The phenomenally talented, groundbreaking science fiction author Octavia Butler died in 2006. Her papers went to the Huntington Library, and they’ve just put a document online that you really should see.
The Huntington is prepping to contribute to Radio Imagination, a year-long celebration of Butler’s life and work organized by L.A.’s Clockshop. And that means going through Butler’s substantial archive. “She kept nearly everything, from her very first short stories, written at the age of 12, to book contracts and programs from speaking engagements,” explained Natalie Russell, the Huntington’s assistant curator of literary manuscripts, in a blog post (via Blavity).
“Since May 2014, the archive has been used nearly 1,300 times—or roughly 15 times per week, on average,” she added.
One particularly poignant item is this page from one of Butler’s notebooks, circa 1988. (After the publication of Kindred, but before Parable of the Sower.) It testifies to frustration and determination:
The photo cuts off, but the note continues:
I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops
I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons
I will help poor black youngsters go to college
I will get the best of health care for my mother and myself
I will hire a car whenever I want or need to
I will travel whenever and wherever in the world that I choose
My books will be read by millions of people! So be it! See to it!
“When I began writing science fiction, when I began reading, heck, I wasn’t in any of this stuff I read,” Ms. Butler told The New York Times in 2000. “The only black people you found were occasional characters or characters who were so feeble-witted that they couldn’t manage anything, anyway. I wrote myself in, since I’m me and I’m here and I’m writing.”
In 1995, Butler was the first science fiction author—period—to win a MacArthur genius grant.
Contact the author at email@example.com.