February 27, 2006

Octavia Butler, Sci-Fi Genuis, Dead At 58

This is a complete and total shock. I've only read "Kindred" and was recently thinking about getting her last novel, "Fledging." It's a vampire tale and lately that subject matter has fascinated me. Wanted to see what incredible things she had done with the genre:

Octavia Butler, 1947-2006: Sci-fi writer a gifted pioneer in white, male domain

She remains the only science fiction writer to receive one of the vaunted "genius grants" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a hard-earned $295,000 windfall in 1995 that followed years of poverty and personal struggles with shyness and self-doubt.

"People may call these 'genius grants,' " Butler said in a 2004 interview with the Seattle P-I, "but nobody made me take an IQ test before I got mine. I knew I'm no genius."

Butler's most popular work is "Kindred," a time-travel novel in which a black woman from 1976 Southern California is transported back to the violent days of slavery before the Civil War. The 1979 novel became a popular staple of school and college courses and now has more than a quarter million copies in print, but its birth was agonizing, like so much in Butler's solitary life.

"Kindred" was repeatedly rejected by publishers, many of whom could not understand how a science fiction novel could be set on a plantation in the antebellum South. Butler stuck to her social justice vision - "I think people really need to think what it's like to have all of society arrayed against you" - and finally found a publisher who paid her a $5,000 advance for "Kindred."

"I was living on my writing," Butler said, "and you could live on $5,000 back then. You could live, but not well. I got along by buying food I didn't really like but was nourishing: beans, potatoes. A 10-pound sack of potatoes lasts a long time."

Posted by ronn at February 27, 2006 11:14 AM


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» octavia butler dead at 58 from Lynne d Johnson :: music, media, my life
"Octavia E. Butler, considered the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, has died, a close friend said Sunday. She was 58. Butler fell and struck her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home,... [Read More]

Tracked on February 27, 2006 12:40 PM

» God Is Change from BEATS and RANTS 2.2
"To shape God. With wisdom and forethought. To benefit your world. Your People, Your life. Minimize harm. Ask questions [and] seek answers. Learn. Teach." -- Earthseed Can we please have a moment of silence . . . For sci-fi writer/genius Octavia E. Bu... [Read More]

Tracked on March 5, 2006 12:15 PM

wow...58 is so young. i love octavia butler. thanks for this news ronn. Posted by: lynne [TypeKey Profile Page] on February 27, 2006 12:30 PM
This is terrible news! I have only read a small amount of her work but I believe she was ahead of her time. Posted by: j. brotherlove [TypeKey Profile Page] on February 27, 2006 01:53 PM
Ronn, I heard of this lady's passing the day; the story included an archived interview, which I found lovely and fascinating. Not a big Sci-fi fan, I wasn't familiar with Ms.Butler, but she intrigued me so much that i have reserved all her books at the SPL! I just think you are amazing! Your site is my latest favorite! Thank you! Posted by: lbhammond on March 9, 2006 01:07 AM