Octavia E. Butler

Part of the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, Octavia E. Butler is an in-depth and accessible study of the acclaimed and influential author's life and work. Professor Gerry Canavan (The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction) based his research on the enormous archive of her papers at the Huntington Library.

Butler (1947-2006) was an internationally acclaimed author drawn to the "wide open horizon" of science fiction, even though it was a genre dominated by white men when the black teenage girl began selling her stories. She was a devoted and prolific daily writer until her death in 2006, with a dark, pessimistic imagination and a controlled, vivid style. Canavan writes that "her fiction exemplifies the complex insights of the Afrofuturist school of science fiction, which notes... that 'black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.' " Despite her productivity, Butler published only 12 novels and one story collection, in part, Canavan says, because she "was not only a writer but a rewriter and a re-rewriter, and a re-re-rewriter, almost to the point of compulsion." Perfectionistic and intensely self-critical, she explored every avenue of her recurring characters, plot points and themes, keeping everything she wrote but rarely satisfied with any of her versions, including the published ones. With impressive clarity, Canavan traces the intricate networks of Butler's developing ideas across her many works and her private journals and letters. He includes substantial notes, a bibliography, chronology, a decent index and Butler's self-defining 1980 essay, "Lost Races in Science Fiction." This is a biography that will be welcomed by both fans and scholars. --Sara Catterall

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