The Wisdom of Octavia Butler

octavia butler

About a year ago, my brother turned me on to the novel, Parable of the Sower, by the late renowned SF writer Octavia Butler. The book was a near future epic that detailied the rise of social decay in Los Angeles.

Before my son was born I had already been concerned about the future, and how life would change in Los Angeles as well as in the world if we kept heading down our current trajectory. In many ways, Butler’s words gave voice to those ideas, albeit in frightening ways and with tangible power. I almost felt at times, that she was speaking about Los Angeles today, and it was disturbing how she tapped into such alternate, but increasingly possible realities.

One of the central themes that really affected was the power of ignorance, and the ways that fascism can begin to color our lives without us even knowing.

Recently, I came upon this great interview that she did with Amy Goodman of KPFK’s Democracy Now where she discussed some of her concerns about the future and the inspirations for her work.
I wrote the two Parable books back in the 1990s. 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 1980s. 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.
Politics aside, how we choose to think affects those around us in a myriad of ways, and careless thoughts backed by large-scale action (ie. politically, militarily, economically) can reshape our world in an instant.
The following passage from Parable will give you an idea of what she was onto:

Beware, all too often we say what we hear others say. We think what we are told that we think. We see what we are permitted to see. Worse, we see what we are told that we see. Repetition and pride are the keys to this. To hear and to see even an obvious lie again and again and again, maybe to say it almost by reflex, and then to defend it because we have said it, and at last to embrace it because we’ve defended it.

I would highly recommend people to look into her work as she is a very important writer, one of many who see all too early what many of us have only begun to feel. Her cautionary tales paint a frightening picture of the future, and teach us how to survive what might be just around the corner.

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One Response to “The Wisdom of Octavia Butler”

  1. thanks for rec on Octavia Butler – seems like some thought provoking mat’l.

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