Octavia Butler is one of my most treasured authors. Her work is astounding. More than anyone in the past few decades, she took up the mantle of the literary scifi authors of the 1960s and ’70s—Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Harlan Ellison, et al.
Like them, Butler’s work transcends boundaries and achieves a level of artistry and power that’s rare. She’s an irreducibly important author. Her legacy is one to be treasured and honored.
Butler got her start attending the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, where she established connections with Ellison and Delany. Her love of the genre, her mastery of its standard tools and tropes, is obvious in her work.
The writing of Butler, Le Guin, Delany, Ellison, et al, proves that SF can be as fully mature and artful as any other genre of literature. All of these authors refused to be tied down to just SF—they all wrote stories that crossed genres. In doing so, they demonstrated the extraordinary power of SF to accommodate tremendous scope.
Butler’s work, along with Delany and Le Guin, in particular, opened my eyes to very different experiences and perspectives than I had known before. As a kid who grew up reading SF almost exclusively, they were a part of my entrée into the worlds of civil rights, feminism, and LGBT issues. They showed that SF can encompass the paradigms of people from all walks of life.
Speculative fiction—whether science fiction, fantasy, or horror—can span far more depth and breadth than most people realize. It can be an extraordinary form of storytelling.
SF can be transcendent.