|Octavia E. Butler|
Butler signs a copy of Fledgling in October 2005.
|Born||Octavia Estelle Butler
June 22, 1947
Pasadena, California, U.S.
|Died||February 24, 2006
Lake Forest Park, Washington, U.S.
The thing about science fiction is that it's totally wide open. But it's wide open in a conditional way.
But my problem with fantasy, and horror, and related genres, is that sometimes the problems are illogical.
No one was going to stop me from writing and no one had to really guide me towards science fiction. It was natural, really, that I would take that interest.
Science fiction let me do both. It let me look into science and stick my nose in everywhere.
I wasn't trying to work out my own ancestry. I was trying to get people to feel slavery. I was trying to get across the kind of emotional and psychological stones that slavery threw at people.
I talked to members of my family, and did some personal research that didn't really have anything to do with the time and place I was writing about, but that gave me a feeling of the experience of being black in a time and place where it was very difficult to be black.
No… a novel is a long business. I'm a slow writer, even when I'm doing very well I write slowly.
I have a huge and savage conscience that won't let me get away with things.
What I'm working on now – I'm back to fantasy, although considering that it's me, I'm turning it into a kind of science fantasy. It's a vampire story – but my vampires are biological vampires. They didn't become vampires because someone bit them; they were born that way.
I began reading science fiction before I was 12 and started writing science fiction around the same time.
You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
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.
Well, writing was what I wanted to do, it was always what I wanted to do. I had novels to write so I wrote them.
Here I was into astronomy, and here into anthropology, and there I go into geology. It was much more fun to be able to research and write about whatever I wanted to.
People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn't bother me. It's other people doing the calling that bothers me.
I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.
Most of us don't have to worry about being shot if we poke our noses outside. So we are comfortable, but the people I'm writing about are definitely not comfortable, and being shot while they're still inside is a good possibility.
On the other hand, I was very much interested in the way people behaved, the human dance, how they seemed to move around each other. I wanted to play around with that.
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.
So fantasy was fine early on, and when I discovered science fiction, I was very happy with it, because my first interest in science fiction came with an interest in astronomy.
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.
Fantasy is totally wide open; all you really have to do is follow the rules you've set. But if you're writing about science, you have to first learn what you're writing about.
While Fledging is a different type of book, The Parable series serve as cautionary tales. I wrote the Parable books because of the direction of the country. You can call it save the world fiction, but it clearly doesn't save anything.
And by the way, I wanted to point out that Kindred is not science fiction. You'll note there's no science in it. It's a kind of grim fantasy.
Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyse yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.
I would never have been a good scientist – my attention span was too short for that.
No, I think the future of humanity will be like the past, we'll do what we've always done and there will still be human beings. Granted, there will always be people doing something different and there are a lot of possibilities.
I was raised Baptist, and I like the fact that I got my conscience installed early.
Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.
Religion kept some of my relatives alive, because it was all they had. If they hadn't had some hope of heaven, some companionship in Jesus, they probably would have committed suicide, their lives were so hellish.
Once you grow past Mommy and Daddy coming running when you're hurt, you're really on your own. You're alone, and there's no one to help you.