Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

(Democracy Now! on YouTube)

"As Democracy Now! marks 25 years on the air, we are revisiting some of the best and most impactful moments from the program’s history, including one of the last television interviews given by the visionary Black science-fiction writer Octavia Butler. She spoke to Democracy Now! in November 2005, just three months before she died on February 24, 2006, at age 58. Butler was the first Black woman to win Hugo and Nebula awards for science-fiction writing and the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. Her best-known books include the classics “Kindred,” as well as “Parable of the Sower” and “Parable of the Talents” — two-thirds of a trilogy that was never finished. Her work inspired a new generation of Black science-fiction writers, and she has been called “the Mother of Afrofuturism.” Her 2005 interview with Democracy Now! took place shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and as President George W. Bush was overseeing the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When asked how she set out to become a science-fiction writer when there were so few examples of Black women working in the genre, Butler said she never doubted her abilities. “I assumed that I could do it,” she said. “I wasn’t being brave or even thoughtful. I wanted it. And I assumed I could have it."
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I've always been an avid reader of science fiction. Like any creative endeavor, individual examples belong on a spectrum somewhere between awful and sublime. Yet taken as a whole, across that spectrum, the motivation of the genre, what might better be thought of as "speculative fiction," is not imagining what is or was, but what might be. Yet in order to meaningfully look ahead, it helps to know some history and to pay attention to current events.

Based on over a half century of observations, I must sadly conclude that not enough people have read and understood SF. I've a feeling it's time to place your bets on the post-apocalyptic depicters, not because they were right, but because we didn't listen to them.