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Monday, February 20, 2017
Octavia Butler was one of the most famous Black women to ever write science fiction. That is a huge accomplishment considering that even now science fiction writing is still a white male dominated field.
Octavia was born an only child in Pasadena, California in 1947. Her father died when she was seven so her mother and grandmother raised her.
Her mother was a poorly educated housekeeper and she didn't want her daughter to be like her. She would bring home books and magazines that her employer would throw away and she would give them to Octavia to read.
Octavia was an extremely shy child so reading and writing because her passion. She spent a lot of time in the library and developed a fascination with science fiction.
When she was in elementary school Octavia begged her mother for a typewriter and her mother brought her one because she knew writing was becoming more than just a hobby.
She graduated from Pasadena City College in 1968 and worked a lot of odd jobs in order to set aside time to write.
In 1971 she sold some stories that were featured in two science fiction anthology books.By 1978 she was making a living by writing and in 1984 she won the Hugo award, the highest award given to a science fiction writer.
By the 1990’s she was already established in her field & in 1995 won the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award which came with $295,00.00. She was the first science fiction writer to ever win the award.
Unfortunately her mother died in 1999. Her mother was always supportive of her work and made huge sacrifices along the way. Octavia decided to move to Lake Forest Park, Washington.
During the last few years of her life Octavia suffered from depression and writer’s block, partially due to high blood pressure medication.
Octavia died outside her home on February 24, 2006. She was 58. That same year a scholarship was established in her honor.
I first learned about Octavia back in the early 1990’s. I went to the library and saw a science fiction book with a Black woman on the cover. I never saw or read a science fiction book that only not featured a Black woman on the cover but the main character was a Black woman, and the author was Black! The book was called Dawn, published in 1987. I liked the book so I also read another book by Octavia called Kindred published in 1979.
I encourage you to read one of her short stories or one of her books even if you don’t read science fiction. You won’t be disappointed!