Monday, February 27, 2006

Octavia Butler dies at age 58

This is becoming a week of obituaries. Octavia Butler, who used her full name Octavia Estelle Butler at the beginning of her career, died on Saturday, apparently as the result of a fall.

She was a very good science fiction writer, winning the Hugo, the top fan award for her short story, "Speech Sounds," in 1984 and won both the 1985 Hugo and the 1984 Nebula awards for best novelette for the story, "Bloodchild." In 1995 she received a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the so-called "Genius Award," which she richly deserved.

I didn't know her, although I met her briefly once through Harlan Ellison, who was something of a mentor to her in the early `70s. I think she took some unfair whacks from the association. Harlan tends to polarize people to one side or the other, and there was some snide gossip that Butler had been given some breaks because she was female and black. Butler was the only pro African-American female writer in sf when she began her career. This was at a time where there were few women writers in sf, and even fewer blacks writing science fiction. Even well-meaning critics tended to pigeonhole her as "African-American female writer." But, as time passed, the labels were subsumed by the talent.

There's an obituary here.

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