Guide membership explores Octavia E. Butler’s worlds

Good morning and welcome to the LA Times Book Club newsletter.

Science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, who grew up in Pasadena, drove everywhere on buses, scribbling ideas about distant worlds and her desire to be a writer in notebooks, diaries and envelopes.

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“Octavia E. Butler never asked to be here, might not have chosen it if she had the Druthers, but she made it. Pasadena. Crown of the valley. Earth, ”writes journalist Lynell George in a new book in which she examines the author’s early life and his literary influences.

After serving as a telemarketer, potato chip inspector, and dishwasher, Butler embarked on a seminal writing career, publishing 12 novels and several collections of short stories. She received two Nebula and two Hugo Awards and was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

On Wednesday, George, author of “A Fistful of Dirt, a Fistful of Heaven: The World of Octavia E. Butler,” and Subway reporter Julia Wick, author of our Essential California newsletter, will discuss Butlers at the Los Angeles Times Book Club Work and its permanent legacy.

Butler’s 1993 “Parable of the Sower” envisioned a Los Angeles ravaged by climate change and economic injustice where people would come by to survive. The author died in 2006, but her novel has grown in popularity in recent months. “Parable of the Sower” landed on both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller lists this fall.

Two other Butler novels, Wild Seed and Dawn, are in development for TV series.

Lynell George is the author of “A Fistful of Earth, A Fistful of Heaven: The World of Octavia E. Butler”.

(Noé Montes / Angel City Press)

Book giveaway

The book club meeting begins November 18 at 7:00 p.m. and will be streamed live on the LA Times’ Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter. Log into Eventbrite for a reminder and direct links. This event is free.

This month we’re making our first book club giveaway. When you sign up for this event, you will receive a free copy of one of 10 books written by Butler or any other great science fiction book thanks to a generous donation from the author’s estate.

The books will be mailed to the readers of the book club in Vroman’s Bookstore, subject to availability.

“Vroman’s has been Octavia’s local bookstore for most of their life. To thank you for the important service you are doing to the LA community, the estate of Octavia E. Butler and longtime literary agent Merrilee Heifetz are giving away the purchase of these 700 books, ”said Ernestine Walker, Butler’s cousin.

“By selecting all of the novels by black authors of imaginative fiction, many of whom honor Octavia for paving the way, we would also like to thank our readers by offering them free copies of five of her books. We are also grateful to the LA Times for all that they have done to create and support this wonderful event. “

The giveaway list includes five of Butler’s books: “Kindred”, “Parable of the Sower”, “Parable of the Talents”, “Wild Seed” and “Fledgling”. It also includes “Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora,” edited by Sheree R. Thomas; “Binti: The Complete Trilogy” by Nnedi Okorafor; “An Unkindness of Spirits” by Rivers Solomon; “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi; and “How long until the black future month?” by NK Jemisin.

Books by Black writers of speculative fiction, including Octavia Butler, Rivers Solomon, and NK Jemisin.

(Grand Central Publishing, Beacon Press, Aspect, DAW, Akashic Books, Make Me a World, Orbit)

For the past month, book club members have read and shared Octavia Butler stories.

Many readers have a favorite. Mine is probably “Parable of the Sower”; I’m intrigued by her dystopian 2020s LA, although I still work my way through her novels.

My colleague Tracy Brown is a fan of Dawn, the first book in the Xenogenesis / Lilith’s Brood series. “It’s a bit more difficult than some of her other works, but it was the first novel of hers I read and it remains a favorite as it deals with so many topics from the perspective of alien-human relationships.” says Tracy. “The series also touches upon the destructive impulses of humanity that feel somewhat relevant for now.”

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Book Club reader Mayor Cooley agrees, “I recently finished ‘Dawn’ so I have to say it’s my favorite. The idea of ​​some sort of retelling of the original stories of Eve and mitochondria with a black woman is irresistible. “

Tracy adds that the first work she read from Butler was “Bloodchild,” and that the collection of short stories is a good gateway to her other works.

Several other readers shared a love of “Kindred,” one of Butler’s standalone novels. “It blew my mind,” says Anna Elves in the book club’s Facebook group.

Teacher Lisa Vasquez says she has been sharing Kindred with her students since 1995. “Butler uses classic science fiction time travel to educate her readers about some of the horrors of slavery,” she says.

But the writer of “A Handful of Dirt” has trouble picking her favorite after spending so much time in the Huntington Library’s Butler Archives.

George’s new book includes the author’s handwritten notes and lists, comments from early teachers, and carefully documented details of her efforts to build a life as a writer. Butler wrote, “The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my own fear and self-doubt.”

During interviews and conferences, Butler was often asked: What does science fiction mean to you?

“She has answered it in many ways over the years,” writes George in this excerpt from her book. “With science fiction, she could reach for something beyond what she could imagine. As I read through a draft of a speech that confused Octavia, I noticed a specific answer. Science fiction is … a handful of earth and a handful of heaven and everything around and in between. “

What questions do you have for our book club guests? Email us at [email protected] prior to the Wednesday meeting.

Handwritten notes on the inside of one of Octavia E. Butler's everyday books, 1988.

Handwritten notes on the inside of one of Octavia E. Butler’s everyday books, 1988.

(© Estate of Octavia E. Butler)

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