Octavia Butler

American science fiction writer (1947-2006)
(Redirected from Octavia E. Butler)

Octavia E. Butler (June 22, 1947February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction writer, one of the very few African-American women in the field.

Octavia Butler in 2005


  • There is a vast and terrible sibling rivalry going within the human family as we satisfy our desires for territory, dominance, and exclusivity. How strange: In our ongoing eagerness to create aliens, we express our need for them, and we express our deep fear of being alone in a universe that cares no more for us than it does for stones or suns or any other fragments of itself. And yet we are unable to get along with those aliens who are closest to us, those aliens who are of course ourselves. All the more need then to create more cooperative aliens, supernatural beings or intelligences from the stars. Sometimes we just need someone to talk to, someone we can trust to listen and care, someone who knows us as we really are and as we rarely get to know one another, someone whose whole agenda is us. Like children, we do still need great and powerful parent figures and we need invisible friends. What is adult behavior after all but modified, disguised, excused childhood behavior? The more educated, the more sophisticated, the more thoughtful we are, the more able we are to conceal the child within us. No matter. The child persists and it's lonely.
    • "The Monophobic Response" (1995), anthologized in Dark Matter by Sheree Thomas (2000)
  • I don't write about good and evil with this enormous dichotomy. I write about people.
  • I began writing the book with the thought that maybe what we needed was the biological conscience. It does seem to me that there are too many people in this world who would just as soon wipe out half their country if they could rule the other half.
  • I want to write about what's going to happen if we keep doing what we've been doing, if we keep recklessly endangering the environment, if we keep paying no attention to economic realities, if we keep paying no attention to educational needs, if we keep doing a lot of the things that are hurting us now. And that's what I wound up writing about. And everything else just kind of fell into it, fell into place.
  • I did not read any Langston Hughes until I was an adult, but I remember being carried away by him and Gwendolyn Brooks. When I was growing up, the only blacks you came across in school were slaves-who were always well treated-and later, when we got to individuals, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Booker T. Washington started a college, and Carver did something with peanuts; we never knew what. We did not read anything by a black writer except [James Weldon] Johnson's The Creation, and that was in high school. We managed to get through adolescence without being introduced to any black culture.
    • 1996 interview in Conversations with Octavia Butler (2009)
  • When I began writing science fiction, when I began reading, heck, I wasn't in any of this stuff I read. The only black people you found were occasional characters or characters who were so feeble-witted that they couldn't manage anything, any way. I wrote myself in, since I'm me and I'm here and I'm writing.
    • in New York Times (2000). Attributed in Conversations with Octavia Butler (2009)
  • I was in classes sometimes where I was the only Black person and tend to either get ignored or get petted on the head a lot. Neither is in the slightest useful so I was eager to get away from that and Harlan was not interested in doing either.
  • Obviously in some places you will meet with some nastiness, but it isn't general. The only place I was ever called "nigger," had someone scream nigger at me in public, was in Boston, for goodness sakes. It wasn't a person going to a conference, it was just a stranger who happened to see me standing, waiting for a traffic light.
  • My favorite collection of slave narratives was a nineteen-volume set called The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography. It was assembled in the 1930s by the Writer's Project [of the Works Progress Administration], and these people interviewed the slaves who were left, the very last ones. It was depressing reading not only because bad things happened to slaves, but because slavery could become so pedestrian when you read enough of it, so ordinary. I remember someone telling me that they'd read the Harriet Jacobs narrative, and they said it was mild compared to other slave narratives. And, horribly enough, it was, but that doesn't make her any less a slave. It wasn't something you'd want to undergo.
  • Everything is political in one way or another.
  • I think the most interesting thing about looking back now at the 1950s is how familiar things would be...We can do a lot of things faster, bigger, higher, that sort of thing, but they're essentially the same things. We're talking on the telephone. Now of course we could be going on computers, but even so we would be typing and looking at a screen and in those days we had typing and we had screens. We're connected. The cars might look different but they're still internal combustion engine cars for the most part. All the things that we thought, the flying cars, and buildings a mile high...The nonsense, I like to call it. The things that would make our era un-recognizable are mainly the social things. Imagine going back to the fifties and explaining that we're now discussing homosexual marriage. In the fifties, you didn't even hear the word homosexual, let alone that they might get married. I mean, black and white was illegal, forget two people of the same sex. And it was still OK to lynch people in different parts of our country. It was still OK to expect people to be openly racist in all parts of our country. Interesting how that goes in and out of fashion.
  • I know a lot of people are where I was several years ago, when I was getting started with writing, wondering how they might get started as writers. And I have this little litany of things they can do. And the first one, of course, is to write-every day, no excuses. It's so easy to make excuses. Even professional writers have days when they'd rather clean the toilet than do the writing. Second, read every day. Read voraciously and omnivorously, whatever's out there. You never know what's gonna grab you. Third, for people who aren't doing it already, take classes-they're worthwhile. Workshops or classes-a workshop is where you do actually get feedback on your work, not just something where you go and sit for a day. A workshop is a way of renting an audience, and making sure you're communicating what you think you're communicating. It's so easy as a young writer to think you're been very clear when in fact you haven't. Those are some of the suggestions I give to my young writers.
  • ("Are there social movements that you identify with or are inspired by?") OB: Not terribly. Not in the sense of joining something. I'm with the ABB-"Anybody But Bush"-movement right now [winter 2003]. For the first time in my life I was sending campaign donations to a political candidate-Dean, as a matter of fact, before he fell out. There are a lot of things that I care about, and I mention some of them with relation to the two Parable books. I belong to a lot of environmentalist organizations. I really feel that it's important we stop playing games, and the idea that we're somehow going to improve the forests by having people go in and chop down the most valuable trees is just obscene, and the idea that we are going to lose environmental legislation for clean air and clean water that earlier groups worked really hard for is obscene. I mean we're doing such unutterably stupid things that I can't not pay attention to it. Then there are things like war and peace, of course. I found the war [in Iraq] to be totally unnecessary, and I said so before we got into it. We're going down a lot of wrong paths. The books are warnings, they're "If this goes on..." novels. Nobody really needed warning, everybody could see that we're sliding in the wrong directions, especially with regard to things like global warming. But nothing is being done, at least on the part of our national government.
All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Seed to Harvest published by Grand Central Publishing
  • I can’t do it, Joachim. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. A long leash is still a leash. And Coransee will still be at the other end of it, holding on.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 689)
  • “I’ll tell you,” she said softly. “But you won’t like it.”
    He looked away from her. “I asked for the truth. Whether I like it or not, I have to know.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 717)
All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Seed to Harvest published by Grand Central Publishing
  • He showed me his fantastic library first, and that helped me warm to him a little. A guy with a room like that in his house couldn’t be all bad.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 288)
  • A pet. In pets, free will was tolerated only as long as the pet owner found it amusing.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 344)
All page numbers from the trade paperback published by Beacon Press (Bluestreak)
  • Margaret Weylin complained because she couldn’t find anything to complain about.
    • Chapter 3, “The Fall” section 5 (p. 81).
  • “He’s a fair man.”
    I looked at him, startled.
    “I said fair,” he repeated. “Not likable.”
    I kept quiet. His father wasn’t the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.
    • Chapter 4, “The Fight” section 6 (p. 134).
  • He didn’t look all right to me. “Has anyone gone for the doctor?”
    “Marse Tom don’t hardly get Doc West for ague. He says all the doc knows is bleeding and blistering and purging and puking and making folks sicker than they was to start.”
    • Chapter 5, “The Storm” section 3 (p. 202).
  • Some of his neighbors found out what I was doing and offered him fatherly advice. It was dangerous to educate slaves, they warned. Education made blacks dissatisfied with slavery. It spoiled them for field work. The Methodist minister said it made them disobedient, made them want more than the Lord intended them to have.
    • Chapter 5, “The Storm” section 13 (pp. 236-37).
  • I got up to leave. There was nothing more to be said. He had asked for what he knew I could not give, and I had refused.
    • Chapter 6, “The Rope” section 4 (p. 257).
All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Seed to Harvest published by Grand Central Publishing
  • Sometimes, one must become a master to avoid becoming a slave.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 11)
  • She was too alert, too alive not to have the kind of mind that probed and reached and got her into trouble now and then.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 18)
  • She glanced at him. “What gods do you respect?”
    “And why not?”
    “I help myself,” he said.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 20)
  • He was surprised when I ignored him. He is wealthy and arrogant and used to being listened to even when what he says is nonsense—as it often is.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 25)
  • “What were they saying?” Daly asked.
    “They disapprove of your profession,” Doro told him.
    “Heathen savages,” Daly muttered. “They’re like animals. They’re all cannibals.”
    “These aren’t,” Doro said, “though some of the their neighbors are.”
    “All of them,” Daly insisted. “Just give them the chance.”
    Doro smiled. “Well, no doubt the missionaries will reach them eventually and teach them to practice only symbolic cannibalism.”
    Daly jumped. He considered himself a pious man in spite of his work. “You shouldn’t say such things,” he whispered. “Not even you are beyond the reach of God.”
    “Spare me your mythology,” Doro said, “and your righteous indignation.” Daly had been Doro’s man too long to be pampered in such matters. “At least we cannibals are honest about what we do,” Doro continued. “We don’t pretend as your slavers do to be acting for the benefit of our victims’ souls. We don’t tell ourselves we’ve caught them to teach them civilized religion.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 42)
  • Short-lived people, people who could die, did not know what enemies loneliness and boredom could be.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 100)
  • “What will they do when they have only the herbs” he asked her.
    “Live or die as best they can,” she said. “Everything truly alive dies sooner or later.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 247)
All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Seed to Harvest published by Grand Central Publishing
  • “You’re bright,” Lupe said to her softly. “Very bright, but stubborn. You think you can choose your realities. You can’t.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 522)
  • “It was an old passion,” he said. “I haven’t touched a violin for months. I didn’t know what that would be like.”
    “What is it like?” she asked.
    He began to walk so that she almost missed his answer. “An amputation,” he whispered.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 533)
  • They had clearly feared turn-of-the-century irrationality—religious overzealousness on one side, destructive hedonism on the other, with both heated by ideological intolerance and corporate greed.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 583)
  • So he had locked her in the closet. Some of his people, ignorant and fearful, could not quite believe her illness was not contagious. Badger locked her away from them for her own safety. She had seen for herself how eager they were to get her out of their sight.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 609)

Dawn (1987)

All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Lilith's Brood published by Grand Central Publishing
  • “Yes,” he said, “intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter. A cancer growing in someone’s body will go on growing in spite of denial. And a complex combination of genes that work together to make you intelligent as well as hierarchical will still handicap you whether you acknowledge it or not.”
    • Part I “Womb” chapter 5 (p. 39)
  • Lilith might be strong enough now to handle troublemakers herself, but she did not want to do that unless she had to. It would not help the people become a community, and if they could not unite, nothing else they did would matter.
    • Part III “Nursery” chapter 1 (p. 126)
  • “I don’t understand why the sight of you should scare me so,” Joseph said. He did not sound frightened. “You don’t look that threatening. Just...very different.”
    “Different is threatening to most species,” Nikanj answered. “Different is dangerous. It might kill you. That was true to your animal ancestors and your nearest animal relatives. And it’s true for you.”
    • Part III “Nursery” chapter 12 (p. 186)
  • She found more gratification in teaching one willing student than a dozen resentful ones.
    • Part IV “The Training Floor” chapter 9 (p. 242)
All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Lilith's Brood published by Grand Central Publishing
  • “Human beings fear difference,” Lilith had told him once. “Oankali crave difference. Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status. Oankali seek difference and collect it. They need it to keep themselves from stagnation and overspecialization. If you don’t understand this, you will. You’ll probably find both tendencies surfacing in your own behavior.” And she had put her hand on his hair. “When you feel a conflict, try to go the Oankali way. Embrace difference.”
    • Part II “Phoenix” chapter 4 (p. 329)
  • “I didn’t want to scare you. We don’t want to scare anyone.”
    “No? Well, sometimes it’s a good thing to scare people. Sometimes fear is all that will keep them from doing stupid things.”
    • Part II “Phoenix” chapter 15 (p. 381)
  • If you don’t care about my people, why should I care about yours?
    • Part II “Phoenix” chapter 15 (p. 383)
  • He thought about that for a moment, wondered what he should say. The truth or nothing. The truth.
    • Part IV “Home” chapter 5 (p. 501)
  • “Yori, Human purpose isn’t what you say it is or what I say it is. It’s what your biology says it is—what your genes say it is.”
    • Part IV “Home” chapter 5 (p. 501)
All page numbers from the trade paperback omnibus Lilith's Brood published by Grand Central Publishing
  • I might not have believed this if a Human had said it. Humans said one thing with their bodies and another with their mouths and everybody had to spend time and energy figuring out what they really meant.
    • Chapter I, “Metamorphosis” section 4 (p. 548)
  • Life was treasure. The only treasure.
    • Chapter I, “Metamorphosis” section 6 (p. 564)
  • Helpless lust and unreasoning anxiety were just part of growing up.
    • Chapter II, “Exile” section 9 (p. 649)
  • Tomas stopped and looked at the three Oankali. “Do you believe in spirits?”
    “We believe in life,” Ahajas said.
    Life after death?”
    Ahajas smoothed her tentacles briefly in agreement. “When I’m dead,” she said, “I will nourish other life.”
    “But I mean—”
    “If I died on a lifeless world, a world that could sustain some form of life if it were tenacious enough, organelles within each cell of my body would survive and evolve. In perhaps a thousand million years, that world would be as full of life as this one.”
    “...it would?”
    “Yes. Our ancestors have seeded a great many barren worlds that way. Nothing is more tenacious than the life we are made of. A world of life from apparent death, from dissolution. That’s what we believe in.”
    “Nothing more?”
    Ahajas became smooth enough with amusement to reflect firelight. “No, Lelka. Nothing more.”
    • Chapter II, “Exile” section 12 (pp. 662-663)
  • Humans were genetically inclined to be intolerant of difference. They could overcome the inclination, but it was a reality of the Human conflict that they often did not.
    • Chapter III, “Imago” section 7 (p. 710)
All page numbers from the trade paperback published by Grand Central Publishing.
All quotes in bold are in bold in the novel, and are excerpts from Earthseed: The Books of the Living, a fictitious book, written by the protagonist, which plays a major role in the novel. Versification is as in the original.
  • All that you touch
    You Change.

    All that you Change
    Changes you.

    The only lasting truth
    Is Change.

    Is Change.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 3)
  • A lot of people seem to believe in a big-daddy-God or a big-cop-God or a big-king-God. They believe in a kind of superperson. A few believe God is another word for nature. And nature turns out to mean just about anything they happen not to understand or feel in control of.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 15)
  • People here in the neighborhood are saying she had no business going to Mars, anyway. All that money wasted on another crazy space trip when so many people here on earth can’t afford water, food, or shelter
    • (p. 17)
  • Dad decided not to vote for Donner after all. He didn’t vote for anyone. He said politicians turned his stomach.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 27)
  • Intelligence is ongoing, individual adaptability. Adaptations that an intelligent species may make in a single generation, other species make over many generations of selective breeding and selective dying. Yet intelligence is demanding. If it is misdirected by accident or by intent, it can foster its own orgies of breeding and dying.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 29)
  • A victim of God may,
    Through learning adaption,
    Become a partner of God,
    A victim of God may,
    Through forethought and planning,
    Become a shaper of God.
    Or a victim of God may,
    Through shortsightedness and fear,
    Remain God’s victim,
    God’s plaything,
    God’s prey.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • Sometimes I write to keep from going crazy. There’s a world of things I don’t feel free to talk to anyone about.
    • (p. 52)
  • People have changed the climate of the world. Now they’re waiting for the old days to come back’
    • (p. 57)
  • I realize I don’t know very much. None of us knows very much. But we can all learn more. Then we can teach one another. We can stop denying reality or hoping it will go away by magic.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 58)
  • It’s better to teach people than to scare them, Lauren. If you scare them and nothing happens, they lose their fear, and you lose some of your authority with them.
    • (p. 65)
  • A tree
    Cannot grow
    In its parents’ shadows.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 82)
  • The Destiny of Earthseed
    Is to take root among the stars.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 84)
  • All struggles
    Are essentially
    Power struggles.
    Who will rule,
    Who will lead,
    Who will define,
    Who will dominate.
    All struggles
    Are essentially
    Power struggles,
    And most
    are no more intellectual
    than two rams
    knocking their heads together.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 94)
  • Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 101)
  • If everyone could feel everyone else’s pain, who would torture?
    • (p. 115)
  • “When it comes to strangers with guns,” I told her, “I think suspicion is more likely to keep you alive than trust.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 122)
  • Freedom is dangerous, Cory, but it’s precious, too. You can’t just throw it away or let it slip away. You can’t sell it for bread and pottage.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 122)
  • The only way to prove to yourself that you have power is to use it
    • (p. 143)
  • There’s no narcotic like exhaustion.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 200)
  • “Your God doesn’t care about you at all,” Travis said.
    “All the more reason to care about myself and others.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 221)
  • “From what I’ve read,” I said to him, “the world goes crazy every three or four decades. The trick is to survive until it goes sane again.”
    • Chapter 19 (p. 229)
  • You tend to resent people you’re afraid of.
    • (p. 291)
  • I wonder what a badge is, other than a license to steal.
    • (p. 316)
  • Who knows what we humans have that others might be willing to take in trade for a livable space on a world not our own.
    • Bloodchild
  • They can create something beautiful, useful, even something worthless. But they create. They don't destroy.
    • The Evening and the Morning and the Night
  • “Don’t you know everything?”
    God smiled. “No, I outgrew that trick long ago. You can’t imagine how boring it was.”
    • The Book of Martha
  • You're truly free for the first time. What could be more difficult than that?
    • The Book of Martha
All page numbers from the trade paperback published by Warner Aspect Books.
All quotes in bold are in bold in the novel, and are excerpts from Earthseed: The Books of the Living, a fictitious book, written by the protagonist, which plays a major role in the novel. Versification is as in the original.
  • Consider—
    We are born
    Not with purpose,
    But with potential.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 1)
  • We give our dead
    To the orchards
    And the groves.
    We give our dead
    To life.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 5)
  • Overall, the Pox has had the effect of an installment-plan World War III. In fact, there were several small, bloody shooting wars going on around the world during the Pox. These were stupid affairs—wastes of life and treasure. They were fought, ostensibly, to defend against vicious foreign enemies. All too often, they were actually fought because inadequate leaders did not know what else to do. Such leaders knew that they could depend on fear, suspicion, hatred, need, and greed to arouse patriotic support for war.
    Amid all this, somehow, the United States of America suffered a major, nonmilitary defeat. It lost no important war, yet it did not survive the Pox. Perhaps it simply lost sight of what it once intended to be, then blundered aimlessly until it exhausted itself.
    • Chapter 1 (pp. 8-9)
  • Life is getting better, but that won’t stop a war if politicians and business people decide it’s to their advantage to have one.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 90)
  • Choose your leaders
    with wisdom and forethought.
    To be led by a coward
    is to be controlled
    by all that the coward fears.
    To be led by a fool
    is to be led
    by the opportunists
    who control the fool.
    To be led by a thief
    is to offer up
    your most precious treasures
    to be stolen.
    To be led by a liar
    is to ask
    to be lied to.
    To be led by a tyrant
    is to sell yourself
    and those you love
    into slavery.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 201)
  • Beware:
    Protects itself
    Promotes suspicion.
    Engenders fear.
    Fear quails,
    Irrational and blind,
    Or fear looms,
    Defiant and closed.
    Blind, closed,
    Suspicious, afraid,
    Protects itself,
    And protected,
    Ignorance grows.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 225)
  • When vision fails
    Direction is lost.

    When direction is lost
    Purpose may be forgotten.

    When purpose if forgotten
    Emotion rules alone.

    When emotion rules alone,
    • Chapter 13 (p. 239)
  • Now I have been raped.
    It happened twice. Once on Monday, and again yesterday. It is my Christmas gift from Christian America.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 253)
  • We were snatched away and given alone into the hands of people who believed that it was their duty to break us and remake us in the Christian American image. And, of course, breaking people is much easier than putting them together again.
    So much agony caused, so much evil done in God’s name.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 288)
  • If you hear nonsense like that often enough for long enough, you begin to believe it.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 291)
  • Beware:
    All too often,
    We say
    What we hear others say.
    We think
    What we’re told that we think.
    We see
    What we’re permitted to see.
    We see what we’re told that we see.
    Repetition and pride are the keys to this.
    To hear and to see
    Even an obvious lie
    And again and again
    May be to say it,
    Almost by reflex
    Then to defend it
    Because we’ve said it
    And at last to embrace it
    Because we’ve defended it
    And because we cannot admit
    That we’ve embraced and defended
    An obvious lie.
    Thus, without thought,
    Without intent,
    We make
    Mere echoes
    Of ourselves—
    And we say
    What we hear others say.
    • Chapter 18 (pp. 337-338)
  • All religions are ultimately cargo cults.
    Adherents perform required rituals, follow
    specific rules, and expect to be supernaturally
    gifted with desired rewards—long life,
    honor, wisdom, children, good health, wealth,
    victory over opponents, immortality after
    death, any desired rewards.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 357)
  • Are you Earthseed?
    Do you believe?
    Belief will not save you.
    Only actions
    Guided and shaped
    By belief and knowledge
    Will save you.
    Initiates and guides action—
    Or it does nothing.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 382)
  • Jarrett would be easier to take if he cared half as much about children’s bodies and minds as he pretends to care about their souls.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 391)
  • We keep falling into the same ditches, you know? I mean, we learn more and more about the physical universe, more about our own bodies, more technology, but somehow, down through history, we go on building empires of one kind or another, then destroying them in one way or another. We go on having stupid wars that we justify and get passionate about, but in the end, all they do is kill huge numbers of people, maim others, impoverish still more, spread disease and hunger, and set the stage for the next war. And when we look at all of that in history, we just shrug our shoulders and say, well, that’s the way things are. That’s the way things always have been.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 392)
  • “I’m not a demagogue.”
    “That’s too bad. That leaves the field to people who are demagogues—to the Jarrets of the world. And there have always been Jarrets. Probably there always will be.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 395)
  • No one thought about what kind of society we were building with such stupid decisions. People who could afford to educate their children in private schools were glad to see the government finally stop wasting their tax money, educating other people’s children. They seemed to think they lived on Mars. They imagined that a country filled with poor, uneducated, unemployable people somehow wouldn’t hurt them!
    • Chapter 20 (p. 404)
  • I’m literate, and the idea of leaving children illiterate is criminal.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 405)
  • We’ve also been laughed at, argued with, booed, and threatened with hellfire—or gunfire. But Jarret’s kind of religion and Jarret himself are getting less and less popular these days. Both, it seems, are bad for business, bad for the U. S. Constitution, and bad for a large percentage of the population. They always have been, but now more and more people are willing to say so in public. The Crusaders have terrorized some people into silence, but they’ve just made others very angry.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 430)
  • How completely, how thoroughly he has stolen my child. I have never even tried to forgive him.
    • Epilogue (p. 446)
All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Grand Central Publishing ISBN 978-0-446-69616-6
  • “It’s a crucifix,” Wright told me when I showed it to him. “It must have been worn by one of the people who lived here. Or maybe the arsonist lost it.” He gave a humorless smile. “You never know who’s liable to turn out to be religious.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 59)
  • “He had guns,” Celia said. “Iosif didn’t like guns, but Stefan did.”
    It hadn’t helped him survive.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 104)
  • My ignorance wasn’t just annoying. It was dangerous.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 126)
  • That is the most unromantic declaration of love I’ve ever heard. Or is that what you’re saying? Do you love me, Shori, or do I just taste good?
    • Chapter 14 (p. 139)
  • We can see that our Councils aren’t games like the tribunals humans have. The work of a Council of Judgment is to learn the truth and then decide what to do about it within our law. It isn’t about following laws so strictly that the guilty go unpunished or the innocent are made to suffer. It isn’t about protecting everyone’s rights. It’s about finding the truth, period, and then deciding what to do about it.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 220)

Interview with Democracy Now (2005)

  • Most vampires, I’ve discovered, are men, for some reason. I guess it’s because Dracula, people are kind of feeding off that.
  • I fell into writing it because I saw a bad movie, a movie called Devil Girl from Mars, and went into competition with it. But I think I stayed with it because it was so wide open. It gave me the chance to comment on every aspect of humanity. People tend to think of science fiction as, oh, Star Wars or Star Trek. And the truth is, there are no closed doors, and there are no required formulas. You can go anywhere with it.
  • I wrote the two Parable books back in the '90s. And they are books about, as I said, what happens because we don't trouble to correct some of the problems that we’re brewing for ourselves right now. Global warming is one of those problems. And I was aware of it back in the ’80s. I was reading books about it. And a lot of people were seeing it as politics, as something very iffy, as something they could ignore because nothing was going to come of it tomorrow. That and the fact that I think I was paying a lot of attention to education because a lot of my friends were teachers, and the politics of education was getting scarier, it seemed to me. We were getting to that point where we were thinking more about the building of prisons than of schools and libraries. And I remember while I was working on the novels, my hometown, Pasadena, had a bond issue that they passed to aid libraries, and I was so happy that it passed, because so often these things don’t. And they had closed a lot of branch libraries and were able to reopen them. So, not everybody was going in the wrong direction, but a lot of the country still was. And what I wanted to write was a novel of someone who was coming up with solutions of a sort.

Quotes about Octavia Butler

  • “She was an utter inspiration,” said Steven Barnes, a longtime friend and science fiction author who was the first African American to write one of the novels based on “Star Wars.” “I don’t know what would have happened to me had I not had her as an example.” Mystery writer Walter Mosley said Butler expanded the genre “by writing a kind of fiction that African American women around the country could read and understand both technically and emotionally.... She wasn’t writing romance or feel-good novels, she was writing very difficult, brilliant work.” “For an African American woman to somehow define herself as a science fiction writer and to realize that dream is an extraordinary thing,” he said in an interview Monday. “In black speculative fiction, we are a tiny family and Octavia Butler was our matriarch,” writer Tananarive Due said. “So we just lost our mother, our grandmother.”
  • Seattle-based science fiction writer Greg Bear said. "For being a black female growing up in Los Angeles in the '60s, she was attracted to science fiction for the same reasons I was: It liberated her. She had a far-ranging imagination, and she was a treasure in our community."
  • For too long, the voices and visions for our future have been provided, for the most part, by and from a culturally European (if not Eurocentric) perspective. However, there is change afoot. The works of Octavia E. Butler are becoming mainstream, and names like Nnedi Okorafor and Lesley Nneka Arimah are bringing much needed flavor to the narratives that help shape our future.
  • Imagination is a muscle that, for many of us, will atrophy if we don't use it, especially under the pressure of constant fear. Fear and imagination often can't be in the same room. So, one of the things I think to strengthen that muscle is, first of all, reading. Reading visionary fiction, reading visionary texts. I often recommend Octavia Butler to people because it's reading things that are hard.
  • Sister, we got cities burning, you know, they were telling her. And how dare she, you know, sort of retreat into this world. But actually, she was showing us an even bigger world, you know, something that we couldn't even wrap our minds around. And that's important.
  • As Katrina was happening, in the aftermath of Katrina, a lot of people were talking about Octavia Butler and how the Parable series made them think about that.
  • Donna Haraway and Amanda Boulter praise Butler's novels for the way that they consistently "interrogate reproductive, linguistic, and nuclear politics in a mythic field structured by late twentieth-century race and gender,"
  • Octavia Butler told me one of the failures of sci-fi /fantasy was its inability to imagine the alien other as anything different from a human form "with a mask on." I rate sci-fi on that basis to this day. Yes. I knew her. Yes. She was exceptional.
  • Butler: I wish more people would talk about the ways in which she messes with normative sexualities, and I miss her very much, and I don't care that that's really two sentences masquerading as one.
    • 2012 interview included in Conversations with Nalo Hopkinson edited by Isiah Lavender III
  • We titled this collection in honor of Black science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler. Butler explored the intersections of identity and imagination, the gray areas of race, class, gender, sexuality, love, militarism, inequality, oppression, resistance, and most important-hope. Her work has taught us so much about the principles of visionary fiction, inspiring us. The title plays on Butler's three novel collection, Lilith's Brood, which is about adaptation as a necessity for survival. Changes will occur that we cannot even begin to imagine, and the next generation will be both utterly familiar and wholly alien to their parents. We believe this is what it means to carry on Butler's legacy of writing visionary fiction.
    • Walidah Imarisha Introduction to Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (2015)
  • At a retreat for women writers in 1988, Octavia E. Butler said that she never wanted the title of being the solitary Black female sci-fi writer. She wanted to be one of many Black female sci-fi writers. She wanted to be one of thousands of folks writing themselves into the present and into the future. We believe in that right Butler claimed for each of us-the right to dream as ourselves, individually and collectively. But we also think it is a responsibility she handed down: are we brave enough to imagine beyond the boundaries of "the real" and then do the hard work of sculpting reality from our dreams?
    • Walidah Imarisha Introduction to Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (2015)
  • In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. cautioned us about adding "deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." He wrote that darkness cannot drive out darkness, that hate cannot drive out hate, and he reminded us that only love can do that. Thirty years later, Octavia E. Butler wrote in her novel Parable of the Sower that our "destiny is to take root among the stars." The activist and the artist seem at first to have been engaged in markedly different lifework, yet they embraced a shared dream for the future. Their work is linked by faith and a fusion of spiritual teachings and social consciousness, a futuristic social gospel. In its essence, social justice work, which King embodied and Butler expressed so skillfully in her novels and stories, is about love-a love that has the best hopes and wishes for humanity at heart.
    • Sheree Thomas Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (2015)

Adrienne Maree Brown, Interview with Democracy Now (2021)

  • Walidah Imarisha and I, when we did Octavia’s Brood, Walidah called it “visionary fiction,” to look ahead at the future and then write ourselves in. And that’s what Octavia was doing with all of her work.
  • she was a worker, so she was a laborer. She was always working. And her writing process would be waking up at 3:00 in the morning, because she needed to do it. She had what she called “positive obsession,” a positive obsession with moving these stories out.
  • one of the things that was so powerful to me when I first picked up Octavia is that she wrote these strong Black feminine characters, these protagonists, who now you might look back and see the nonbinary, see the queerness, see other things in them, but at the time, she was writing these characters, and it was like, “Oh, there’s young Black women, and they’re leading.”
  • she wrote about Black women and about Black feminism, about Black futures, but she wrote in a way that appealed to all human beings. And I think that that, to me, is one of the essences of feminism. It’s like, we’re not saying we’re better than or beyond. We’re saying we are right here, equal to anyone else and able to lead as much as anyone else. So, she understood that. She wrote it beautifully.
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