Octavia Event

I was scheduled to speak at an Octavia Butler event at the Pasadena Library, and because of my family time in Santa Barbara, it became impossible to make it. This morning, I realized that the sponsors might reasonably have expected me to write a note to be read to the attendees, and that I’d forgotten to do this. So this morning I wrote this, and hope that, if it is appropriate, it reaches the right hands in time.


I’m so sorry I cannot be with you at this program today.  If I could, I would tell you the single most important thing that Octavia said and believed.  She told me that the single thing that most frightened her about human being…was actually two things.


  1. The tendency of human beings to be hierarchical.
  2. The tendency to consider themselves higher on that hierarchy.


This is responsible for all racism, sexism, and the rape of the natural world.  The answer to all of it is seeing each other’s humanity, deeply and without reservation.   Choosing love over hate, as all our great spiritual leaders and artists have begged us to do, since the beginning of time.


Octavia deeply researched the natural world, saw that the origins of violence are the survival fears that blind us to that love, and she loved us enough to enter an artistic hermitage, a space where she could create some of the greatest fantasies ever spun, filled with pain…and hope.  Fear…and love.


No matter how much darkness she saw, she always chose the light.  No matter how  close to the sun she flew, her wings never melted.


Her books and stories are her wings. It is up to us to fasten them to our own backs, flex our own muscles, reject fear and darkness…and fly high enough above the battle to see that both sides are driven by the fear of extinction, and ultimately, however clumsily or tragically, to create a better world for   grandchildren unborn.  Our ancestors did the best they could with the vision and perspective they had. Because of artists like Octavia, we can see more, and therefore have greater responsibility.

We must forgive our past to embrace our future.

Our artists fly high, Octavia as high as any, and if we lost her too soon, perhaps she took too much of that stress onto her back, too much of our darkness into her heart, or perhaps her time simply ended.


No matter which…if you love her,  honor this  literary angel.


By flying.


And somewhere in the clouds, if we fly high enough, perhaps we’ll meet her again.



Steven Barnes


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