Over the many years she spent authoring books, Octavia E. Butler mostly did fiction, more specifically soft-fiction – which includes books that are not based on scientific hard facts and discoveries. In this article, we will explore all the genres and sub-genre which Octavia E. Butler did and the ones that she didn’t do.
The Genres Done by Octavia E. Butler
Writing soft science fiction was pretty much a forte for Octavia E. Butler, and she shined in this tied and had quite the stellar career which spanned over thirty years. Soft sci-fi is described as the branch of science fiction whereby stories not based on scientific facts are written or acted on certain subjects or aspects of humanity, society, or outer space.
Butler was a good storyteller and a creative writer who is able to build her plot from her personal experiences with society and the issues it faced. That’s part of the reason why she always included novels with elements of humanity in her novels such as race and slavery, gender, government, and power grabs. These characteristics are what made her one of the greatest specialists in soft sci-fi.
Writing dystopian fiction was Octavia E. Butler’s favorite thing to do, and the sub-genre was also where she got her big break. Dystopias are stories mostly about a distant chaotic future and tied with an aspect of human interest such as war, famine, disease, poverty, and alien invasion, among other things. Several of Butler’s works, such as Lilith’s Brood are in this category.
Octavia E. Butler also did subscribe to creating novels that could be categorized as space operas. Space opera is a sci-fi sub-genre having one or more of its plot lines taking place in outer space. Butler has several interplanetary books that pass as spade operas, with ‘Amnesty’, a novelette in her Boodchild series, being one of them.
Cyberpunk as a literary sci-fi sub-genre mixes high-end, sophisticated technological innovations with run-of-the-mill innovations. ‘Fledgling’ is one of Octavia E. Butler’s novels that follows the cyberpunk narrative and is based on an advanced scientific breakthrough that is able to turn humans into vampires.
The Genres Not Done by Octavia E. Butler
Hard sci-fi is the opposite of soft sci-fi and deals with stories or books made out of actual scientific discoveries and breakthroughs. Octavia E. Butler didn’t write in this category and quite frankly lacked the background for it – although her legacy with soft sci-fi inspired a team of hard sci-fi writers, including Alan Lightman and Douglas E. Richards.
Literary fantasies are based on such elements as sage wisdom, folklore, myths, voodoo, and magic storylines – and, therefore, not the type of narrative Octavia E. Butler specialized in. Although the author sometimes wrote about the supernatural and spiritual, they hardly pass for a proper work of fantasy. However, one of Butler’s idolizers in Nnedi Okorafor has a whole back catalog in fantasy narratives.
Utopias are at the other end of dystopias, and their stories are futuristic and often depict a perfect world society devoid of sins and crimes and has unmatchable technological innovations and evolutionary traits. Octavia E. Butler’s upbringing and worldview were mostly violent and problematic so it was basically impossible for her creativity to gear towards utopian narratives.
H. G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ serves as a good example of steampunk as the author talks about an actual contraption – apparently steam-powered – that has the ability to transport a person to the past or future through time. So, as a sci-fi sub-genre, steampunk follows a narrative that has advanced innovations – particularly ones powered by steam engines and machines, and those are not part of the talents of the lovely Octavia E. Butler.
What genres did Octavia E. Butler specialize in?
Science fiction was Butler’s main specialty, and the majority of her best works were geared toward that direction.
Why did Octavia E. Butler write more dystopias?
Butler’s life and experiences were filled with troubling issues including those related to racial injustice, gender roles, governments, and climate change – this is why her inspiration translates mostly to dystopias.
How did Octavia E. Butler die, and at what age?
In 2006, at age 58, Butler died from a complicated head injury after reportedly falling in her home in Lake Forest Park.