This Day in Black History: Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler is Born

From the African American Registry

Octavia Estelle Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on this date in 1947. She was an African-American writer and the first African-American woman to gain popularity and critical acclaim as a major science fiction writer.

She was born in Pasadena, CA, the only living child that her mother was able to carry to term out of five pregnancies. Her father’s name was Laurice and her mother was Octavia M. (Guy) Butler. Her father was a shoeshine man and died when Butler was very young. She and her mother lived in a very racially mixed neighborhood, where she heard many stories from her mother and grandmother. Butler was very shy in school, a daydreamer, and that made school very difficult–as did her dyslexia, which she overcame.

Butler has won several awards for her writing. In 1984, she won a Hugo Award for her short story, “Speech Sounds.” In 1985, she won another Hugo for her novella “Bloodchild.” “Bloodchild” also won the 1984 Nebula Award. Other science fiction writers and fans decide on the Hugo and Nebula Awards.  Butler’s “Patternists Series,” published between 1976 and 1984, tell of a society that is run by a specially bred group of telepaths. This series includes the books “Patternmaster,” “Mind of My Mind,” “Survivor,” “Wild Seed,” and “Clay’s Ark.” n 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant. Butler has been well received by the critics.