This month celebrates Octavia Butler’s life and legacy. I find myself pulled into numerous discussions on the subject, although I’m not a scholar of her work: she was my friend, my big sister, my neighbor, my colleague. Sigh. It is good to see people finally recognizing what we had walking among us, but also just a little sad. TELL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE THAT YOU LOVE THEM WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE will you please???
Octavia was a hard-SF writer who was driven by questions about sexuality, gender relations, race relations, human violence, and our misuse of the environment. “Who are we?” and “What is true?” To me, although she certainly had politics, she was far far more philosophical, genuinely wondering if humanity had what it would take to survive, given our hierarchical and egotistical tendencies. And…her massive research into realms biological suggested to me that she was searching the natural world for answers. Were we animals? And if so, were our flaws outgrowths of our survival traits? Or our destructive traits? Or something else?
Hard, hard questions, and very few writers have gone as deeply into these questions, let alone written of them with grace and power. She was one of a kind.
Tananarive and I visited with her as often as possible, and for years Octavia and I lived walking distance from each other, and frequently got together for dinner, lunch, and conversation. She didn’t drive, and I often took her to speaking engagements so that she’d not have to take the bus.
This Friday, we’re going to discuss her life and legacy, art and craft, politics and philosophy in our ongoing exploration of how the inner and outer worlds of the artist combine to create genius. This Friday, 6pm pst on Lifewriting