Happy 75th Birthday, Octavia E. Butler!

Lauren Kratz, Librarian III, Octavia Lab,
Octavia E. Butler birthday sign on the door of the Octavia Lab
“Writers use everything. We can’t help it. Whatever touches us touches our writing.”—Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler was a science fiction author who had a very close connection to the Los Angeles Public Library and made an impact on our organization, community, and the world that will last forever. She was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, CA, and died of a stroke at the age of 58, in 2006.

During her career Octavia published 12 novels and a book of short stories. She won many science fiction writing awards, including the Hugo and Nebula Awards, as well as a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work in speculative fiction made a profound impact on the genre and will continue to influence authors of diverse backgrounds into the future. The library was an important part of Octavia’s life and in return, she was and continues to be an important part of the library.

Here are three ways to honor Octavia E. Butler’s legacy on what would have been her 75th birthday:

  1. Take a trip to the Octavia Lab, a do-it-yourself studio space here at Central Library!
  2. What would Octavia E. Butler think about what is happening in the world now? Octavia was tuned in to the problems facing our modern world. Her canon of books foretold the future and will continue to do so. Why not try using the following writing prompt and reimagine your future? Prompt: What will be the future of food? Will all food be made in a lab?
  3. We hope Octavia E. Butler would have been proud of all the authors and future writers that she has influenced. Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl, Tananarive Due, and N.K. Jemisin are just a few of the many authors inspired by Butler and her legacy. Check out the book, A Phoenix First Must Burn: a collection of sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

I realize I don’t know very much. None of us knows very much. But we can all learn more. Then we can teach one another. We can stop denying reality or hoping it will go away by magic.—Parable of the Sower

wood carving using 3d tool of Octavia Butler
There are many different tools people can use to work on their projects, including this laser cutting machine
embroidered cover of wild seed
In honor of her birthday and the books she authored, staff at the Octavia Lab have turned the book cover for Wild Seed into a journal using an embroidery machine, laser cutter, and some fine bookbinding work.
a boy using use the green screen to appear on the moon
Children and young adults learned about Octavia E. Butler during the Octavia Lab Open House 75th Birthday Celebration and shown how to use the green screen. NASA has named the landing site of the agency’s Perseverance rover “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” after Octavia.

“Why aren’t there more Science Fiction Black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume, can’t be. What a destructive assumption.”— Octavia E. Butler

Recommended Books About Octavia E. Butler

A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler
George, Lynell

Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler
Zoboi, Ibi Aanu

Octavia E. Butler
Canavan, Gerry

Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler

Speech Sounds
Kell, Alice

Radio Imagination: Octavia E. Butler's Los Angeles [electronic resource]
Caldwell, Ben

Here are some recommendations for reading Butler if you are new to her works. Start with Kindred and then the Parable series. (The Parable of the Sower should give you chills from how prophetic it is in describing a Los Angeles plagued by fires, droughts and designer drugs). If you want to read her life story and her advice to writers, two essays, Furor Scribendi and Positive Obsession, are collected in Bloodchild. Below is the complete works of Bulter in the library's collection.