Fourteen years after her passing, Octavia Butler appeared this week for the first time on the NYT Best Seller list. This much deserved recognition is for her 1993 novel, Parable of the Sower, a work of dystopian futurism that we recently featured in our Visionary Readers series. Set in the 2020s, the book follows a young Black woman struggling to transform society against the backdrop of a United States wrecked by climate catastrophe and demagoguery. The book is terrifyingly prescient (its sequel even features a Far Right presidential candidate who vows to "Make America Great Again") and Butler eventually abandoned plans for a third book in the series because the research and writing was so taxing.
"All that you touch You Change. / All that you Change, Changes you. / The only lasting truth is Change. / God is Change."
Parable of the Sower has always had a cult following, but its profile was greatly enhanced in recent years by a new generation of Black futurists who make explicit the link between science fiction and social activism. Many readers were introduced to Butler's work by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, who co-edited Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, and in June the book appeared on a widely circulated Black Lives Matter Reading List.