Octavia Butler Rules!!!

October 5, 2008

I randomly picked up a science fiction book because the main character was a Black woman and it had been published by the women’s press. The book was called Kindred, the author Octavia Butler, she has promptly become my favourite fantasy author. The woman is brilliant. Why the fuck have I never heard of her before??? Oh that’s right, she is Black and female, moreover, she is a feminist. Sigh.

I found another of her books for sale at The Women’s Library the other day called The Parable of the Sower. That will be next on my reading list I’m reckoning. So many brilliant women authors, so little time. I don’t know why ‘feminist’ women are so into whitemale fuckers like Joss Whedon when there are so many brilliant women of all colours whose work is far, far superior to whitemale wank. Oh well.


  1. Hello,

    I’ve been reading your blog intermittently since you hosted a radical feminist carnival.

    I love Octavia Butler too; Parable of the Sower is a brilliant book, as is the sequel Parable of the Talents (apparently she was working on a third book when she died). I should definitely get hold of Kindred at some point.

    What I like about this type of SF, is that it’s not about having the biggest gun (which seems to be the theme of most television SF, I’m an ex Trekkie, and I find the unquestioning militarism of it now quite difficult), it’s about showing a different way of living – just like feminism!

    I’m sure you’ve already heard of Ursula le Guin, as well as her, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of time is a book I would highly recommend, it has been as influential to me as any piece of academic feminist writing.

    I’d also like to say how much I appreciated your deconstruction of Firefly. I was a Buffy/Angel fan at the time (but have no intention of watching any of it again), but I never liked Firefly. My then-boyfriend loved it, which with hind-sight explains a few things …

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Parable of the Sower is a brilliant book

    Great to hear it. I’m really looking forward to it. I enjoyed Kindred so, so much.

    What I like about this type of SF, is that it’s not about having the biggest gun

    Mm hmm, yep, I totally know what you are talking about. Kindred was very political, and right on target. She really knew what she was doing. Amazing. But the drivel on tv and at the movies just replicates the same old shit and values that we have to live with here and now. In the first video I linked to, Octavia is sitting on a panel with a bunch of white men discussing science fiction. I’m willing to bet that all of those men are far more famous than she is, that they have fan fiction written about them and movie rights being sold etc. And Octavia’s work is ignored and undervalued. Despite the fact that she can write those whitemales under the table.

    I’ve read the Earthsea books and wasn’t all that impressed. I tried to read The Left Hand of Darkness but got bored and didn’t like it so I’m not sure about Ursula le Guin. I own many Marge Piercy books but I’ve not read them yet. I’ve been very slack. But I will get around to it. Many women I respect have told me she is great.

    Thanks for the kudos on my Firefly posts. I’ve copped so much flack for those posts! But it was all worth it! I will still watch Buffy occassionally. I couldn’t get into Angel. It was actually a pro-feminist man who reccomended that I watch Firefly. He was obsessed with Buffy and Joss Whedon. It was around about then that I became more of a separatist. I thought that if pro-feminist men could hate women so much that they didn’t see the misogyny of Firefly, then I didn’t have a hope of being able to tolerated the majority of men.

  3. Hello,

    Re. le Guin, she has written that one of the journeys for her was to learn to write as a woman, not as an honorary man, which is perhaps what you came up against in the books you mentioned.

    You might have more luck with her short story collections, Four Ways to Forgiveness and Buffalo Gals might be worth a try, and if you can find a copy, Always Coming Home, a kind of ‘archeology of the future’ of the people of a Californian valley.

  4. Octavia Butler STUNS. She passed away recently, last year or the year before, and lived in Seattle. There is NO ONE like her! She does have a dedicated following in the U.S., but it’s true, no where near the kind of following she should have had.

  5. The white males on the panel are:

    * John Harrison, filmmaker: not really that well known in his own right outside of cult film circles, though his adaptation of Dune went down well with some and may well have spawned some fic.

    * Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist: not exactly a science fiction writer, probably doesn’t occupy the attention of the fanfic crowd. I believe he’s only got the one film deal.

    * Harlan Ellison, author: yes, more celebrated than Octavia Butler and the majority of modern authors who’ve worked within the field of science fiction.

    * Arthur Cover (moderator), author: no, relatively obscure, best known work may be his Buffy TV tie-in novel.

    I am surprised you haven’t heard of Butler before now; I can only conclude that you’ve been reading the wrong journals. Within the field of literary SF her work has received great recognition, as attested by her numerous awards and honours (2 HUGOs, 2 Nebulas, a MacArthur Fellowship and so on) and widespread coverage within the printed media. I don’t see how anyone can describe her as ignored or undervalued — unless they’re of the opinion that TV and film are all that matter…

  6. You might like Larissa Lai, she has written two books: When fox is a thousand and Salt fish girl. I also suggest checking out Hiromi Goto and Nalo Hopkinson.

  7. Thanks for the recomendations Sarah and Chutney. I’ll check them out at some point.

  8. Wikignomic, try to realise that there is, in fact, an entire planet outside of the US? What goes on in the US does not necessarily go on in the rest of the world, too.

    You’ll notice womensspace says Octavia Butler has a following in the US. But she certainly doesn’t have the kind of international fame and following that many male fantasy/SF authors have, or those few white women who, like Anne McCaffrey, play by the male rules for the most part.

  9. Um, I’m not American.

  10. Hey allecto, I’m glad you love Butler. I have her complete collection, but always loved my first reading of hers best; ie the Xenogenesis trilogies, and the earlier Patternmaster series which I just finished re-reading on holidays for fun. I first read her ‘Clay’s Ark’ in the early 80s as a B-Grade sci-fi dog-eared novel, that someone just left lying around the squat I was living in, and it blew me away. I collected everything she wrote all my life.
    The other one of the same generation I have always collected, is Jo Clayton, who unfortunately is also dead now. Her ‘Diadem’ series, of 9 novels, is great in using the Mother/Crone/Maiden symbology underlying standard B-Grade space-opera. Its been out of print for years though, but I find you can get OoP books through a few favourite sites, one such as biblioz.com.au – I received all 9 books 2nd-hand/used in a box set, from some forgotten warehouse in Germany for about $40 Aud.

  11. Duh, Allecto, you could’ve said what the book is about. (am joking here, don’t take it the wrong way)

    I have never heard of Butler, but that may be because I don’t read 😛

  12. Oh I don’t like writing about what books are about, because blurbs never let you know how good books are. It is impossible to summarise books.

    Kindred is about a Black woman from the 20th century who gets pulled back in time by one of her ancestors.

    See it sounds crappy when you say what the book is about.

    You don’t read Mary? Why not? I have to read. I feel terrible and guilty when I stop reading.

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