Interesting Facts About Octavia E. Butler: She Was A World Traveler

Octavia Butler (born 1947) is best known as the author of the Patternist series of science fiction novels in which she explores topics traditionally given only cursory treatment in the genre, including sexual identity and racial conflict. Butler’s heroines are black women who are both mentally and physically powerful.
Her writing centered on women of color in a way few narratives then did, and posited that empathy could be humanity’s saving grace. As today’s environmental and human rights crises make painfully clear, Butler’s work is only going to become more relevant and necessary as time goes on.
She was a pioneering African-American female author of science fiction. She broke through at a time when the genre was male-dominated. Best known for her speculative novel Kindred as well as the Patternist series, Butler developed her determination to become a writer at an early age.
Octavia Butler was a trailblazer in the world of science fiction and writing. As a bestselling and award-winning author, Butler has been an inspiration for other women writers and writers of color. Her novels and short stories are known for raising awareness of the complexities and injustices of the human experience, and for offering hope that it can be bettered. Like her legions of dedicated fans, we think she rocks.
She was drawn to science fiction magazines like Amazing Stories, whose contents inspired unlimited possibilities and endless flights of imagination. Here are some lesser-known, interesting facts about Octavia Butler:
1. After her mother’s death, Butler relocated to Lake Forest Park, Washington in 1999. She brought with her 300 boxes of books. They were part of her growing collection that she was gifted by her mother, who brought home the tattered copies from the homes she cleaned.
2. She was bullied. In high school, Butler had then-undiagnosed dyslexia that made school difficult for her, and stood out from her peers due in part to her height—by age 15, she was six feet tall. She sought refuge by spending her free time at the Pasadena Public Library, reading and writing in a big pink notebook.
3. In 1970, at the age of 23, Butler attended the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop at the urging of writer Harlan Ellison. There, she became lifelong friends with sci-fi author Samuel R. Delany. Following her death, The Washington Post said that when Delany first met Butler she was “incredibly shy, a student who spoke only when she had something to say, but someone who obviously had great talent.”
4. Although Butler’s mother wanted her to become a secretary in order to have a steady income, Butler continued to work at a series of temporary jobs. She preferred less demanding work that would allow her to get up at two or three in the morning to write.
Success continued to elude her. She styled her stories after the white-and-male-dominated science fiction she had grown up reading. She enrolled at California State University, Los Angeles, but switched to taking writing courses through UCLA Extension.
5. During her last years, Butler struggled with writer’s block and depression, partly caused by the side effects of medication for high blood pressure. She continued writing and taught at Clarion’s Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop regularly. In 2005, she was inducted into Chicago State University’s International Black Writers Hall of Fame.

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