Who is Octavia E. Butler, the woman honored in today's Google Doodle?
Today, June 22nd, 2018, Google honored science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler with her own Doodle, but who is Octavia E. Butler? Butler is a black feminist science fiction writer who triumphed in a genre crowded by white male voices. Though she passed in 2006, today would have been her 71st birthday.
“Octavia E. Butler’s legacy calls to mind the age old question of whether life imitates art, or vice versa,” Google wrote in her tribute. “Today’s Doodle honors the author’s immense contribution to the genre of science fiction, including the diverse worlds and characters she brought to life.”
Butler once described herself to the Los Angeles Times as “comfortably asocial,” and Google also noted that her mild dyslexia and social anxiety pushed her towards the library, which is where she “discovered her love for science fiction. When her mother bought her a typewriter at the age of ten, Butler also discovered her passion and talent for writing.”
Her novel’s protagonists are always young women of color, and she’s a pioneer in the Afrofuturism space, creating sci-fi and dystopian worlds where black characters are featured front and center. Butler’s novel Kindred tells the story of a modern black woman who is transported through time back to the Antebellum South. The Lilith’s Brood trilogy follows Lilith Iyapo, one of Earth’s lone survivors, who is plucked by an alien race and forced to repopulate post-apocalyptic Earth with human/alien mutants. Ava DuVernay is actually adapting book one — Dawn — in the Lilith’s Brood trilogy as a television series, which is shockingly the first screen adaptation for the prolific author.
Google also mentioned in its tribute that she was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, in 1995, plus she’s received multiple Hugo and Nebula awards.
However, she struggled against institutionalized racism because her work explored “themes of Black injustice, global warming, women’s rights and political disparity [that] were not in commercial demand.” The bio on her Facebook author page also notes that interest in her books garnered a greater appreciation after her death in 2006.
Bravo to Google for highlighting a visionary author, whose groundbreaking work was lightyears ahead of its time.