A Short Biography of Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California. She has lived in the Los Angeles area all her life, and attended Pasadena City College, California State University at Los Angeles, and University of California at Los Angeles.

Butler is a life-long book lover who started writing stories when she was a young teenager. She attended the 1970 Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, and since then has been a free-lance writer, published in magazines and anthologies such as Clarion, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and Future Life.

In 1976, she published her first novel, Patternmaster, a story of rival telepaths, vying for control of the Pattern, the powerful linking of a specially-bred group of telepathic minds. This soon lead to the Patternist series, which includes Mind of My Mind (1977), Survivor (1978), and Wild Seed (1980). Also included in this series, but not involving the Patternists in particular, is Clay's Ark (1984), which tells the story of a group of people affected by an alien disease.

In 1979, she wrote the novel Kindred, which her publisher marketed as mainstream fiction, even though it had a time-travel theme. In the book, the main character, a black woman named Dana, travels back in time to a plantation in the antebellum South, where she must ensure that a white plantation owner lives to father her great-grandmother, thereby ensuring her own birth.

In 1984, Butler won the Hugo for her short story "Speech Sounds". In 1985, she won three of science fiction's top awards--the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award--for her novella "Bloodchild". "Speech Sounds" is the story of a Los Angeles of the future, where a disease has caused the entire population to lose one aspect of their communication skills. "Bloodchild" tells of a far future, where human males bear the children of an insect-like alien race.

After this success, Butler began writing the "Xenogenesis" trilogy--Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989). This series explores the interrelationships between gender, race, and culture through an alien race named the Oankali. This Oankali are on an intergalactic quest is to study the genetic structure of Earth humans via interbreeding. Earth has been wiped out by a nuclear holocaust, and the Oankali give the few humans they saved a second chance, through creating a new race with them. What makes the Oankali especially interesting is their sheer alien-ness, from the descriptions of their tentacled faces to the fact that they have three sexes - male, female, and ooloi.

In 1995, Butler was awarded a MacArthur Fellows Award, commonly referred to "the genius grant". The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation rewards creative people who push the boundaries of their fields. This award came shortly after the publication of her most recent novel, Parable of the Sower (1994), generally considered her best work yet. Also in 1995, she released Bloodchild and Other Stories, a collection of her short stories and essays, which included the two award-winning stories.

Parable of the Talents, the much anticpated sequel to Parable of the Sower, will be published in late 1998.

Biography compiled by Kate Bolin from various sources.

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