Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler

Rebecca Holden, Author, Nisi Shawl, Editor
Edited by Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl. Aqueduct (Pathway, dist.), $20 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-1-61976-037-0
Reviewed on: 05/27/2013
Release date: 07/01/2013
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This noteworthy anthology—published by a feminist small press in memory of Butler, an African-American science-fiction author—consists of a wide-ranging selection of sometimes-dense scholarly essays, highly readable reminiscences and personal essays, poems, correspondence, photographs, and interviews. Though she wasn’t prolific, Butler (1947–2006) produced several important novels (Kindred, Lilith’s Brood, Parable of the Sower) and short stories (“Blood Child,” “Speech Sounds”) that changed the genre of science fiction and helped empower many new SF writers of color. Highlights of this anthology include “Gambling Against History,” Susan Knabe and Wendy Gay Pearson’s queer reading of Kindred, Butler’s seemingly heterosexual time-travel/slave narrative; “The Spirit in the Seed,” writer, performer, and Ifa/Orisha priestess Luisah Teish’s heartfelt recollection of her discovery of Butler’s early novel Wild Seed; reminiscences by genre writers Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, editor Shawl, and Nnedi Okorafor about what Butler and her work meant for their careers; and scholar Shari Evans’s “From ‘Hierarchical Behavior’ to Strategic Amnesia,” undoubtedly the most perceptive essay yet written on Fledgling, Butler’s final novel. Readers unfamiliar with the author’s fiction should start with her novels, but her many devoted fans will find this volume highly satisfying. Photos. (July)
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