Celebrate Octavia Butler’s birthday with an exclusive clip from an upcoming biography
“Hearst Magazines and Verizon Media may earn commissions or income on certain articles through the links below.”
Octavia Butler was a visionary science fiction writer who predicted the rise of an American politician who would rise to power with the slogan “Make America Great Again” in her 1998 novel Parable of the talents. She would have been 73 today, June 22, if she had not died suddenly in 2006 from a stroke. But the Nebula and Hugo Prize-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read than ever, and this phenomenon is intended to grow with publication Star Child: a biographical constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, released in January 2022.
Zoboi, finalist for the National Book Award for his novel for young adults american street, is not only an avid butler, but has been mentored by the writer. Now she has written an ode to her told in poetry and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive preview of the upcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.
I read my very first Octavia E. Butler novel in college. I had taken a creative writing class and my stories were so incredibly weird and otherworldly that a good friend suggested I read Parable of the sower, the tenth novel by Octavia. I read it in a few days and was so amazed by the story that I finally bought all of its books. I had discovered a whole new world of space stories, shape shifting stories, and mind control stories. I felt less alone and less weird because I wrote these kinds of weird tales since I was little. I wasn’t reading science fiction at the time because I thought they were big books intended only for adults. But I watched a lot, a lot of fuzzy area episodes – an old black and white TV series about weird stuff.
I immediately started researching Octavia E. Butler. I quickly discovered that we were sharing the same birthday. We were born exactly thirty years apart. For this reason, I called the phone operator and gave her her name and the city she lived in (this was before social media and internet search engines). To my great joy, his name and number were entered. I called and she picked up. Octavia was kind and generous with her time and said she hoped to meet me one day.
Octavia, like me, started writing at a very young age. She even submitted her stories for publication when she found out she could be paid to do what she loved most. She was a deep thinker and wondered about the possible worlds that existed beyond our planet. She cared deeply for humanity and how we treated each other. I wondered what kind of kid Octavia had to be to have such complex thoughts and ideas.
Through pages and pages of articles and hours of listening to her voice and watching her speak in interviews, I discovered that Octavia was extremely passionate about her writing and her stories. It all started at a young age “to overcome boredom and loneliness,” she once said in an interview. I imagine there are a lot of young writers doing the same. What if Octavia had written for children? How would she have simplified some of these big ideas about our world a bit? “Poetry simplifies things,” she said of her novel Parable of the sower. She had written poetry for the first time to explain something bigger than ourselves. She wanted to convey God in a rhyme, she said. “God is change” is repeated throughout his novels in the Parable series.
Octavia was heavily influenced by everything around her: the aftermath of WWII, the Cold War, space travel, science fiction magazines, the first man on the moon, and even music. This portrayal of her life – in poems, essays, quotes, and photographs – serves as a reminder that certain ideas about our world can be understood simply through rhyme, repetition, metric and metaphor. And like the many complex worlds and themes in Octavia E. Butler’s sci-fi novels – an alien planet, a destroyed Earth, time travel and mind control – poems can serve as planets, galaxies and different gateways with its many structures, rhythms and puns. .
I decided to call this biography a constellation because Octavia’s mind and imagination were truly complex, luminous, far-reaching wonders. She mapped out her creative life and relentlessly pursued her dream, step by step, day after day.
In fact, I had the pleasure of spending time in person with Octavia E. Butler. After attending one of her book signings in Brooklyn, New York, I hung around for a bit, waiting for my chance to have a private moment to thank her for answering my cold call and maybe ask if we could talk about the world and books over tea. . I heard she was heading to her hotel in Manhattan and gladly let her know that I was heading in that direction as well. (That wasn’t quite true. I lived in Queens, in the opposite direction.) Within minutes, Octavia was in my passenger seat, her friend in the back seat. She told stories about her childhood in Pasadena as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. I was too stunned to say much so I never got a chance to tell her that I wanted to be a writer like her or that we were sharing a birthday. Later that day, she won the Nebula Award, the highest honor in science fiction, for her novel Parable of the talents.
A little over a year after that first meeting, we were reunited at the Clarion West Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in Seattle, Washington, where I was working on my stories with sixteen other writers and five other instructors. The first Friday we were there was June 22, and my classmates threw a little birthday party for Octavia and me.
I write for kids now and that’s partly because of my love for Butler’s books and what she contributed to the sci-fi genre. Like Butler, I used to dream often when I was a little girl. I had big questions about the world and the universe that went unanswered by my family, my teachers, and even the books I read. I was intrigued by the old TV series The twilight zone. However, it wasn’t until I took my first creative writing classes that I discovered my love for speculative fiction. My early stories were described as “bizarre” and “not anchored in reality” by college instructors and writing workshops. Yet when these stories involved children and adolescents, they were more accepted by my classmates. In the intermediate and young adult genres, I can distort reality and have my characters question their world in ways big and small. Writing for children has allowed me to tap into my own imagination and leave enough room for young readers to find their own answers. As a child, Octavia E. Butler had a vivid imagination and although others doubted her vision, she followed her dreams. With every book she wrote, she tried to answer the big questions about humanity and the universe. She held on to her childhood wonder and made a career, a goal and a mission out of her imagination.
While Butler’s award-winning novel Kinship is awarded in high schools across the country, and her Parable series is more relevant than ever before, readers of all ages should know that Octavia Estelle Butler was once a little black girl who both grew up during the civil rights and the space race. It is only in his many novels, short stories and essays that these two worlds collide. His stories merge history, anthropology, sociology, biology and technology. Star Child’s biographical speculative poems attempt to do the same. The many literary devices of poetry can be used to delve into the twists and turns of history, delve into the many layers of science, and penetrate deeper into the depths of the inner life of a remarkable person. These poems aim to capture the small moments in Octavia Estelle Butler’s life and the big ideas and events that shaped her groundbreaking thinking and stories in hopes of inspiring a shy, curious and highly imaginative child somewhere in the world. vast universe.
is his environment
Last name. Estelle wants to say
“Star” – a shining light at
the highest point of a pyramid, or a
tree, or a solar system. There to remind us to
look up above our heads to witness the wonder of
the sky like an ocean blue blanket, or a shimmering awning, keeping
secrets from other worlds. And like a star she was born to listen to
whispers of the universe, to bring together the constellations and weave them into stories.
You might also like