Octavia E Butler

This article is about the notable science fiction author Octavia E Butler. For the starship bearing the same name, see USS Octavia E Butler.

Photograph of Octavia E Butler

For those who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, the name "Octavia E. Butler" likely is at the very least familiar if not beloved. Born only a year and a half after the end of WWII, she struggled in school, not only because she was rather shy as a child, but also because of dyslexia. After begging her mother to get her a library card, Butler found a second home there. Eventually, she began to create stories while sitting on her grandmother's porch. At the tender age of nine, Butler saw a B-movie entitled "Devil Girl from Mars", an event that would prove to be a turning point in her life, for it was then she realised not only did someone get paid to write that movie, she knew she could do far better.

After that, Butler could be found with a notebook constantly in her possession so she could write down her stories whenever she had the opportunity. When she wrote stories for assignments, most teachers thought she plagiarised, but one not only recognised them as her work, but encouraged her to submit one to a science fiction magazine, which only encouraged her in her literary endeavours. Despite her struggle with dyslexia, Butler loved learning, and after graduating from Pasadena City College with an Associate's Degree in 1968, she continued to explore many different subjects at California State University and the University of California. She eventually met author Harlan Ellison who encouraged her to attend the Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop, and by the end of it, she had sold two of her stories.

Despite her initial success, she struggled to find anyone interested in further stories, so set out to write her first book, which was entitled "Patternmaster", the first book in the Patternist trilogy. She went on to write a dozen more books, of which "Kindred" is probably the most well known and considered a modern day classic. She went on to win Nebula and Hugo awards, the two most prestigious awards for Science Fiction authors, as well as receive a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 1995, something no other science fiction author has ever won.

Even though she displayed considerable talent, Butler continued to struggle as her work was not commercially popular. She held a rigorous schedule and rose at 2am to write before going to work at a number of jobs that brought her income. On February 24, 2006, Butler fell while at home from what people believe was a stroke, to which she ultimately succumbed. In recent years, her works have only grown in popularity, and she has been recognised as a pioneer in the science fiction world, not only as a female author, but a person of colour. Not only was she one of the first black authors, but she also wrote about subjects including global warming, political disparity, and women's rights. She proved that black people did belong in science fiction, whether or not their race was crucial to the plot. Butler showed the world that science fiction wasn't a field limited to white men, but it was a realm for anyone and everyone, regardless of what they looked like or who society thought they should be. .