IN A MONUMENTAL year of swerves, set-backs and dead-ends, to hold this in my hands feels like a miracle.
This book is the fruit of many, many days, weeks, months and years of requesting boxes, thumbing through files, squinting at looseleaf pages filled with line after line of drafts. Reading. Absorbing.
The Pasadena-born writer, Octavia E. Butler willed her papers to the Huntington Library and shortly after the archive opened in 2016, I accepted a commission from Los Angeles-based arts organization Clockshop to work on a piece that was part of their “Radio Imagination” initiative, a year-long exploration of Butler’s work and legacy. As I was putting the finishing touches on my piece, I thought I was turning the corner of completing my work in the reading room, but instead I stumbled on a quote of hers that took root in my imagination. Butler was often asked: “What is science fiction to you?” An answer she settled on and often repeated was: “Science fiction is a handful of earth, a handful of sky and everything around and in between….” Science fiction allowed her the latitude to create a new reality, a new world, and ground that world, at first glimpse at least, in the familiar.
This quote resonated deeply. Mostly because I’d clocked in so many hours reading though her day-to-day prescriptions for clearing writing hurdles, solving a financial crisis and wrestling shape-shifting fear. Also, I held in my hands the often humble items — her bus pass, her library card, her dime-store notebooks and hand-me-down diaries — she used to achieve miraculous gains in her life
I couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate subject to work with and through during a global pandemic. As I re-read her words about habit, grit and ultimately “bounce” — there was a message for today and the next day.
“A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler” isn’t a biography nor is it an literary analysis, but you see the early paths, influences and obsessions. The book is a focused exploration of those tools and interior maps Butler utilized to create a life that was larger than anyone could have imagined for her.
The book publishes on October 20th and the first online event will be held that evening, hosted by Eso Won Books via Crowdcast. I’m honored to be in in conversation that evening with Ayana A.H. Jamieson who is the founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network
To hold a place, you can register here.
Also you can pre-order here from Angel City Press.