June 23rd, 2008

Jason sepia

happy birthday, octavia butler

photo by Leslie HowleNnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is kind enough to remind us that yesterday would have been Octavia Butler's 61st birthday.

In remembrance of Butler, following her sudden passing in 2006, Seven Stories Press (who published her collection Bloodchild and Other Stories, as well as a few of her other books) asked if they could reprint what I had written about her, for their academic catalogue:

Her fiction has been incredibly important not only in our field, but in the overall world of letters, and it greatly saddened me to recently hear that she had died. Her work explored issues of race, gender, religion, and sexuality in brave and straightforward ways, and many people feel that she had several books left to write.

A good way to remember Butler is to keep reading her fiction, so please do yourself a favor and seek it out at your local library or favorite bookshop. My personal favorites are Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Kindred; these are a good place to start.

The Carl Brandon Society currently administers the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded each year to a writer of color who wants to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Butler got her start (as, incidentally, did I).

And vivian2112 passed the following info along to me back in April, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it:

Call for Papers

Octavia Butler, 1947-2006

"I don't like most utopia stories because I don't believe them for a moment. It seems inevitable that my utopia would be someone else's hell." (Butler, in response to her short story "The Book of Martha")

The characters in Octavia Butler's novels and short stories are often faced with circumstances that are quite hellish. Further, the dystopian leanings of her work might imply that her rejection of utopia is as complete as the quotation above suggests. And yet Butler's work is deeply informed by utopian impulses.

This special issue of Utopian Studies will celebrate the breadth and depth of Butler's work and her constant questioning of human potential. We invite previously unpublished papers that address utopian and dystopian themes in any of Butler's work. We welcome analyses from multiple disciplines and theoretical approaches. Comparative essays and reminiscences that engage the utopian and dystopian themes in Butler's work will also be considered.

Deadline for completed papers, August 1, 2008.

Inquiries and papers to either Claire Curtis (CurtisC@cofc.edu) or Toby Widdicombe (afrtw@uaa.alaska.edu).

Toby Widdicombe, Ph.D
Professor, Department of English
Editor, "Utopian Studies"
University of Alaska Anchorage
3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508
907.786.4377 (voice)
907.786.4383 (fax)