Thursday, March 02, 2006

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER 1947 - 2006

OCTAVIA BUTLER

A lot has and will be written about Octavia E. Butler, the science fiction writer, who died this week--but not nearly enough. I do not normally read in her genre, but the pure originality of genius deserves to be read wherever it is found. Rather than speak about her, I will let her speak for herself as she did in life, with an eloquence which we can only pray is not prophetic.

This from her 1998 futuristic novel, PARABLE OF THE TALENTS set in the year 2032:

I have read that the period of upheaval that journalists have begun to refer to as "the Apolalypse" or more commonly, more bitterly, "the Pox" lasted from 2015 through 2030--a decade and a half of chaos. This is untrue. The Pox has been a much longer torment. It began well before 2015, perhaps even before the turn of the millennium. It has not ended.

I have also read that the Pox was caused by accidentially coinciding climatic, economic and sociological crises. It would be more honest to say that the Pox was caused by our own refusal to deal with obvious problems in those areas. We caused the problems: then we sat and watched as they grew into crises...I have watched as convenience, profit and inertia excused greater and more dangerous environmental degradation. I have watched poverty, hunger, and disease become inevitable for more and more people. Overall, the Pox has had the effect of an installment-plan World War III.

14 comments:

rdl said...

Oh my!

Patry Francis said...

I suppose it sounds pretty dire out of context, though if you read the novel (or its predecessor The Parable of the Sower, the vision is far darker.)

Lorna said...

I love the sf genre for the very reason that you cite this author. They make us look at the acceptable ordinary with new respect.

irina said...

doesn' sound SF at all to me! I mean everything she says is already happening (the poverty, the hunger, the inertia, the World War III, everything...). It's sad that she is right.
Which reminds me of Jules Verne, he also wrote what we call SF stories, but evetually what he wrote about was invented years after that.

Patry Francis said...

lorna: what a terrific way of describing it.

irina: I think that was what drew me to it. Maybe there is also a challenge there--can we turn back? Can we change?

Fred Garber said...

After reading your post and an online obit I have decided to read some of Octavia's books. What should I start with?

Patry Francis said...

fred: The friend who introduced me to her work thinks that "Kindred" is her best. I've ordered it, but not read it yet so can't say. I'd start with Parable of the Sower since it's the first in the series.

lorna: still thinking about your comment, and wondering if some sf is not a kind of vision. Where else would it come from?

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I love the words "acceptable ordinary" together. I'm not an SF fan, but this post, Patry, may actually change that. The excerpt is incredibly chilling, and doesn't sound SF at all. Front-page news.

Laini Taylor said...

wow, I've never read her. I'll have to check that out. Fairly frequently a sick and horrid feeling steals over me, a kind of certainty, that that situation is NOT fantasy -- it's on the way. I hope not, but... you know, sci-fi writers have predicted a lot of stuff that came true. In the case, like irina mentions, of Jules Verne, I think the sci fi writers didn't predict so much as give the tech-types the ideas of what to create. They were the dreamers, and the engineers grew up reading them and made their dreams reality. Self-fulfilling prophecy. But the doom of the planet is more a matter of sickening observation.

Patry Francis said...

r.d.: perhaps a little too chilling for my happy blog, but this, and several more detailed paragraphs that followed it, struck me so viscerally. Thanks for being there.

laini: I know that sick and horrid feeling you describe all too well. I try not to make my home in it, but I don't think it's wise to entirely block it out either.

Anonymous said...

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