Octavia E. Butler

American science-fiction writer

Octavia Estelle Butler is a multiple award-winning black writer who hailed from Pasadena, California, United States.

Prolific during her days, Octavia E. Butler wrote some of the finest pieces of literary fiction on slavery – with some such as ‘Kindred’ even having a time travel twist to them. A reward for her visual storytelling ability earned her several awards – including the Nebula and Hugo awards.

Life Facts

  • Octavia Estelle Butler was her full birth-given name.
  • Her father was a shoe shiner for a living, while her mother was a freelance maid.
  • The family lived in Pasadena, California.
  • During her early school, her parents discovered she had dyslexia.
  • After high school, Butler enrolled in Pasadena City College – often attending the night class program, as she has taken up several odd jobs to support herself during the day.
  • Her writing career picked up in the late 1970s with her Patternist Series. She moved to Lake Forest Park, Washington, settled, and lived there until her final days.

Interesting Facts

  • Butler was raised by her mother, who worked as a maid for wealthy, often white neighbors – after her father passed away when she was only seven.
  • Growing up, Butler’s family was really poor, and their city was systematically a racist one.
  • She was used to following her mother to work at her employer’s homes and would often sneak into the houses through the back doors unnoticed.
  • She hated being given books to read by her teachers, and when she discovered the library and that she could pick books on her own terms and needs, she fell in love with the place. She once mentioned that the library was like her second home.
  • At the age of nine, Butler saw a 1954 movie and knew from that instant that all she wanted to do with her adult life was to become a science fiction writer.

Famous Books by Octavia E. Butler

For the duration of her literary career – and thus life, Octavia E. Butler wrote so many important books which were very insightful and pioneering for the overall development of the science fiction genre as we know it today. Her books are 15 novels – including a collection of novelettes in the speculative world of science fiction.

Butler’s novels carry her personality in terms of courage and bravery as they typically tackle particular aspects of society – be it issues emanating from race and ethnicity, or those related to climate change and national and global government. Here’s a glimpse of famous books written by Octavia E. Butler.

Kindred’ is regarded as Octavia E. Butler’s best book and follows a complicated mix of sci-fi and horror genres. The book narrates the story of a 26-year-old black woman called Dana and how she travels to and fro through time – from the book’s present-day of 1976 to as far back as the 1800s. Dana finds herself being summoned into the past to save Rufus, her white ancestor, preventing him from being killed and ensuring that her future life is preserved.

Dawn’ is the lead story in Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Lilith’s Brood’ trilogy. The book talks of a woman called Lilith Iyapo who finds herself in a world destroyed by nuclear wars. It’s 250 years of earth’s destruction, and a race of aliens have taken over proceedings rescuing the remnant of men and repairing the earth. With the quest to rebuild humanity near at hand, Lilith is charged with leading human survivors back home.

Bloodchild’ includes one of Octavia E. Butler’s 1995 stories published in a single collection which went on to win the Nebula and Hugo. ‘Bloodchild’ follows a thrilling story about Tilc, a distant planet, where bug-like creatures force human survivors to tend their eggs. ‘Bloodchild’ is such an important short form that helped tilt Butler’s career trajectory early on.

Parable of the Sower’ is the lead story in Butler’s 1995 book series and follows the gripping account of Lauren who loses her family following the heights of social decadence in a futuristic L.A. society. Saddened but inspired by her loss, Lauren, leading a handful of casualties, embarks on a social transformational journey to instill humanity back into humans.

Early Life and Education

Born in the highly racially segregated part of Pasadena, California, to Margaret Guy and James Butler, Octavia E. Butler didn’t have the best experience growing up. From age seven, things became even harder as her father passed away, leaving only her mother to take care of her needs.

Life was tough and racial discrimination made it tougher. To help etch out a living in the littlest way that she can, Butler would often secretly follow her mother to her house help services in the homes of most employers and would usually follow the bleach doors.

Butler struggled through foundational schools, then high school, before enrolling in Pasadena City College, where she attended mostly night classes, often spending her mornings on her writing projects.

Literary Career

Although Octavia E. Butler admitted she had always had a love for reading and writing stories right from a young age as those were what mostly kept her busy and distracted from an unfair world, her real inspiration came from seeing ‘Devil Girl from Mars’, a sci-fi film of 1954. Seeing this film, she thought to herself ‘I can write a better story than that.’

The big break came in 1979 with Octavia E. Butler publishing her Patternist series with ‘Kindred’ getting the spotlight. From here, she stopped doing odd jobs as she now was able to make enough to support herself and her writing career – which was pretty consistent, leading her to win multiple accolades and awards in the years that came.

Literature by Octavia E. Butler

Explore literature by Octavia E. Butler below, created by the team at Book Analysis.