cover image Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler

Gerry Canavan. Univ. of Illinois, $22 ISBN 978-0-252-08216-0

Canavan supplies a cogent analysis of the works and career of legendary science fiction and fantasy author Octavia E. Butler. Drawing upon Butler’s vast archive at the Huntington Library, Canavan unearths a timeline of how Butler’s work fits together and how it evolved. The book begins with Butler’s death from a fall (or possibly a stroke) at age 58 in 2006, and then goes back in time to examine how her writing and publishing career unfolded. Starting with her earliest published stories, Canavan shows that virtually all Butler’s work is conceptually linked together. He reveals that one of the keys to understanding Butler’s writing is seeing how the strands of one particular series, the Patternist novels, thread their way through her other works. Butler eschewed utopias and challenged racial stereotypes in her fiction, demonstrating, according to critic Greg Tate, how “black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.” An appendix includes Butler’s groundbreaking essay on race and science fiction, “Lost Races of Science Fiction.” Though she herself died young, Butler’s most complex and enduring characters are—like her novels—destined to endure. This excellent, comprehensive study sheds new light on the process and philosophy of one of the most important authors of our time. (Dec.)