Author Topic: Octavia E. Butler  (Read 10809 times)

Demeter

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Octavia E. Butler
« on: March 22, 2008, 12:57:13 pm »
Octavia Butler is one of the best speculative fiction writers ever.

Her last (sadly, truly last) book is called Fledgling and is a very interesting take on vampires.  The heroine's youngest brother even happens to be named Stefan (yes, he's a vampire too, but they don't call themselves that)  I know she intended this to be the first in a series, and it is really tragic that Butler died an untimely death shortly after it was published.  I am trying to find out if she shared her ideas with any other writer who might be willing to try to take up the story and finish it for her. It could never be the same as what she would have written, but it would be wonderful to know what she planned for the characters introduced in this first book. If she had notes, or (hope!) a draft, there could be another book, but I suspect not.

Here's a link to an author site with more information about her and her books: http://www.sfwa.org/members/butler/

The first book of hers that I read was Wild Seed - phenomenal!  It has been republished, and bound together with others in the series as Seed to Harvest.  It is about a (seemingly) immortal woman who can shapeshift.

Her Xenogenesis trilogy is also excellent.  Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago.  The three have also been recently republished and bound together as one book called Xenogenesis. [Edit - actually, the newly published version is called Lilith's Brood I won't try to link to Amazon, since it did weird things with the last link!] This is a very imaginative post-apocalyptic story where some aliens, who just happen to be in the neighborhood, see Earth in its last dying gasp.  They do what they can to save us... of course there is a lot of life that's just gone, so the new Earth that is reborn (healed) is not the same...

Her books do not have any guarantee of happy endings, and because she is often looking at possible futures based on what is going on now, they are usually quite dark,  but you can tell that she had a core of love and hope in her heart, and she explores humanity with an honest and fresh perspective.

An amazing woman who blazed a trail for women and African-Americans in the world of science fiction.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2008, 01:14:02 pm by Demeter »
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Gerd D.

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2008, 05:06:55 pm »
Hot damn, I haven't seen the name of her mentioned since the seventies.
I'm afraid her books weren't very popular around here, as they don't seem to have been reprinted at any point (much less newer ones of her translated).
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Demeter

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2008, 06:17:17 pm »
Are you in Germany? Probably takes a certain level of popularity before works get translated...

At least you can read the original English version, although the cost of international shipping from Amazon takes a lot away from the book fund :(   Some of her stuff is definitely worth it!

(And you've read Howl's Moving Castle - I really enjoyed that!)
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e_booklover

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2008, 05:14:54 am »
My mom was lucky enough to meet her at one of the huge book fairs they hold in Los Angeles several years back.  It was a very sad day :( when I heard that she had passed.  It doesn't matter how many times I re-read them, her books always make me think about the potential underlying messages and how the Happily Ever After ending can mean something a lot different then riding away into the sunset.

Demeter

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2008, 08:14:35 am »
Amen, Booklover!

I loved the way that the Xeno trilogy ended (with the Ooloi)  Not a Man Triumphs Over Nature, but something very new...  I loved the Ooloi :)

The Wild Seed books were also very good... but she also had some very dark visions.  They were touching though because they were so grounded in reality.  I do think she also had some core of hope...
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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2008, 09:18:36 am »
Demeter,
Have you read her Parable of series?  For some reason I still need to get the last book, (or just buy the omnibus).  I think I kept expecting to see it at my Mom's and she hid it from me.  I do agree that all of her books left you with the feeling that things could/would get better even though better might not mean going back to the status quo.

Demeter

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2008, 09:30:56 am »
Yes, I've read her Parable series (or at least, most of it)  I've read Parable of the Sower as well as another book that took place in the same world... I thought Clay's Ark was part of it, but upon reading, it didn't quite seem to fit.  Sometimes it's difficult figuring out which books take place in the same world.  The Omnibus seems good because then you know for sure they all belong together :)

Have you read any of her short stories?  Bloodchild was fascinating.  The whole collection was good, but the short story entitled Bloodchild was excellent.  Totally creeped out my stepmother and she could not continue reading any other stories.  That was one where - to me - it did feel like a happy ending, even though it was not the sort of thing most people would want... but wrote the characters in such a way that you really started liking this insect person and wanted her to be able to have children.
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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2008, 10:16:59 am »
I had to go back and look at my books but Clay's Ark is actually part of the Wild Seed set.  It goes Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay's Ark and then Patternmaster.  I didn't realized they went together until I read Patternmaster shortly after I read Clay's Ark.  If you get "Seed to Harvest" it contains the four I just mentioned. 

Her short stories are great.  For some reason I kept hoping that she would write more set in the Bloodchild world.  Just like you I ended up l liking the insect person even though I didn't want to.  What did you think of Speech Sounds?  Her short story where different people have lost different ways to communicate i.e. speech, writing, hearing...? 

If you go to a used bookstore and you see one by her called Xenogenesis it is the earlier collection of her Ooloi ones, contains the same stories as Lilith's Brood. 

I think the only other one I haven't read that I have found in normal bookstores was Kindred.  I am sure it is good I just haven't been able to bring myself to sit down and read it because of the storyline.

Demeter

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2008, 12:20:26 pm »

I've heard that Kindred is very good, but I haven't read it yet either.

I did read Speech Sounds, but it was so long ago (probably 10 years!) that I only have the vaguest impression of confusion related to it.  I read all of the short stories published with Bloodchild, but they made varying impressions on me.  Bloodchild was definitely my favorite, and I remember it very well. I actually read it several times.

Wild Seed was the first book of hers that I read, and I absolutely loved it. I know I read Mind of My Mind and Clay's Ark, but I honestly can't remember if I've read PatternMaster or not. (Isn't that terrible?) I read all of them long after I read Wild Seed, which I actually followed up with the Xenogenesis trilogy, although I read that out of order.  I can't remember if it's the 2nd or 3rd book, but it was Adulthood Rites, with the Ooloi/human hybrid (the third sex 'boy').  Maybe I'm getting too excessive in my praise, but Adulthood Rites was also just fantastic and really struck me.  It was fascinating to think of a resolution where our future as 'humanity' involves such fundamental change in who and what we are, and how we view ourselves.  Reading the whole trilogy made a lot of other stuff make more sense, and was still thoroughly enjoyable, even knowing so much of what would happen.

Have you read her last book? Fledgling?  Also very good, and I was stunned when I got to the end (thinking the entire time that I would get to read more about these characters someday) to see that Butler had passed away.  Somehow I missed her obituary entirely.  It was shortly after my daughter was born and I think I was just so focused (and overwhelmed) by my immediate world, that I paid very little attention to what was going on outside.
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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2008, 11:54:30 am »
That funny :) .  Sometimes I wish all books in any series had something on the cover to tell you what series it was in and which number because I read them all out of order too.  I think I read Imago (the 3d one) first.  Then sometime later I found Wild Seed on my mom's bookshelf.  Then I read Dawn, then Mind of my Mind and finally realized that I was readiing two different stores.  I think I found Speech Sounds actually in one of Asimov's Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines.  So both my Mom and I started trying to hunt down the rest of her books.  I think out of the Xenogenesis trilogy Adulthood Rites was the last one I found.  You are correct.  I learned more and still enjoyed the books throughly when I read them in the order they were designed to follow.

I also read Fledgling and thought it was a really interesting take on Vampires.  I was extremely interested in seeing how she would manage to finish that world.  I don't think her obituary received a lot of attention.  I think I found out when I went into a used bookstore and they had it posted.  Hope your daughter is doing well.


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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2008, 05:13:11 am »
Hooray!!!  I just found out that my mother, wonderful person that she is, actually shelled out the big bucks to get a copy of Survivor.  It is the first book Ms Butler published and is out of print.  I can't wait to go home and read it!  2 months...I can make it that long really I can...  ;)

Linnea

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Re: Octavia E. Butler
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2008, 09:32:34 pm »
***SPOILER***

Oooh, I read Parable of the Sower and its sequel, though I can't remember its name.  But I sure remember the story.  I read it in one shot shortly after the birth of my first child, and it was so realistic and heartbreaking, I could not put it down.  The idea of the government taking away your children because your beliefs are different and you not being able to find them...then your family finding your kids but not telling you because they don't like your beliefs either...terrifying, especially because things like that happen. 

It just hit too close to home for me.  My first child was so new, and I had caught alot of grief from the people around me for wanting a home birth.  People told me I was crazy, stupid, unfit, etc.  Excuse me for not wanting my parts ogled and manhandled!  When my second child was born, my husband ended up catching the baby anyways because none of the midwives/nurses got to my room on time even though I'd been there for hours.  That goes to show - healthy women CAN have babies just fine and being at the hospital does not mean you'll get healthcare.  Sorry I ended up lost on a tangent there...can you tell I'm still irritated about the whole thing?  What I was trying to say was that I have made choices that are unpopular, but that I believe are right, so it's terrifying to imagine someone thinking they have the right to take my children away.

I think that book traumatized me for life.  It was that good.

~Linnea

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