Octavia Butler (1947-2006) spent the majority of her prolific career as the only major black female author of science fiction. Winner of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards as well as a MacArthur "genius" grant, the first for a science fiction writer, Butler created worlds that challenged notions of race, sex, gender, and humanity. Whether in the postapocalyptic future of the Parable stories, in the human inability to assimilate change and difference in the Xenogenesis books, or in the destructive sense of superiority in the Patternist series, Butler held up a mirror, reflecting what is beautiful, corrupt, worthwhile, and damning about the world we inhabit. In interviews ranging from 1980 until just before her sudden death in 2006, Conversations with Octavia Butler reveals a writer very much aware of herself as the "rare bird" of science fiction even as she shows frustration with the constant question,"How does it feel to be the only one?" Whether discussing humanity's biological imperatives or the difference between science fiction and fantasy or the plight of the working poor in America, Butler emerges in these interviews as funny, intelligent, complicated, and intensely original.
Author: Gerry Canavan
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Release Date: 2016-11-01
Genre: Literary Criticism
I began writing about power because I had so little, Octavia E. Butler once said. Butler's life as an African American woman--an alien in American society and among science fiction writers--informed the powerful works that earned her an ardent readership and acclaim both inside and outside science fiction. Gerry Canavan offers a critical and holistic consideration of Butler's career. Drawing on Butler's personal papers, Canavan tracks the false starts, abandoned drafts, tireless rewrites, and real-life obstacles that fed Butler's frustrations and launched her triumphs. Canavan departs from other studies to approach Butler first and foremost as a science fiction writer working within, responding to, and reacting against the genre's particular canon. The result is an illuminating study of how an essential SF figure shaped themes, unconventional ideas, and an unflagging creative urge into brilliant works of fiction.
Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler: Slaves, Aliens, and Vampires is a timely text that critically situates Butler's fiction in several fields of study including American, African-American, gender, and science fiction studies. This book attempts to avoid excluding as many readers as possible by evading esoteric jargon while still engaging the interdisciplinary discourses that respond to Butler's fiction. The study asserts that Butler's fiction transforms the way the body is imagined with reference to race and gender. This text examines how Butler's fiction is able to cross several genre boundaries while simultaneously reshaping the genre of science fiction. This book makes the claim that Butler's fiction is crucial for contemporary and future investigations of identity formation. Discussions of race, class, and sex are reoccurring topic that are inextricable to any understanding of body politics and theory. This book is filled with exciting and insightful discussions that raise questions about what constitutes humanity in Butler's fiction and in the real world. Ultimately, the purpose of the text is to add to the scholarship surrounding Butler and to bring her to the attention of audiences that might otherwise overlook her work. This book is an invitation for readers inside and outside of the academy to discover the fiction of Octavia Butler.
Author: Esther L. Jones
Release Date: 2016-04-29
Genre: Literary Criticism
Speculative fiction often shows the complicated and rather fraught history of medicine as it relates to black women. Through prominent writers like Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor, and Nalo Hopkinson, Jones highlights how personal experiences of illness and disease frequently reflect larger societal sicknesses in connection to race and gender.
Author: Maria Holmgren Troy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2016-05-16
Genre: Literary Criticism
Making home explores the figure of the orphan child in a broad selection of contemporary US novels by popular and critically acclaimed authors Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Safran Foer, John Irving, Kaye Gibbons, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez and Toni Morrison. The orphan child is a continuous presence in US literature, not only in children's books and nineteenth-century texts, but also in a variety of genres of contemporary fiction for adults. Making home examines the meanings of this figure in the contexts of American literary history, social history and ideologies of family, race and nation. It argues that contemporary orphan characters function as links to literary history and national mythologies, even as they may also serve to critique the limits of literary history, as well as the limits of familial and national belonging.
Author: Isiah Lavender III
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi
Release Date: 2014-09-25
Genre: Social Science
Black and Brown Planets embarks on a timely exploration of the American obsession with color in its look at the sometimes contrary intersections of politics and race in science fiction. The contributors, including De Witt D. Kilgore, Edward James, Lisa Yaszek, and Marleen S. Barr, among others, explore science fiction worlds of possibility (literature, television, and film), lifting blacks, Latin Americans, and indigenous peoples out from the background of this historically white genre. This collection considers the role of race and ethnicity in our visions of the future. The first section emphasizes the political elements of black identity portrayed in science fiction from black America to the vast reaches of interstellar space framed by racial history. In the next section, analysis of indigenous science fiction addresses the effects of colonization, helps discard the emotional and psychological baggage carried from its impact, and recovers ancestral traditions in order to adapt in a post-Native-apocalyptic world. Likewise, this section explores the affinity between science fiction and subjectivity in Latin American cultures from the role of science and industrialization to the effects of being in and moving between two cultures. By infusing more color in this otherwise monochrome genre, Black and Brown Planets imagines alternate racial galaxies with viable political futures in which people of color determine human destiny.
A History of the African American Novel offers an in-depth overview of the development of the novel and its major genres. In the first part of this book, Valerie Babb examines the evolution of the novel from the 1850s to the present, showing how the concept of black identity has transformed along with the art form. The second part of this History explores the prominent genres of African American novels, such as neoslave narratives, detective fiction, and speculative fiction, and considers how each one reflects changing understandings of blackness. This book builds on other literary histories by including early black print culture, African American graphic novels, pulp fiction, and the history of adaptation of black novels to film. By placing novels in conversation with other documents - early black newspapers and magazines, film, and authorial correspondence - A History of the African American Novel brings many voices to the table to broaden interpretations of the novel's development.
A Study Guide for Octavia Butler's "Parable of the Sower," excerpted from Gale's acclaimed Novels for Students. This concise study guide includes plot summary; character analysis; author biography; study questions; historical context; suggestions for further reading; and much more. For any literature project, trust Novels for Students for all of your research needs.
Author: Jennifer A. Williamson
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Release Date: 2013-12-15
Genre: Literary Criticism
Today’s critical establishment assumes that sentimentalism is an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary mode that all but disappeared by the twentieth century. In this book, Jennifer Williamson argues that sentimentalism is alive and well in the modern era. By examining working-class literature that adopts the rhetoric of “feeling right” in order to promote a proletarian or humanist ideology as well as neo-slave narratives that wrestle with the legacy of slavery and cultural definitions of African American families, she explores the ways contemporary authors engage with familiar sentimental clichés and ideals. Williamson covers new ground by examining authors who are not generally read for their sentimental narrative practices, considering the proletarian novels of Grace Lumpkin, Josephine Johnson, and John Steinbeck alongside neo-slave narratives written by Margaret Walker, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. Through careful close readings, Williamson argues that the appropriation of sentimental modes enables both sympathetic thought and systemic action in the proletarian and neo-slave novels under discussion. She contrasts appropriations that facilitate such cultural work with those that do not, including Kathryn Stockett’s novel and film The Help. The book outlines how sentimentalism remains a viable and important means of promoting social justice while simultaneously recognizing and exploring how sentimentality can further white privilege. Sentimentalism is not only alive in the twentieth century. It is a flourishing rhetorical practice among a range of twentieth-century authors who use sentimental tactics in order to appeal to their readers about a range of social justice issues. This book demonstrates that at stake in their appeals is who is inside and outside of the American family and nation.
Author: Kristen Lillvis
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Release Date: 2017-09-01
Genre: Literary Criticism
Posthuman Blackness and the Black Female Imagination examines the future-oriented visions of black subjectivity in works by contemporary black women writers, filmmakers, and musicians, including Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Julie Dash, and Janelle Monáe. In this innovative study, Kristen Lillvis supplements historically situated conceptions of blackness with imaginative projections of black futures. This theoretical approach allows her to acknowledge the importance of history without positing a purely historical origin for black identities. The authors considered in this book set their stories in the past yet use their characters, particularly women characters, to show how the potential inherent in the future can inspire black authority and resistance. Lillvis introduces the term “posthuman blackness” to describe the empowered subjectivities black women and men develop through their simultaneous existence within past, present, and future temporalities. This project draws on posthuman theory—an area of study that examines the disrupted unities between biology and technology, the self and the outer world, and, most important for this project, history and potentiality—in its readings of a variety of imaginative works, including works of historical fiction such as Gayl Jones’s Corregidora and Morrison’s Beloved. Reading neo–slave narratives through posthuman theory reveals black identity and culture as temporally flexible, based in the potential of what is to come and the history of what has occurred.
"This book is an exploration of how the relationship of evangelicals to the arts has been portrayed in fiction for the last century. The author argues that evangelicals are consistently seen as enemies of the arts by non-evangelical writers"--Provided by publisher.
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
This book focuses on the interplay of gender, race, and their representation in American science fiction, from the nineteenth-century through to the twenty-first, and across a number of forms including literature and film. Haslam explores the reasons why SF provides such a rich medium for both the preservation of and challenges to dominant mythologies of gender and race. Defining SF linguistically and culturally, the study argues that this mode is not only able to illuminate the cultural and social histories of gender and race, but so too can it intervene in those histories, and highlight the ruptures present within them. The volume moves between material history and the linguistic nature of SF fantasies, from the specifics of race and gender at different points in American history to larger analyses of the socio-cultural functions of such identity categories. SF has already become central to discussions of humanity in the global capitalist age, and is increasingly the focus of feminist and critical race studies; in combining these earlier approaches, this book goes further, to demonstrate why SF must become central to our discussions of identity writ large, of the possibilities and failings of the human —past, present, and future. Focusing on the interplay of whiteness and its various 'others' in relation to competing gender constructs, chapters analyze works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary E. Bradley Lane, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Philip Francis Nowlan, George S. Schuyler and the Wachowskis, Frank Herbert, William Gibson, and Octavia Butler. Academics and students interested in the study of Science Fiction, American literature and culture, and Whiteness Studies, as well as those engaged in critical gender and race studies, will find this volume invaluable.