Acclaimed science fiction writer died Sunday from injuries suffered after a fall.

*Author Octavia E. Butler, renown as the first African American woman to receive notoriety as a science fiction writer, died Sunday at her home in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park. She was 58.

Butler fell and hit her head on the walkway outside of her house, where her body was found Friday (Feb 24) according to Leslie Howle, a longtime friend and employee at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. Butler, who moved to Seattle in 1999 from her native Southern California, suffered from high blood pressure and heart trouble and could only take a few steps before having to stop and catch her breath, Howle told the Associated Press.

The reclusive Butler, who referred to herself as “a happy hermit,”was the first science fiction writer granted a ‘genius’ award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which paid the author $295,000 over five years beginning in 1995. The windfall carried Butler out of years of poverty and personal battles with shyness and self-confidence. 

Butler was 10-years-old when she began writing, inspired by a cheesy B-movie called ‘Devil Girl from Mars.’ After the screening, she thought, ‘I can write a better story than that.’ In 1970, she boarded a bus from her hometown of Pasadena, Calif., to attend a fantasy writers workshop in East Lansing, Mich. 

Butler’s work wasn’t did not consist of the stereotypical robots and ray guns associated with science fiction, Howle said. She employed traditional devices of the genre to explore race, poverty, politics, religion and human nature. 

Her first novel, ‘Kindred,’ followed a black woman who traveled back in time to the South to save a white man. Butler’s attempt to find a publisher for the book was a struggle, as publishers repeatedly rejected the manuscript. The time-travel novel that saw a black woman from 1976 Southern California transported back to the days of slavery didn’t seem to fit the science fiction mold followed by publishers.  However, Butler kept submitting the novel, and finally landed a publisher who paid her a $5,000 advance for the work. 

Published in 1979, “Kindred” became a popular staple of school and college courses and now has more than a quarter million copies in print.  Butler went on to write about a dozen books, plus numerous essays and short stories. Her most recent work, ‘Fledgling,’ an examination of the ‘Dracula’ legend, was published last fall. 

‘She stands alone for what she did,’ Howle told the Associated Press. ‘She was such a beacon and a light in that way.’


Posted by loni on 02/28 at 09:39 AM in News

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