Born June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, CA
Died February 24, 2006 in Lake Forest Park, WA
Octavia Butler broke new ground both as a woman and an African American in the world of science fiction writing normally dominated by men.
Her father died when she was young and she was raised by her mother who worked as a maid to support the family. Despite suffering from dyslexia, she developed a deep love for books and decided to make writing her career at age 10. She earned an associate degree from Pasadena City College and later studied under Harlan Ellison at the Clarion Fiction Writers Workshop.
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. OtherPatternist titles include Mind of My Mind (1977) and Clay’s Ark (1984).
In 1979, Butler’s career took off with Kindred. The novel tells the story of an African American woman who travels back in time to save a white slave owner—her own ancestor. In part, Butler drew some inspiration from her mother’s work.
“I didn’t like seeing her go through back doors,” she once said, according to The New York Times. “If my mother hadn’t put up with all those humiliations, I wouldn’t have eaten very well or lived very comfortably. So I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”
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. She won the Hugo Award in 1984 for the best short story of the year, for “Speech Sounds.” That same year, the novelette “Bloodchild” won a Nebula Award and later a Hugo. In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the Genius Grant.
For more information about this amazing science fiction writer go to: http://octaviabutler.org/