From Beyonce to Black Mirror, the influence of Octavia Butler's dystopian sci-fi is everywhere in current pop culture. In the midst of government shut downs where threats of nuclear warfare make regular headlines and the the president of the United States seems more like a racist villain in a TV show than a qualified leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world, apocalyptic worlds seem palpable than ever. In times like these, we need a guidebook more than ever and Butler's novels could be just that.
Butler who is known as the "godmother of Afrofuturism" has six books and a graphic novel adaptation in our collection. Two of her novels from The Parable Series would be a great place to get started: Parable of the Sower and then Parable of the Talents, detail a community's struggle to survive the downfall of 21st century America due to neglect of environmental sustainability, capitalistic excess, and class warfare. Bloodchild is a compilation of her earlier stories, while Kindred, and Dawn, were also written earlier in her career. Fledgling is the last novel published by Butler the year she passed.
Beyond Butler's novels, her ideas aroung self-motivation have also been a recent topic of conversation on the Internet. Especially since there was an exhibition of her papers last summer the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, where her archive lives. A particular image of a page of affirmations (pictured above) written on the inside cover of a notebook has circulated widely on Tumblrs and Instagrams for years. This image shows Butler's attempts to imagine a future into being, and these attempts were successful. In an essay about the exhibit in the Summer 2017 issue of Art Papers, Natalie Russel assistant curator of literary collections at Huntington, said Butler's "self-motivation may be understood as a response to her own self-doubt, to which she applied her interest in the mind, utilizing concepts of self-hypnosis to make things true or mantras to improve self-esteem" and that "she believed persistence and effort, rather than pure imagination or waiting for the 'muse' were the key elements to success as a writer."
As art students, it's always a good time to study advice from creative giants. And who better to cull sage advice from than a writer who predicted many aspects of our current political situation down to the president's exact campaign slogan. Below are the books written by Octavia Butler in our collection, but don't worry we're ordering more in the meantime.
(click on titles for links to the catalog.)
Bloodchild and Other Stories, 1996
Parable of the Sower, 2000
Parable of the Talents, 2007
Octavia E. Butler's Kindred / a graphic novel adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, 2017