Critical Context

Kindred, especially on its initial publication, was seen as a significant departure from the science-fiction Patternist series, of which Butler’s first three novels, Patternmaster (1976), Mind of My Mind (1977), and Survivor (1978) are a part. As the body of criticism on Butler has grown, critics have analyzed Kindred as embodying several of the important themes of the Patternist novels, particularly emphasizing the themes of power and of oppression as unifying topics. In addition, Kindred, as a result of its creative use of elements of the slave narrative, earned Butler increasing attention as an innovative interpreter of important themes of the history and literature of slavery in a genre not used by many African American writers. Thus the book has proved important to scholars who specialize in science fiction as well as to those who concentrate on African American literature. Moreover, Butler’s emphasis on Dana’s strength and survival skills has resulted in an appreciation by critics who value the feminist aspects of the novel. Consequently, the feminist, science-fiction, and African American themes in Kindred have attracted a widening number of diverse readers and scholars.