A Black Woman in Science Fiction

I just wanted to take a moment today and talk about Octavia Butler. Maybe you haven’t heard of her. Here is a picture:

By Nikolas Coukouma – This is the first time this version of the photo has been released by Nikolas Coukouma., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=602976

Octavia Butler was a woman who dared to envision science fiction differently. While most sci fi books, movies, and TV shows don’t have any people of color (or they have an alien race that is pretty clearly meant to be people of color–and they are often the “bad guys”), Butler imagined black folks at the front and center of science fiction. Butler has been described as “a multiple-recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards [and] was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship which is nicknamed the ‘Genius Grant.'”

In a now-famous interview with Charlie Rose, Rose asked Butler, “What then is central to what you want to say about race?” Butler’s response was, “Do I want to say something central about race? Aside from, ‘Hey we’re here!’?” It’s definitely an interview worth watching; about 17 minutes long, parts 1 and 2 can be found on YouTube. Butler describes wanting to see someone who looks like her in the books that she reads, a desire echoed by other writers.

Below, you can find descriptions of some Octavia Butler works. Check her out to support women in science fiction!

A good introduction to Butler is her short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s last novel, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly un-human needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted—and still wants—to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. The trilogy consists of individual books–DawnAdulthood Rites, and Imago–or can be purchased as one book (entitled Lilith’s Brood). Also know as the Xenogensis Series.

The Patternist Series, chronologically, starts with the fourth novel published, Wild Seed. Set in the 17th and 18th centuries, the story involves the relationship between two immortals – Doro, a man born in Africa thousands of years ago, who survives by transferring his consciousness from one body to another (feeding on each new victim’s mental energy in the process), and Anyanwu, a shape-shifter with perfect control over her body. They struggle to live together over generations as Doro attempts to create a new race through a selective breeding program. The Patternist Series includes:

  • Mind of My Mind
  • Patternmaster
  • Survivor
  • Wild Seed
  • Clay’s Ark
  • Seed to Harvest

I’ve read Parable of the Sower, which is book 1 of 2 in the Earthseed timeline. It is set in a futuristic society where people must savage to survive and attempt to live in gated communities to keep out the bad. I read this book before I had Grab the Lapels, though, so I don’t have a review link. I have read and reviewed Kindred, which is a story about time travel, family blood, and race.


  1. What a great introduction to Butler! I will admit, I didn’t know much about her prior to reading this. I guess, what I knew was she wrong Beloved and a few other books which are highly acclaimed. Fledgling sounds AMAZING. I will definitely have to read that.

    What Butler books have you read?


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