Black History Month Spotlight: Prolific Sci-Fi Author, Octavia Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler is an African American woman born June 22, 1947. She passed away February 24 2006. She was a science fiction author who wrote Kindred, Bloodchild and Dawn resulting in her winning such prestigious awards as The MacArthur Fellowship, Nebula Award for Best Novel, Hugo Award for Best Short Story, Hugo Award for Best Novelette, Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story or Comic and The Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Butler was an only child and grew up with her parents in Pasadena California, born into a time where segregation was illegal but was objectively still in place as the Civil Rights Act–the act that made segregation illegal–was passed only a year before she was born. The overwhelming oppression and racism she faced during her life was staggering and still prevalent from her generation.

Butler’s father died when she was seven years old, leaving Butler to live with her mother and grandmother were she would join her mother to her job as a maid for wealthy men. In addition to this, Butler attended public schooling where she was described as being very shy while struggling with dyslexia, causing her to be ridiculed and yelled at from her teachers and peers for reading slowly. When Butler was given books to read at school she found them boring and uninteresting, which pushed her to find more interesting books to read despite what everyone else told her. In fact, at the age of 12 was when she believed her journey to writing began as she states.

“After watching the Devil Girl From Mars, I thought ‘Geez, I can write a better story than that!” said Butler.

Butler was never married nor had kids; she never saw them as a goal that would complete her nor make her any more happy than she already was alone. She was a self-described “happy hermit.”

Butler also did not believe in a world without racism; the way she saw it, if the world didn’t hate and oppress minorities, they would just find something else to argue about, and thus racism, white privilege and tackling gender stereotypes are all prevalent topics in her books, merely shadowed by symbolism. It is no shock that she was able to establish a connection to readers who went through similar trials, however, at the time such subjects were considered taboo; it was this ahead of her time thinking that got her books to stand the test of time.

Octavia Estelle Butler lived a life of hardship, however, she left behind a legacy and left a mark on the African American community; she surpassed all odds and rose above, proving she truly is an inspiration.