Octavia Estelle Butler can be categorized as a black feminist science-fiction writer, but although those labels partially describe her, her work goes beyond narrow categorization. After Butler’s father died when she was a baby, she was raised by her mother and grandmother. Growing up without a father or siblings early gave a solitary focus to her life, which was somewhat alleviated by the bedtime stories her mother read to her until the age of six. At that point she began to read on her own. Childhood reading included castaway books her mother rescued while working as a maid, as well as the books she found in the children’s section of the Pasadena library. At the age of twelve, when she learned that she could not enter the adult section of the library, she discovered science-fiction magazines and was instantly taken with the genre. One of her favorite authors was Zenna Henderson, who used young women’s viewpoints to write about telepathy.
In 1959 Butler saw the 1954 film Devil Girl from Mars, which inspired her to begin writing what later became her Patternist series. Painfully shy during her childhood and adolescence, Butler found solace in writing in a notebook. During these early years, however, she despaired of writing well enough to have her work accepted for publication, a fear that was confirmed by her aunt’s telling her that a Negro could not earn a living as a writer. Having never seen a printed work she knew to have been written by a black writer, Butler thought her aunt might be right.
Her first money for writing was the prize she won during her first year at Pasadena City College. Several years followed with no further success, but a breakthrough occurred when she attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop at the age of twenty-three. Here she sold two stories to writer-editors who were teaching there, one of which, “Crossover,” was subsequently published.
During the next five years she continued to write. She supported herself with menial jobs, getting up at three
(The entire section is 843 words.)