By Briana Whiteside
The third and lost book in The Patternist Series, Survivor (1978), by Octavia Butler should not have been excluded from among the others. Although the book, at first glance, appears to be a seemingly familiar science fiction book, it actually serves a greater purpose.
Survivor usefully connects Mind of My Mind (1977), and Clay’s Ark (1984), in Butler’s compilation of books. The story of missionaries desperate to leave Earth to escape possible infection of the Clay’s Ark disease, and a black woman’s ability to survive when other, more physically fit beings die, is essential. It highlights the science in Butler’s science fiction, more importantly; it pushes readers to move past racial and sexual undertones, to focus more keenly on the parallel universes and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
The innovative uses of technology in Butler’s works correspond with the freakishly fast developments in technology today. The afrofuturistic space ship “The Ark” in Survivor, and the discovery of life beyond Earth, resembles NASA’s aircrafts and speculation of life in outer space.
Survivor is vital to The Patternist Series because it serves as a preface to Clay’s Ark, and Survivor is also indispensible in pondering the unimaginable possibilities and discoveries being exposed to humans by advancements in technology.
A Notebook on Octavia Butler
Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.