Octavia Butler R.I.P.
I found out today that Octavia Butler passed away this weekend after falling and hitting her head in front of her Seattle-based home. She was one of my favorite writers because through her use of imagery, wit, and fantasy she totally sparked my imagination-- opening my mind to wonderful, fantastical possibilities of what Black life and history could be. Her stories and ways of thinking were classified as sci-fi, but I'd like to think of them as life for Black folks on the other side of the Matrix—a possible existence in another realm, another chapter of Roots if we just changed our thought processes, bending the spoon if you will. My favorite of her books is Wild Seed because Anyanwu simply blew Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman and all those other superwomen out the water and on top of that she was Black! Needless to say, I was thrilled to no end and read the book in three days, which is super fast for me. I know so many critics like to say she was the best to discuss race and gender in science fiction, but as far as I'm concerned she was one of the best in fiction period. Right up there with Toni Morrison and Amy Tan.
This is what Ms. Butler had to say about writing about women and pain:
The point was to create, in fiction at least, a tolerant, peaceful civilization -- a world in which people were inclined either to accept one another's differences or at least to behave as though they accepted them since any act of resentment they commit would be punished immediately, personally, inevitably. Eventually, though, I chose not to write about such an empathic society. I wrote instead about a single empathic woman who suffered from the delusion that she shared other people's pleasure and pain. She was not a particularly peaceful woman, but she did have to consider the consequences of her behavior more than other undeluded people had to. After all, delusional pain hurts just as much as pain from actual trauma. So what if it's all in your head?
Octavia Estelle Butler was crazy smart and I love her for showing us that in a way that made us not feel less than, but instead made us feel empowered, free and inquisitive.
“Mostly she just loved sitting down and writing,” Seattle-based science fiction writer Greg Bear told AP reporter Gene Johnson. “For being a Black female growing up in Los Angeles in the ‘60s, she was attracted to science fiction for the same reasons I was: It liberated her. She had a far-ranging imagination, and she was a treasure in our community.”