Toad in the Hole

February 28, 2006

Oh Damn.

Octavia Butler died. Here's her obit in the Seattle P-I, and my thanks to Feministe for the bad news. Cripes, she was only 58.

Butler was one of those writers whose stuff I couldn't put down, and I couldn't generally explain why. The two Parable books were practically suicide-inducing, but neither dismissable nor histrionic. She could write about being semi-parasitized by giant centipedes and make it a real story, immediate and still pointful. (Go read "Bloodchild" if you don't believe me.) She made the least likeable of her characters three-dimensional, even understandable. She explored the most complicated, compelling themes in the damnedest ways.

She took on slavery, for example, straight-ahead in Kindred but also differently in quite a few others, along with the dozen other things one has to deal with in real life, where themes don't come conveniently sorted.

All I wanted from her was More.

Joe and I went to a SF symposium sometime in the '70s, at Mills College, and she spoke there. Somebody in one of the tributes Feministe links to said Butler'd more recently gone to some class to improve her public speaking skills, but I remember her as a good speaker then. She definitely had my attention, though at the time I'd probably read only one or two of her books (maybe that's all there were) -- I think Mind of My Mind, which I'd grabbed on a whim but, yeah, couldn't put down. She wrote others on that same group of characters and setting; I disagree with people who've said that vampires were a new theme for her with her latest, Fledgling, which I haven't read yet. The Patternist characters aren't classic vampires, but I can see a clear relationship.

If you haven't read her stuff, go get some. Her early work is available in pocket paperback.


Posted at February 28, 2006 12:21 AM


Oh NO!! This is awful.

We contemplated Parable of the Sower for a campus book project a couple of years back. I wish now we'd done it...

Posted by: Pica at February 28, 2006 02:39 PM