Octavia Butler

“I knew there were stories I wanted to tell”.  

Known for blending science fiction with African-American spiritualism, Octavia Butler is a writing force in the literary world.  

Born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California. She studied at several universities and began her writing career in the 1970s. Her first novel Patternmaster (1976), would ultimately become one of the installments in the four-volume Patternist series.  She went on to write several other novels, including Kindred (1979) as well as Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998), of the Parable series. She continued to write and publish until her death on February 24, 2006, in Seattle, Washington.

What makes her accomplishments unique is that she was diagnosed dyslexic but refused to let this challenge stop her from doing what she loved.  She started writing stories around the age of 10. Most writers consider science fiction a delve into fantasy but for served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. She won the 1984 Best Short Story Hugo Award for “Speech Sounds.” That same year, the novelette “Bloodchild” won a Nebula Award and later a Hugo as well.

In 1999, Butler abandoned her native California to move north to Seattle, Washington. She was a perfectionist with her work and spent several years grappling with writer’s block. Her efforts were hampered by her ill health and the medications she took. After starting and discarding numerous projects, Butler wrote her last novel Fledgling (2005), which was an innovative take on the concept of vampires and family structures, the latter being one of her works’ prevailing themes.

On February 24, 2006, Octavia E. Butler died at her Seattle home. She was 58 years old. With her death, the literary world lost one of its great storytellers. She is remembered, as Gregory Hampton wrote in Callaloo, as writer of “stories that blurred the lines of distinction between reality and fantasy.” And through her work, “she revealed universal truths.”

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