Beth Goder
Author and Archivist

Reading Octavia Butler Stories

In preparation for FOGCon, I picked up a copy of Bloodchild and Other Stories. (And by “picked up,” I mean “downloaded to my Kindle.”) Although I haven’t read any of her novels, Butler is one of the many sci-fi greats on my ever-growing list of authors to read, so I was thrilled to find this collection.

Butler’s prose is concise and exact. No wasted words. The sparseness and clarity of her writing highlights the complexity of her ideas. Every story deals with difficult, interesting issues–from disease to communication to religion. Two of my favorites in this collection–“Bloodchild” and “Amnesty”–take a look at human and alien relations. I was struck by the interplay of darkness and hope woven throughout her writing.

Also of interest are two essays. In “Furor Scribendi,” Butler gives advice to the new writer, which boils down to the standard (but useful) read, write, and submit. She says, “Let nothing substandard slip through. If you notice something that needs fixing, fix it, no excuses.” She argues that habit is better than inspiration and talent. (I agree.) The end of the essay is one word: Persist.

“Positive Obsession” describes her life as a writer, including moments from her childhood and her first sale, an openly told account of her experiences. Not only did Butler persist, she got up at two or three in the morning to write. That level of dedication leaves me in awe.

In the future, I hope to read some of Butler’s novels. Her stories left me thinking (even days later, I’m still turning them over, viewing them from different angles.)