Octavia Butler, to many women of color, has been a home for their secrets, demands of equality and the need to be seen and heard. But Butler’s home is not for softies. Rather, it is a space that invites painful change. You have to be tough to get through a Butler novel. She wrote with solar heat intensity, then demand you to lick the sun. Still, for many who have read and revisited her work Octavia Butler is home; the place where you go back to when you need someone to speak the truth. ‘Luminescent Threads’ is a series of essays to how Butler’s work inspired them. Most are in epistle form where you feel as if you’re eavesdropping on private conversations. Some knew her, several wish they had, all want more time, more books.
Though Butler had written twelve novels, it still is not enough. Her works were prolific and still make you want to visit the worlds she built. It seems she foretold much of what’s happening in present day American politics. Who knows what she would have commented on? Valjeanne Jeffers ‘Themes of Power, Family and Change in Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed’ discusses Butler’s novel of the same name. Jeffers explores the idea of the antagonist Dora learning to regain his humanity even though he is an African god. The protagonist Anyanwu is also an African goddess who through nurturing and healing, shows how people have the ability to change. It’s that kind of critical analysis that makes you seek Butler out and not only read ‘Wild Seed,’ but pick up the three novels preceding it. A story where a god must claim his humanity is not only science fiction, it goes into a level of speculative fiction where past, present and future are warning the reader that we all need to know and understand our power. For K. Ceres Wright her letter to Butler reads like a thank you note for exposing her to a different interpretation of science fiction, one without spaceships. Instead Butler reinvented what a narrative means to be science fiction by showing what it means to be on the receiving of the power structure. Butler did this by exploring solutions, not wallowing in despair. She gave her characters agency, had them make challenging choices, most of all she had them be female and black.
Whether they be goddesses or slaves, they all found a way to survive. Butler’s stories helped raise a generation of writers who have reshaped the science fiction genre. As they write their essays, each writer brings up challenging questions, reveal their frustrations with being forced to see sci-fi in a new light. Which led them to reflect on the power imbalances in their own lives. This anthology of essays will take hold of you. Let it, and read more Butler while you’re at it.
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