Monday, March 12, 2012

Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler possessed a lifelong interest in science fiction and undertook a noteworthy writing career merging science fiction with previously untapped themes of social issues. An introspective child who grew up in a racially mixed community, she began writing at the age of 10 to escape self-described "loneliness and boredom". While pursuing a degree at UCLA, Butler attended two writing workshops outside of her college studies in 1970. She credits these practicums with giving her the most valuable help with her writing, and with helping her form a kinship with the science fiction community that included author and mentor Harlan Ellison and author Samuel R. Delany.

Butler's first published novel, Patternmaster (1976), is ostensibly a reworking of one of her childhood stories. It became part of the five book Patternist series, which explores biology, as well as topics of power and enslavement. Butler's most renowned novel, Kindred (1979), is also a modern exploration of slavery that she described as "grim fantasy" rather than science fiction. The novel breaks from using science as its underlying concept, and instead focuses on descriptions of societal divergence. Butler's recurring use of metaphoric references to issues of race, social class, gender and religion would become her literary hallmark.

Butler won the first of many Nebula and Hugo awards for her novelette Bloodchild (1984), and would later earn such honors as a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant and the PEN American Center lifetime achievement award. She is notable for being a female African American writer of science fiction—a rarity—but mainly she's notable as one of the most eminent science fiction writers overall.


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