Happy birthday, Octavia Butler (1947-2006)! Her novels, novellas and short stories have won Nebula Awards and Hugo Awards, a MacArthur grant and others. A woman of color writing science fiction in a male and white dominated genre, Butler cannot be matched for her refusal to accept the world as it is.
I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.
Butler grew up during the Space Race when astronauts were heroes. She read science fiction, she wrote science fiction and always she was speculating. What would make humanity a more compassionate, loving species? Maybe it’s the hyper-empathy disorder her protagonist Lauren Olamina has in Parable of the Sower. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s everyone losing the ability to fully communicate from her story “Speech Sounds.”
But maybe the answers to questions about humanity’s tolerance for intolerance can only be answered through writing and reading and speculating on the possibilities. It’s not guaranteed that we’ll ever find answers, but we can follow the mindset of Octavia Butler and celebrate her birthday by writing and reading and never giving up the search.
You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.