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Watch: L.A. Times Book Club explores the many worlds of Octavia E. Butler

This month, the L.A. Times Book Club is exploring the prolific writing and enduring legacy of science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler.

Watch journalist Lynell George, author of “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky,” and Times reporter Julia Wick discuss Butler’s work. The virtual book talk was livestreamed on The Times Facebook Page, YouTube and Twitter. Due to the generosity of Butler’s estate and literary agent, the Times

Whether you’re a longtime reader or just discovering Butler’s novels, here are five things to know about her work.

Southern California libraries helped shape Butler’s writing. She called the library her second home and wrote her first novel, “Patternmaster,” at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. Here’s a map exploring of her literary life.

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Butler said the novels in her “Parable” series were meant to be cautionary. Her 1993 “Parable of the Sower” envisioned a Los Angeles ravaged by climate change and economic injustice, where people are just scraping by to survive. Butler’s prescient work has surged in popularity, landing on both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller lists this fall.

Journalist Lynell George, author of "A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky," and Times reporter Julia Wick
The L.A. Times Book Club explored the prolific writing and enduring legacy of science fiction writer Octavia E. Butlerwith journalist Lynell George, author of “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky,” and Times reporter Julia Wick discussing Butler’s work at 7 p.m. PT Nov. 18.
(Los Angeles Times)

She began creating stories as a girl growing up in Pasadena. “Writing, for her, was never a part-time endeavor, even when she was forced to press it into the corners of her study time or her day-job schedule,” George writes in this book excerpt. “She had gravitated toward science fiction as a genre because it lifted the ceiling and dissolved the walls. “

Her path to publishing was hard. Butler worked at many jobs, including telemarketer, potato chip inspector and dishwasher, while trying to sell her writing. She went on to publish 12 novels and became the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “genius” grant.

Expect to hear more about Octavia E. Butler. Two TV series are in the works, based on her novels “Wild Seed,” from Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, and “Dawn,” from Victoria Mahony and Ava DuVernay. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, which is home to Butler’s archives, announced a new fellowship in the author’s honor.

L.A. Times Book Club explores the many worlds of science fiction writer author Octavia E. Butler.


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