Literary Birthday: Octavia Butler

As a black woman who grew up poor in Pasadena, Octavia Butler (born today in 1947) faced a host of obstacles in her quest to become a bestselling author. Reportedly inspired in her childhood by seeing the B-movie Devil Girl from Mars and thinking she could write better than that, Butler started publishing short fiction in 1971. Her first novel, Patternmaster (1976)—kicking off her series of linked dystopic stories featuring telepathy, African mythology, and eugenics—received strong notices.

While revered by other writers, fame and fortune were still far off. To keep herself going, Butler used affirmations. A 2018 Huntington Library exhibition about her work displayed a notebook on which she had written plans for success (“This is my life. I write bestselling novels”) and what she could do with that success (“I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops”).

One thought on “Literary Birthday: Octavia Butler

  1. I’m glad you make note of these literary birthdays. I just started reading Octavia Butler this year, and I have gone through three of her books. Fantastic stories… details doled out of world-building that give hints of much more depth. She didn’t spend 50 pages describing worlds… she wrapped the details in the story and allowed us readers to let fly our imaginations.

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