Where to Start with Octavia Butler

By NYPL Staff
June 22, 2018

Photograph of Octavia E. Butler seated by her bookcase, 1986, © Patti Perret. Image via The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Garden

Born on June 22, 1947, Octavia Butler was a groundbreaking writer in American letters. The first science fiction writer to ever receive the MacArthur Fellowship, Butler transcended the conventions of her chosen genre, exploring issues of empathy, social normativity, self-destruction, conservation, and tribalism. One of the few women of color publishing in a genre dominated by white men, Butler won the coveted Hugo Award and Nebula Prize twice each for her novella "Bloodchild," her short story "Speech Sounds," and her novel Parable of the Talents, respectively. However, Butler's legacy moves beyond prizes alone. She has been cited as a godmother of Afrofuturism, and Hilton Als has identified Butler as the "dominant artistic force" throughout Beyonce's visual album Lemonade. Most recently, it has been announced that Ava Duverney will adapt Dawn, one of Butler's Xenogenesis books, for television. If you're interested in diving into the work of Octavia Butler, we've got a guide to getting started with this remarkable writer.