Temperatures are rising, the environment is suffering, and income inequality is widening. Amidst the confusion, a charismatic politician takes the presidency with the promise to, “Make America great again.”
Sound familiar? The scenario’s not what you think. It’s the premise of Octavia E. Butler’s 1998 speculative novel Parable of the Talents, in which Lauren Olamina, a refugee from a ransacked community in Los Angeles, struggles against climate change, economic exploitation, and religious zealotry to lead a colony of her followers to the stars.
How was Butler so prescient 20 years before the election of the current president? To her, Parable of the Talents and its prequel, Parable of the Sower, were meant to be cautionary tales, not prophecies. She built the world of the Parable novels by following the news and making an educated guess as to how things would pan out if nothing changed. It turns out her guess was startlingly accurate.
Butler was one of the pioneers of Afrofuturism, an art and literary movement that fuses African and African Diaspora culture with science fiction, and she was known for writing stories about women, people of color, and others often relegated to the margins of science fiction. If you’re looking for mind-bending stories that don’t shy away from the problems we face as a society, Butler’s books won’t disappoint. Here are a few to get you started. And if you’re curious about other stellar science fiction writers, we've got those too.