Octavia Estelle Butler was a prominent science fiction writer who brought a unique perspective to the genre as an African American female. She used science fiction's capacity for imagining alternative worlds to explore social and political issues involving race, sexuality, gender, and class.
Butler was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California, and passed away in 2006 in Lake Forest Park, Washington. She attended Pasadena City College, California State University at Los Angeles, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Octavia Butler was a life-long book lover who started writing stories when she was a young teenager. She attended the 1970 Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, and went on to become a free-lance writer, published in magazines and anthologies such as Clarion, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and Future Life.
In 1976, she published her first novel, Patternmaster, a story of rival telepaths, vying for control of the Pattern, the powerful linking of a specially-bred group of telepathic minds. This soon lead to the Patternist series, which includes Mind of My Mind (1977), Survivor (1978), and Wild Seed (1980). Also included in this series, but not involving the Patternists in particular, is Clay's Ark (1984), which tells the story of a group of people affected by an alien disease. A compilation of the Patternist series, Seed to Harvest, was published in 2007.
In 1979, she wrote the novel Kindred. It involves a black woman named Dana who travels back in time to a plantation in the antebellum South, where she must ensure that a white plantation owner lives to father her great-grandmother, thereby ensuring her own birth.
In 1984, Butler won the Hugo for her short story "Speech Sounds". In 1985, she won three of science fiction's top awards--the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award--for her novella "Bloodchild". "Speech Sounds" is the story of a Los Angeles of the future, where a disease has caused the entire population to lose one aspect of their communication skills. "Bloodchild" tells of a far future, where human males bear the children of an insect-like alien race.
After this success, Butler began writing the "Lilith's Brood" trilogy--Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989). This series explores the interrelationships between gender, race, and culture through an alien race named the Oankali. This Oankali are on an intergalactic quest is to study the genetic structure of Earth humans via interbreeding. Earth has been wiped out by a nuclear holocaust, and the Oankali give the few humans they saved a second chance, through creating a new race with them. What makes the Oankali especially interesting is their sheer alien-ness, from the descriptions of their tentacled faces to the fact that they have three sexes - male, female, and ooloi.
In 1995, Butler was awarded a MacArthur Fellows Award, commonly referred to as "the Genius Grant". The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation rewards creative people who push the boundaries of their fields. This award came shortly after the publication of her novel Parable of the Sower (1994). Its sequel, Parable of the Talents, was published in 1998.
In 1995, she released Bloodchild and Other Stories, a collection of her short stories and essays, which included the two award-winning stories.
Her last novel, Fledgling, was published in 2005. It is a scifi vampire novel that explores themes like race, sexuality, and community living, as well as the biological necessity of diversity.
She has also written articles for publications such as Essence and Oprah.com
by Kate Bolin,edited and updated in 2009 by Michelle Sands
Lilith's Brood ( 2000)
Parable of the Talents (1998)
Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995)
Parable of the Sower (1993)
Adulthood Rites (1988)
Clay's Ark (1984)
Wild Seed (1980)
Mind of My Mind (1977)