A FEW MONTHS back, I posted a note about being poised to go down a rabbit hole.
I didn’t realize how true that was going to be.
I apologize for the radio silence, but I’ve been working on “Radio Imagination.”
Since the beginning of this year, along with my other usual reporting, writing and city wandering, I’ve been doing weekly research at the Huntington Library, preparing for a big project for Clockshop, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit art organization. Clockshop’s founder, filmmaker Julia Meltzer approached me, and several other writers, artists, academics, to discuss an idea that she’d been fleshing out for sometime.
Octavia E. Butler: from Octavia E. Butler Papers, from The Huntington Library
Parable of the Sower & Talents Notebook Cover: from Octavia E. Butler Papers, from The Huntington Library
Page from a commonplace book: from Octavia E. Butler Papers, from The Huntington Library
Her plan was to create a year-long series of events, spanning the city all dedicated to the legacy and impact of San Gabriel Valley-based, science fiction writer, Octavia E. Butler. Going in, I only knew the boldfaced details about Butler and her work, but I was tasked with creating a “posthumous interview.” Though I wasn’t quite sure what that would look or sound like, I liked the places it allowed my brain to go.
A few weeks into the Octavia E. Butler archive at the Huntington Library, I knew it would become less and less clear before it would find focus. She had a big, busy life and there were many possible paths to travel — I just had to trust the process.
I’ve never quite been inside someone’s head the way in which Butler has allowed us to be in hers. She was a avid and honest chronicler of her life — her work, her surroundings, her worries, her triumphs and disasters. Moving through pages of journals, letters, commonplace books, mimics the effect of her whispering to herself as she goes about her tasks. We’re eavesdropping on process, the roundabout road in building narratives — both on the page and in life. Tomorrow four writers, Robin Coste Lewis, Tisa Bryant, Fred Moten and I — will premiere new pieces inspired by our time in the archives, listening to Octavia spin stories about life on so many different planes.
I can’t express what a gift this experience has been.
We are sold out (!) for tomorrow night’s event at Clockshop, but if you want to try to fly standby, those waiting will be admitted if ticket holders do not show. A podcast of the event will be forthcoming so stay tuned.