“Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyze yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.” – Octavia Butler
Born on this date in 1947, Butler was a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards for her science fiction writing. And in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur foundation award.
The daughter of a housemaid and shoeshine man, she also was one of the first – if not the first – African-American SciFi writers and definitely the first female African-American in the field. A shy child who avoided socializing whenever possible, she immersed herself in reading and got hooked on fairy tales and horse stories before gravitating to popular SciFi magazines such as Amazing Stories. “No one was going to stop me from writing and no one had to really guide me towards science fiction,” she said. “It was natural, really, that I would take that interest.”
By age 12 she was formulating ideas for stories that would work themselves into a series that in the 1970s became known as her Patternist tales: Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, and Survivor. They were followed by a string of successful short stories and novellas before she cemented her place in writing history with the two-book series Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, earning the prestigious MacArthur in the process.
“You don't start out writing good stuff,” Butler said shortly before her early death from a stroke (at age 58). “You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits for any writer is persistence.”