upon ordinary people literally as food and shelter ever understand how strongly those people valued life?”

Wild Seed

“He was surprised when I ignored him. He is wealthy and arrogant and used to being listened to even when what he says is nonsense—as it often is.”

“Short-lived people, people who could die, did not know what enemies loneliness and boredom could be.”

Clay’s Ark

“’You’re bright,’ Lupe said to her softly. ‘Very bright, but stubborn. You think you can choose your realities. You can’t.’”

Bloodchild and Other Stories

“Read every day and learn from what you read.”

“Shyness is shit. It isn’t cute or feminine or appealing. It’s torment, and it’s shit.”

“’She just couldn’t face caring for a child all alone.’
‘People do it all the time.’
‘She wasn’t “people”, she was herself. She knew what she could handle and what she couldn’t.’”

“It’s too easy to follow bad but attractive leaders, embrace pleasurable but destructive habits, ignore looming disaster because maybe it won’t happen after all—or maybe it will only happen to other people. That kind of thinking is part of what it means to be adolescent.”

fledgling

“When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing.”  

“Human trials are often games to see which lawyer is best able to use the law, the jury’s beliefs and prejudices, and his own theatrical ability to win.”  

“The person I had been was gone. I couldn’t bring anyone back, not even myself.” 

Need more Octavia butler? dive into these links:

An Octavia Butler Reading Pathway

Science Fiction Short Story Collections by Authors of Color

Writers Inspired by Octavia Butler

What are your favorite Octavia Butler quotes? 

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