Sixty four years ago, one of the finest voices in science fiction was born in Pasadena California. Her seminal work may not have the widespread notoriety of some other authors in the same milieu, but one of the biggest and most important names in science fiction, in the minds of Black people at least, is Octavia Butler.
A diagnosed dyslexic, she started writing science fiction at age 12, "to escape loneliness and boredom." She is likely best known for the novel Kindred, and has published 12 novels, a large number of short stories and articles as well. The largest body of her work is the Patternist series, started from her very first novel Patternmaster and including ideas she returned to into the 1980s.
She remained, throughout her career, a self-identified science fiction fan, an insider who rose from within the ranks of the field.
Butler moved to Seattle, Washington, in November 1999. She described herself as "comfortably asocial—a hermit in the middle of Seattle—a pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive." Themes of both racial and sexual ambiguity are apparent throughout her work.
She died outside of her home in Lake Forest Park, Washington, on February 24, 2006, at the age of 58. Contemporary news accounts were inconsistent as to the cause of her death, with some reporting that she suffered a fatal stroke, while others indicated that she died of head injuries after falling and striking her head on her walkway. Another suggestion, backed by Locus magazine (issue 543; Vol.56 No. 4), is that a stroke caused the fall and hence the head injuries.
Taken all too soon, her legacy and her work stand as a testament to talent and determination. In the words of our ancestors, anedge hirak Octavia Butler, and thank you.
[Source: Wikipedia, Savas Abadsidis, photo by Malcolm Ali]