Remembering Octavia Butler on her Birthday φ The Ubuntu Biography Project

Today is a special day. Wishing the giant spirit of OCTAVIA BUTLER a very happy birthday

Today, a woman of untold brilliance, insight, and vision was born, a woman whose literature changed not only my perspective, but my life.

Octavia Butler was born on this day in 1947 (to February 24, 2006), She was an celebrated American Science Fiction author, who excelled in a genre with few African-American women. She won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.Octavia Estelle Butler was born and raised in Pasadena, California. Her father Laurice, died when she was a baby, and Butler was raised by her grandmother and her mother (Octavia M. Butler), who worked as a maid in order to support the family. She grew up in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood. According to the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Butler was "an introspective, only child in a strict Baptist household" and "was drawn early to science fiction magazines such as “Amazing”, “Fantasy”, “Science Fiction”, and “Galaxy” and soon began reading all the science fiction classics. Nicknamed “Junie,” Octavia Butler was paralytically shy and a daydreamer, and was later diagnosed as being dyslexic. She began writing at the age of ten "to escape loneliness and boredom"; and when she was twelve, she began her lifelong interest in science fiction.  After earning her associate's degree from Pasadena City College in 1968, she enrolled at California State University in Los Angeles. She eventually left CalState and took writing classes through a UCLA extension. She would later credit two writing workshops for giving her "the most valuable help I received with my writing”.  She participated in The Open Door Workshop of the Screenwriters' Guild of America, West, a program designed to mentor Latino and African American writers. Through Open Door, she met the noted science fiction writer Harlan Ellison in 1969.  She also had high praise for her time in The Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, where she first met Samuel R. Delany.  She remained, throughout her career, a self-identified science fiction fan, an insider who rose from within the ranks of the field. For some writers, science fiction serves as means to delve into fantasy. But for Butler, it largely served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. It was this passionate interest in the human experience that imbued her work with a certain depth and complexity. In the mid-1980s, Butler began to receive critical recognition for her work. Butler won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, “Parable of the Talents” in 1999, the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novelette, “Bloodchild” in 1985 and the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Speech Sounds” in 1984.  In 1995, Butler received a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which allowed her to buy a house for her mother and herself.  She has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  In 1976, Butler published her first novel, “Patternmaster.” This book was the first in a series of works about a group of people with telepathic powers called Patternists. Other Patternist titles include “Mind of My Mind” in 1977 and “Clay's Ark” in 1984. In the late 1980s, Butler published her Xenogenesis trilogy—“Dawn” in 1987, “Adulthood Rites” in 1988 and “Imago” in 1989. This series of books explores issues of genetics and race.  To insure their mutual survival, humans reproduce with aliens known as the Oankali. Butler received much praise for this trilogy. She went on to write the Parable series, which includes the novels “Parable of the Sower” in 1993, and “Parable of the Talents” in 1999. 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” in 2005. In an interview by Randall Kenan, Octavia E. Butler discusses how her life experiences as a child shaped most of her thinking. As a writer, Butler was able to use her writing as a vehicle to critique history under the lenses of feminism. In the interview, she discusses the research that had to be done in order to write her bestselling novel, “Kindred.” Most of it is based on visiting libraries as well as historic landmarks with respect to what she is investigating. Butler admits that she writes science fiction because she does not want her work to be label or used as a marketing tool. She wants the readers to be genuinely interested in her work and the story she provides, but at the same time she fears that people will not read her work because of the “science fiction” label that they have. The nearly reclusive Octavia Butler died unexpectedly in February of 2006 at her home in Seattle after falling and sustaining a head injury. 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."   Much has been written recently about Octavia E. Butler’s sexual orientation Many obituaries recognized her as “both a Black and Lesbian science-fiction writer” All references seem to link to an unsourced Wikipedia post.  She has been described by some close friends as bisexual, as asexual, and as heterosexual. She apparently never discussed any lesbianism publicly.  There is even a discussion with Octavia Butler and fellow Black sci-fi author Samuel Delaney on the MIT website where he briefly talks about being a gay man. It would seem natural that Octavia Butler might have used the opportunity to acknowledge that she was a lesbian, but she did not mention it in that discussion.  Dr. Ron Buckmire, a math professor at Occidental College, very near where Miss Butler lived until her move to Seattle, writes in his blog his reflections on her passing. He says that he knew her casually and does remark that she was a lesbian. Whatever her orientation, she was a gifted and inspiring writer whose work impacted and inspired the lives of many. The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship was established in Butler's memory in 2006 by the Carl Brandon Society. Its goal is to provide an annual scholarship to enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops where Butler got her start. The first scholarships were awarded in 2007. In April 2014, it was announced that two new stories by Octavia E Butler had been discovered among her papers at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and that the stories are set for release this summer. We remember Octavia E. Butler on this day in celebration of the 67th anniversary of her birth, and in appreciation for her brilliant writing, her unique and pioneering spirit, and for her many contributions to our community. Copyright © MMXIV Stephen A. Maglott.  I’m not fond of lawyers, but I have one anyway.  She insist that I inform you that permission to share this biography or any portion thereof, on an online service or blog other than Facebook, must be granted in writing by yours truly (Stephen Maglott).  Please feel free however, to share this post with others on Facebook. * If you enjoy these biographical tributes to same-gender loving/Trans men and women of African descent, please “like” the Ubuntu Biography Project page!  And then go back and select “Get Notifications”.  (https://www.facebook.com/UbuntuBiographyProject) Thank you.

Octavia Butler φ In the spirit of remembrance, talk about your favorite work by Butler. φ

 

Octavia Butler was born on this day in 1947 (to February 24, 2006), She was an celebrated American Science Fiction author, who excelled in a genre with few African-American women. She won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born and raised in Pasadena, California. Her father Laurice, died when she was a baby, and Butler was raised by her grandmother and her mother (Octavia M. Butler), who worked as a maid in order to support the family. She grew up in a struggling, racially mixed neighborhood. According to the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Butler was “an introspective, only child in a strict Baptist household” and “was drawn early to science fiction magazines such as “Amazing”, “Fantasy”, “Science Fiction”, and “Galaxy” and soon began reading all the science fiction classics.

Nicknamed “Junie,” Octavia Butler was paralytically shy and a daydreamer, and was later diagnosed as being dyslexic. She began writing at the age of ten “to escape loneliness and boredom”; and when she was twelve, she began her lifelong interest in science fiction.

After earning her associate’s degree from Pasadena City College in 1968, she enrolled at California State University in Los Angeles. She eventually left CalState and took writing classes through a UCLA extension. She would later credit two writing workshops for giving her “the most valuable help I received with my writing”. She participated in The Open Door Workshop of the Screenwriters’ Guild of America, West, a program designed to mentor Latino and African American writers. Through Open Door, she met the noted science fiction writer Harlan Ellison in 1969. She also had high praise for her time in The Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, where she first met Samuel R. Delany. She remained, throughout her career, a self-identified science fiction fan, an insider who rose from within the ranks of the field.

For some writers, science fiction serves as means to delve into fantasy. But for Butler, it largely served as a vehicle to address issues facing humanity. It was this passionate interest in the human experience that imbued her work with a certain depth and complexity. In the mid-1980s, Butler began to receive critical recognition for her work.

Butler won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, “Parable of the Talents” in 1999, the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novelette, “Bloodchild” in 1985 and the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Speech Sounds” in 1984. In 1995, Butler received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which allowed her to buy a house for her mother and herself. She has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

In 1976, Butler published her first novel, “Patternmaster.” This book was the first in a series of works about a group of people with telepathic powers called Patternists. Other Patternist titles include “Mind of My Mind” in 1977 and “Clay’s Ark” in 1984.

In the late 1980s, Butler published her Xenogenesis trilogy—“Dawn” in 1987, “Adulthood Rites” in 1988 and “Imago” in 1989. This series of books explores issues of genetics and race. To insure their mutual survival, humans reproduce with aliens known as the Oankali. Butler received much praise for this trilogy. She went on to write the Parable series, which includes the novels “Parable of the Sower” in 1993, and “Parable of the Talents” in 1999.

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” in 2005.

In an interview by Randall Kenan, Octavia E. Butler discusses how her life experiences as a child shaped most of her thinking. As a writer, Butler was able to use her writing as a vehicle to critique history under the lenses of feminism. In the interview, she discusses the research that had to be done in order to write her bestselling novel, “Kindred.” Most of it is based on visiting libraries as well as historic landmarks with respect to what she is investigating. Butler admits that she writes science fiction because she does not want her work to be label or used as a marketing tool. She wants the readers to be genuinely interested in her work and the story she provides, but at the same time she fears that people will not read her work because of the “science fiction” label that they have.

The nearly reclusive Octavia Butler died unexpectedly in February of 2006 at her home in Seattle after falling and sustaining a head injury. 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.”

Much has been written recently about Octavia E. Butler’s sexual orientation Many obituaries recognized her as “both a Black and Lesbian science-fiction writer” All references seem to link to an unsourced Wikipedia post. She has been described by some close friends as bisexual, as asexual, and as heterosexual. She apparently never discussed any lesbianism publicly. There is even a discussion with Octavia Butler and fellow Black sci-fi author Samuel Delaney on the MIT website where he briefly talks about being a gay man. It would seem natural that Octavia Butler might have used the opportunity to acknowledge that she was a lesbian, but she did not mention it in that discussion. Dr. Ron Buckmire, a math professor at Occidental College, very near where Miss Butler lived until her move to Seattle, writes in his blog his reflections on her passing. He says that he knew her casually and does remark that she was a lesbian. Whatever her orientation, she was a gifted and inspiring writer whose work impacted and inspired the lives of many.

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship was established in Butler’s memory in 2006 by the Carl Brandon Society. Its goal is to provide an annual scholarship to enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops where Butler got her start. The first scholarships were awarded in 2007.

In April 2014, it was announced that two new stories by Octavia E Butler had been discovered among her papers at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and that the stories are set for release this summer.

We remember Octavia E. Butler on this day in celebration of the 67th anniversary of her birth, and in appreciation for her brilliant writing, her unique and pioneering spirit, and for her many contributions to our community.

Copyright © MMXIV Stephen A. Maglott. I’m not fond of lawyers, but I have one anyway. She insist that I inform you that permission to share this biography or any portion thereof, on an online service or blog other than Facebook, must be granted in writing by yours truly (Stephen Maglott). Please feel free however, to share this post with others on Facebook.

* If you enjoy these biographical tributes to same-gender loving/Trans men and women of African descent, please “like” the Ubuntu Biography Project page! And then go back and select “Get Notifications”. (https://www.facebook.com/UbuntuBiographyProject) Thank you

Lessons From Acclaimed Writer Octavia Butler on Change, Persistence, War, Racism, and Rage

Lessons From Acclaimed Writer Octavia Butler on Change, Persistence, War, Racism, and Rage

October 16, 2013 

octavia-butler-2

by Yvette Carnell

Editor, Your Black World and BreakingBrown.com

The science fiction writer isn’t just a writer, certainly not in the traditional sense. She’s also a futurist because the genre demands it. Perhaps because she seamlessly blended race with precise portrayals of the tribulations of mankind, Octavia Butler became a world renowned science fiction writer. Butler said to the Los Angeles Times before her passing, “I’m black, I’m solitary, I’ve always been an outsider.” And the gritty choices Butler’s characters have thrust upon them continually highlight an ever present theme in the writer’s work–change.According to Butler, so much of life depends on how you manage and adapt to a wildly alive world.

Her novels included such works “Parable of the Sower” (1993); “Parable of the Talents” (1998) “Fledgling”, and Wildseed. Unlike most science-fiction novels, the main protagonist in Butler’s novels are often black women,  who Butler infuses with strong will, and humanizes in ways not oftenOctavia Butler_1998_Parable Of The Talents seen in any genre, let alone science-fiction. Butler brought what it meant to be African-American–gritty resolve and persistence-to science fiction. It is for that brilliance which she will be remembered. Below are some of Butler’s most poignant life lessons.

On persistence:

“Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all. (Parable of the Talents)”

On realizing you’re all alone in the universe:

“Once you grow past Mommy and Daddy coming running when you’re hurt, you’re really on your own. You’re alone, and there’s no one to help you.”

On passion:

“If you want a thing–truly want it, want it so badly that you need it as you need air to breathe, then unless you die, you will have it. Why not? It has you. There is no escape. What a cruel and terrible thing escape would be if escape were possible” (Parable of the Talents)

On quiet racism, and quiet versus open rebellion:

“‘Don’t argue with white folks,’ [Luke] had said. ‘Don’t tell them ‘no.’ Don’t let them see you mad. Just say ‘yes, sir.’ Then go ’head and do what you want to do. Might have to take a whippin’ for it later on, but if you want it bad enough, the whippin’ won’t matter much.” (Kindred)

On managing your anger:

“When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing” – (Fledgling) 

On the inevitability of change:

“Change is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe. To us, that makes it the most octavia_butlerpowerful reality, and just another word for God.”

Earthseed: The Books of the Living

On the importance of good habits:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

On selecting your leaders:

“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 told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.” (Parable of the Talents)

On craven self-interest:

“Beware At war Or at peace, More people die Of unenlightened self-interest Than of any other disease” (Parable of the Talents)

yvette carnell

 

 

Yvette Carnell writes mostly about politics, social, and cultural issues for my personal blog, BreakingBrown.com as well as BreakingBrown.tv and Breakingbrown.me. She is also an editor for YourBlackWorld and a managing contributor on KuluteKritic.

BreakingBrown.com is a social media hub which aggregates the freshest and most insightful content from brown bloggers, podcasters and videocasters on the internet. We aggregate, distribute, critique and and explore black and brown people in the unending universe which is social media. Now there’s no longer a need for you to stalk cyberspace in search of an honest black or brown perspective.