Octavia E Butler And Her Vision Of Hope

Octavia E Butler

In the early years of the genre science fiction writers were mostly men. This changed in the early ’80’s when female science fiction writers emerged. They quickly began winning awards for their contribution to the genre. One of the most powerful writers in the field is Octavia E Butler, 1947-2006, whose books portray the extraordinary world as a realistic experience.

Among other things, her work focuses on gender fluidity. The Xenogenesis trilogy (Warner Books, 1987–89) deals with women leaders, and overt sexism.
In ‘Parable of The Sower’, 1993, the apocalyptic landscape is terrifying. The female protagonist of the book, Lauren Olamina tries to escape from her small community to find a new way of life. In the book, the world outside her community is vicious, and Lauren sets about teaching a new, self-invented faith called ‘Earthseed’, offering hope in a dark and dangerous world.  This religion (or faith) developed by Lauren lacks an omniscient, omnipresent god. Rather Earthseed allows humans to effect their own change, and then through that change, engage with god. So, hope represents change, and change leads to god. Lauren sees this as the only opportunity available to humans to ensure survival as a species. It is the only means of sewing our human seed among the stars.

Octavia E Butler said that the horrific vista she describes in the book was inspired by the current conditions of human life on earth, and the issues affecting modern human beings. She said that she simply took this to its logical extreme in laying out her fictional landscape. Butler’s powerful book was followed by ‘Parable of the Talents’ in 1998. The two book series was nominated for ‘best novel’ Nebula award. These novels offer a sustainable alternative to deadly, totalitarian type religions.











Leave a Reply