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Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal/Prison Radio

"Dark Genius: Octavia E. Butler

1947-2006"

Rec. 5-15-06

1) 2:42 Radio essay Mp3

2) 3:42  Radio essay Mp3

3) 4:31  Radio essay Mp3

DARK GENIUS: OCTAVIA E. BUTLER (1947-2006)
========================================
[Col. Writ. 5/13/06] Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

When I first came to prison, a journalist-friend's wife sent me a packet of novels by a writer I never heard of.  The writer was Octavia E. Butler, and the books were titled *Mind of My Mind* (1977), *Kindred* (1979), and *Wild Seed* (1980).

I read them with greedy delight, and the characters, Black body-switching and shape shifting immortals walked through centuries the way we walk through doors, imbedded themselves so deeply in mind that I dreamt of them, for days thereafter: the feral, somewhat cynical Doro, a being who moved from soul to soul, with memories as hoary as the pyramids, and knew everything -- but death; the sensitive, loving Anyanwu, a being who lived first in Nigeria, but shifted shape when survival, or curiosity, demanded it, and who traveled the dreaded Middle Passage from Africa to America -- and lived as man, as woman, as crone, as bird, or dolphin; who tasted life as various entities for 300 years.

From that day to this I've read every book by Octavia E. Butler that I could get my hands on, and never felt anything less than amazement and wonderment at pages end.

Some say Octavia E. Butler was an anomaly in the genre known as science fiction (sci-fi, for short), given her blackness, and her womanness.  And while it made her a living, it's only fair to say that she gave far more to the genre, than it returned.

As a reader of sci-fi since I was a boy, I became quietly troubled by the monochromatic nature of the visions created by writers in the field.  It was almost as if, in crafting ideal futures, those tomorrows were meant to be white.

Octavia E. Butler utterly shattered those visions, and half a dozen more, perhaps forever.

I've never had the pleasure of her presence, but through her books (more than a dozen) and a recent publication of remembrances by friends of hers, I encountered a brilliant writer, and a perceptive critic, not just of imagined times to come, but of our common present.  One of her former students of the Clarion West Writer's Workshop wrote that Butler said much of her work wasn't so much science fiction, as it was "save the world" fiction, but she lamented that too  many people didn't really listen to the messages in her writings.  It's all there: the human (and indeed *in*human!) condition.  Love, hate, greed, arrogance, madness, power-hunger, terror, pain .... how we act toward each other as the aliens known as male and female; as Blacks; as whites, as humans; as extra-terrestrials; as powerful, as powerless; as adults, as children.

I'm told that she rebelled at the label, 'genius', but she was that -- and more.  The MacArthur 'genius' awards apparently thought she was certainly one, and awarded her a grant in 1995.  She won every award that the sci-fi community can bestow, the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus.  She was widely admired by many people who found it difficult to call sci-fi home.  In a LOCUS Magazine obituary to the esteemed writer, she is quoted in a rare instance of self-description as "comfortably asocial -- a hermit in the middle of Seattle -- a pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist always, a Black, a quiet egoist, a former Baptist, and an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive."

A great soul recently passed this way.

Lucky for us, Octavia E. Butler's many books remain among us, as torches to light our way down the dark, unknown corridors of tomorrow.

Octavia Estelle Butler (1947-2006).

Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

[Source: Howle, Leslie, "Octavia E. Butler", *LOCUS: The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field*, [April 2006: Iss. 543], pp. 67-68.]


Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

 

 

[Check out Mumia's latest: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
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The Power of Truth is Final — Free Mumia!

PLEASE CONTACT:
International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
E-mail - AND OFFER YOUR SERVICES!

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370

WE WHO BELIEVE IN FREEDOM CAN *NOT* REST!!

Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa