Q&A with the Queen of Sci-Fi: Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

Why did you become a writer?

I came to be a writer by accident. I discovered I liked it, really. I was writing when I was 10 years old, and I was writing to get away from my boring life, so fantasy was a natural. And a couple of years later, I saw a bad movie called “Devil Girl from Mars,” and watching it on television, I sat there and said, “Jeez, I could write a better story than that. Anybody can write a better story than that.” And finally, it hit me that someone had got paid for writing that bad story, so I grabbed my notebook and began to write. And I didn’t see the end of that movie until many years later, when a Texas fan actually gave me a copy of it and I watched it, and I kind of admired my good taste as a 12 year-old.

Whom do you admire most and why?

I began trying to sell stories when I was 13, and I would just — if I found somebody I liked — I would read everything I could find that they’d written. And that’s how I discovered John Bruner and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Harlan Ellison and J.T. McIntosh and a number of other old-time writers, people who were writing a lot when I was a kid. Because it was nice to find somebody dependable. And I could just go back and find everything that they’d done that was at the library or the Salvation Army bookstore.

What advice do you have for young people?

A bit of the Hippocratic Oath: “Don’t do any harm–do no harm,” but also a bit of my own philosophy, “Do the thing that you love and do it as well as you possibly can and be persistent about it.” I think it’s really important to find a way to earn a living doing what you care about and trying to do as much good as you can.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be read and remembered for what I’ve written, and really that’s kind of up to the person who reads me. Now, if they read me and don’t like it, and I’ve had some people do that and tell me so — well, there’s nothing I can do about that. On the other hand, if they read me and get something from it, good.

From Wikipedia:

Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction writer. A recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known African-American women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

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