On March 5, 2021 NASA announced that it has named the landing site of the agency’s Perseverance rover “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” after the science fiction author Octavia E. Butler.
This is perfect and, for those who have read her work, certainly past due.
Coincidentally, I finished re-reading the two Earthseed novels, The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, the previous week. If you haven’t yet read any of her works, I strongly encourage you to move them up your reading list – both the Earthseed novels and Kindred.
The Earthseed novels offer an interesting exploration of a possible post-apocalyptic future. Actually, post-apocalyptic is perhaps a bit too strenuous a word for the setting of the novels. The novels show life in California not after a sudden disaster, man-made or otherwise, but as somewhere down the road on the continuum of circumstances in which we currently find ourselves. Climate change is only a contributing factor. The gulf between rich and poor is exacerbated by the rise of fundamentalist, conservative, selfishness which unravels civil society in ways which are scary extrapolations of the last four years. For most, life is a daily struggle to just survive. A struggle many lose, violently.
In this future, Butler’s protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, sees beyond that. She founds what is essentially a Religion, though Olamina rightfully has issues with that. While writing this post, I stumbled across the fact that an actual, capital R, Religion has been founded based on the Earthseed verses. If you want to fall down a rabbit hole, search up “Religious Naturalism” or visit godischange.org. I suspect there’s an entire dissertation or three there but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My point today though is recognizing and, dare I say it, testifying, to the genius of Octavia Butler as a writer. I think she has been left out of the science fiction “canon” for far too long. She needs to be much more widely read and discussed than she currently is. So, please, read her books. Talk amongst yourselves.