Last week, one of my favorite authors-- Octavia Butler-- died. I recently finished her latest (and sadly, now last) book, Fledgling
, which like so many of her other books managed to be both deeply engaging on a narrative/story-telling level and highly provocative in the questions it raises about identity, difference, and race. While Kindred
may be her most famous book (and its reputation is well-deserved; her exploration of slavery, responsibility, guilt, and love is truly haunting), I think my favorite book of hers is the first I read: Dawn
, the beginning of her xenogenesis trilogy. I can't think of any work of science fiction that better captures (or, rather, mines) the utter alienness of aliens (as well as confronting issues of colonialism, environmental destruction, etc.) One danger in trying to describe Butler's work is that it can sometimes sound just like message-stories, good-for-you reading about key social problems. While she would be notable if this was her sole contribution-- bringing issues of race, gender, identity, colonialism, to the forefront of science fiction to an unprecedented degree-- her legacy for the genre extends much further. For, at the same time as dealing with these issues-- and as a part of dealing with these issues-- she was always a powerful and compelling storyteller who created memorable and complicated characters.
But others can say it far better than I can. Some links via Locus Online
Octavia E. Butler died Friday evening, February 24th, after falling and striking her head on a walkway outside her home. She was 58 years old. One of the few prominent African-American SF writers, she won 2 Hugos and 2 Nebulas during her career, including a Nebula for her 1998 novel Parable of the Talents. She was awarded a MacArthur Foundation 'genius grant' in 1995.
» Initial report from Steven Barnes
» SFWA News
» Wikipedia entry
» Obituaries: Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Seattle Times; Chicago Tribune; USA Today
• Correction 27 Feb: Butler died on the 24th, not the 25th
» Boing Boing post by Cory Doctorow
» Tribute by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
» The SF Museum in Seattle will host a Octavia Butler Memorial Gathering on Thursday, March 2nd at 7:30 p.m., with Greg Bear, Eileen Gunn, Vonda N. McIntyre, and others.
» KGB Bar in New York City is hosting an informal gathering this Friday, March 3rd, in memory of Octavia Butler (details).
» Long Los Angeles Times obit
» Washington Post profile
» 1 March: New York Times obituary
» 2 March: John Clute's Independent obituary
» Slate: Tyler Cowen's obit/tribute Octavia Butler: The outsider who changed science fiction
» Cleveland.com tribute by Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs
» LA Weekly's Sister from Another Planet by Jervey Tervalon » 3 March: LA Times's appreciation by Susan Salter Reynolds
» NPR's 1993 interview with Butler
» 7 March: Dragon Page podcasts this recent Octavia Butler interview
» Village Voice tribute by Dream Hampton