March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of female presenting people everywhere. Women have paved the way in many fields, most notably in the geek realm. Today let’s focus on Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction writer Octavia Estelle Butler.
Known best for novels such as Kindred, the Parable series (also known as the Earthseed series), and the Patternist series, Octavia E. Butler took the science fiction genre by storm. What had historically been a genre dominated by white, male authors was opened to all by a young, black woman with a typewriter and a dream.
Born in Pasadena, California in 1947 to a housemaid and a shoe shine man, Octavia Estelle Butler was born in a time and place when racial equality did not exist. After her father passed when she was the tender age of seven, she was raised by her mother and grandmother is a strict Baptist environment. These things led to her being extremely shy and antisocial. Where one would find most young children playing outside amongst their peers, you could find Octavia nose deep in a book at the Pasadena Public Library. There, she fell in love with science fiction.
At ten, she begged her mother for her first typewriter. At twelve, she drew the attention of her teachers with her penitent for writing. At thirteen, she was hit with her first roadblock and insecurity when her aunt told her, “Honey…Negroes can’t be writers.” Fortunately, Octavia did not heed this and persevered. At thirteen, with the help of her Junior High science teacher, she submitted her first manuscript to a science fiction magazine.
Since those early years and struggles, Octavia went on to flourish as a writer, using her own experiences and racial struggles to pen exceptionally well crafted tales of science fiction. She was one of the very first in the genre to write her stories around powerful, female protagonists. In essence, Octavia Butler opened up the science fiction genre to new persons and ideas everywhere.
As one of the most well-known women in science fiction, Butler has been honored multiple times, winning Hugo and Locus awards for several works. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, which is nicknamed the “Genius Grant”. In 2005, she was inducted into Chicago State University‘s International Black Writers Hall of Fame.
Octavia E. Butler passed away on February 24, 2006 at the age of 58. Her legacy and influence will continue to live on in her words and gifts to the world. She truly was a geeky heroine for all.
What geeky women have inspired and motivated you? Let us know in the comments!