Saturday, February 2, 2013

Octavia Butler’s Future Histories

By Briana Whiteside

In the near future, it would be worthwhile for scholars and readers of science fiction to recognize Octavia Butler as a great American writer in part because of two noteworthy elements in her work that sets her apart from other writers. For one, Butler creates supernatural intelligent black women characters that traverse time and space. Second, she displays an ability to present fantastic black diasporic narratives while denying or subverting the tenants of realism.

Butler’s work is highly relevant as we examine speculative literature. Her black women characters, which lend themselves to rewarding feminist readings, embody African American experiences and provide a sense of hope for liberation from detrimental circumstances.

By making black women characters integral to speculative literature, Butler gives a voice to typically silenced group who have been repressed by gender roles, racial stigmas, and genre limitations. Her texts, while focusing on fantastical impossibilities, can be used as a point of departure for thinking about more inclusive narratives and ideas that include black women.

Years from now, we will still likely need guides for thinking about and navigating the challenges of the future. Perhaps, Butler’s fiction provides us with useful maps.

Future Histories project

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Black Studies Program.    

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