I’ve been a little depressed ever since I heard about the sudden, untimely death of local science-fiction author and “genius” Octavia Estelle Butler last Sunday. On a whim, I attended a reading by Octavia Butler at the UW Bookstore a few months ago and was struck by her sonorous voice and wise presence. I’d never read any of her books, so whilst waiting in the book-signing line I was forced to come up with some other topic of conversation. As she scrawled an autograph on the title page of my 5-minute-old copy of “Lilith’s Brood” we had the following exchange.
Me: So what’s your favorite local bookstore?
Butler: I usually go to Third Place.
Me: Oh, on 65th?
Butler: The one in Bothell. It’s just down the street from my house.
Me: I haven’t been to that one.
Butler: It’s nice.
Unfortunately, as of last weekend I still hadn’t got around to reading any of her works, so on Sunday I immediately started on that signed copy of the “Lilith’s Brood” trilogy. It’s one of the most engaging sci-fi novels I’ve read — right up there with “Ender’s Game” (but not written by a raving lunatic). Ms. Butler had an utterly unique vision and the talent of a clear storytelling voice which which to share that vision. The calibre of her writing was very much welcome in a genre where such quality can be hard to come by. What’s especially sad is that, at the age of 58, Octavia Butler surely had a few more of these wonderful novels in her still.
To me, thinking about the loss of Octavia Butler, it feels somewhat like the breakup of The Pixies back in the early nineties just as I was discovering their music. But in this case, there’s no possibility of a reunion tour fifteen years later.