“I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.”
- Octavia E. Butler
This year will mark the 10th Anniversary of the extremely talented science-fiction author, Octavia E. Butler’s death. She would have been 69-years-old in June. Butler’s writing not only changed the way African- Americans were seen in literature, but it launched a new genre that has been coined, Afro-Futurism. This brought about a new culture in literature where people were reading, reviewing and talking about these books in different ways. She brought representation to a genre that had not had it before and she changed the way blackness was approached in contexts such as time travel, alien invasions and apocalyptic events. For example, her novel "Fledgling" features the trials and tribulations of a black vampire. Her novel "Kindred" explores the time travel of a ‘present day’ black woman who transports back to the Antebellum South where slavery was rampant. Butler was not afraid to explore humanity in her novels, which made them refreshingly intriguing and compelling for audiences of color.
Finally, something from a different point of view.
After Butler’s death, her papers were sent to The Huntington. The papers were received in 2008 and examined by scholars. Over the course of three years, they found a plethora of Butler's texts including: drafts, research materials, novels, short stories, notes, essays and texts written when Butler was just 12 years-old.
Handwritten notes on inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Page of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, ca. July 6, 1977–May 5, 1978. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Typed and handwritten notes by Octavia E. Butler for her novel Parable of the Sower, ca. 1989. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The Los Angeles non-profit arts organization, Clockshop, is partnering with other numerous local organizations and institutions such as The Huntington, and the Armory Center for the Arts, to create a year-long series of events to celebrate Butler’s life, work and legacy. This year-long celebration is titled Radio Imagination and will launch Feb. 27 2016, and will continue through Jan. 2017.
Planning and execution are underway. There is a panel discussion scheduled to take place this fall, and pushing further into 2017. One of the Huntington’s curators of literary manuscripts will curate both the panel and Octavia Butler exhibition. The Radio Imagination event is an ode to the 'grand dame of science-fiction.' May her spirit and legacy continue to inspire writers, young and old, and push the boundaries of diversity.
YAS! BLACK GIRL MAGIC!
Learn more about Clockshop's Radio Imagine.