On September 2, 2020, almost 50 years after she sold her first story, and more than 14 years after her death, Octavia E. Butler finally fulfilled her own prophecy and became a New York Times bestseller: Butler’s post-apocalyptic novel Parable of the Sower, which was originally published in 1993 (but is set in the early 2020s), appeared at #14 on the list.
Not that Butler had anything to prove before this, mind you. After all, in 1995 Butler became the first SF writer to be awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant; her work has been honored with Hugos and Nebulas; she is in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. She was a prescient thinker, a beloved teacher and mentor, and has become an enduring cultural icon, complete with Google doodle. There’s even a Mars landing site named after her.
Octavia was also very good at writing author bios. (Don’t laugh; they’re hard.) More importantly, perhaps, she has inspired countless writers and artists who came after her—from Nnedi Okorafor to Janelle Monáe and even Brit Marling, who cites Parable of the Sower in particular as informing her work on The OA. Butler is becoming one of those writers who gets continually rediscovered and re-evaluated, but for fans old and new, it’s a very verdant period for Butler’s work—both Parable of the Sower and Kindred will soon be adapted for the screen, and gorgeous new editions and new nonfiction about the writer abound. It would be the Octaviassance, except for the fact that for many of us, she never went away.