OCTAVIA IS everywhere.
Last Saturday, I was driving back across town after a book group conversation in Venice with the writer Dana Johnson. Our topic was Butler’s writing life. Minutes after I said my goodbyes and pulled away, I stopped at red light I looked up to see aa huge billboard advertising the new Kindred limited series, based on her 1979 novel, which premieres 12/13/2022 on Hulu.
Really, she is everywhere.
This has been a big year for Butler and her vision. I’ve been back in the archives at the Huntington Library researching and crafting new pieces. It’s been good to be immersed again. Even better to hear about people learning more about the writer, her work and her importance.
I”m often asked what is the most interesting or surprising thing I found in the Octavia E. Butler archive. That’s tough to answer. There is so much there that reveals, surprises or amuses—down to the briefest grocery list or research marginalia. Every time I open a notebook or open an old letter, she points me toward something new.
I loved the questions that came up about her during our book group conversation. So many engaged readers. We spoke a lot about how she worked so hard to keep her dreams in focus and dug deep inside to find her strength to persevere when the signals she received offered only contrary messages.
She kept going. Crafting her narratives while at the same time crafting her life.
I wish she were here to see all that her work continues to inspire.
Here’s a little roundup of links to some of the pieces I put together this year about Butler’s world, that help to illuminate the early years and the inspiration she found to keep going:
At the beginning of the year, I worked on this walking map of Butler’s Altadena/Pasadena for the Huntington Library.
In May, for L.A. Parent magazine, I wrote an essay and put together a bullet-point tour of Butler’s life here in Southern California, called, Octavia’s Footsteps.
And, last month, The New York Times‘ published a package, The Visions of Octavia Butler, that I’d been working on along with their Narrative Projects Team for many months. A wonderful experience, working collaboratively with this team—he early brainstorming so very essential to creating an experience—a world. The artist Ainslee Alem Robson not only ushered readers through Butler’s past, but also allowed us to travel through her imagination and into her imagined futures.
I hope you enjoy wandering through these portals into Octavia’s worlds.