Octavia Butler – Black Sci-Fi Queen

“I shall be a bestselling writer,” Octavia Butler once wrote on a spiral-bound notebook cover. “I will find the way to do this. So be it! See to it!”

According to The Huffington Post, as a Black woman born in 1947, Octavia Butler had a particularly thorny path to navigate to literary stardom. She found a community in the science fiction genre, including Harlan Ellison, a successful sci-fi author who recommended she attend the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop early in her career, but science fiction, as a field, was no less dominated by white men than any other at the time.

After Butler died in 2006, her papers went to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Now the library has a curated show of the author’s effects, Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories,” on view now, which traces her life and groundbreaking career. The exhibition highlights her encouraging notes to herself, along with journal entries, chapter drafts, photos and first editions that provide a glimpse inside the world of an indomitable woman with an unfailing drive to succeed.

“Butler wrote self-motivational notes and affirmations throughout her career,” Natalie Russell, the curator of a new exhibit of the author’s personal papers, told HuffPost in an email. “She was very interested in the mind and its power … While I can’t speak comprehensively, I cannot think of notes like these in another writer’s archive.”

“She recognized some of the unique challenges she faced,” Russell told, citing a journal entry in which Butler wrote, “Should a woman who is Black have to spend her writing life wondering whether the praise or criticism she is receiving comes because of her sex, or her color, or because her work is deserving of it?”

”Her self-doubt always seems internal, not a result of societal expectations,” she told HuffPost. “Similarly her motivation seems entirely fueled from within.”


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