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American science fiction writer (1947-2006)

Civilization is the way one's own people live. Savagery is the way foreigners live.


Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Adulthood Rites

Sometimes, one must become a master to avoid becoming a slave.


All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Parable of the Talents

Most of what I do is science fiction. Some of the things I do are fantasy. I don't like the labels, they're marketing tools, and I certainly don't worry about them when I'm writing. They are also inhibiting factors; you wind up not getting read by certain people, or not getting sold to certain people because they think they know what you write. You say science fiction and everybody thinks Star Wars or Star Trek.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, 1991 interview

To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Parable of the Talents

You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. It's just so easy to give up!

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Locus Magazine, June 2000

Rejections are painful, but inevitable. They're every writer's rite of passage.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, "Furor Scribendi," Bloodchild and Other Stories

At war
Or at peace,
More people die
Of unenlightened self-interest
Than of any other disease.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Parable of the Talents

I think climbing mountains or buildings or whatever has been a really good metaphor for finishing my work. Because no matter how tired you get, no matter how you feel like you can't possibly do this, somehow you do.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Motion Magazine, Mar. 14, 2004

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, "Furor Scribendi," Bloodchild and Other Stories

Devil Girl From Mars is the movie that got me writing science fiction, when I was 12 years old. I had already been writing for two years. I began with horse stories, because I was crazy over horses, even though I never got near one. At 11, I was writing romances, and I'm happy to say I didn't know any more about romance than I did about horses. When I was 12, I had this big brown three-ring binder notebook that somebody had thrown away, and I was watching this godawful movie on television. (I wasn't allowed to go to the movies, because movies were wicked and sinful, but somehow when they came to the television they were OK.) It was one of those where the beautiful Martian arrives on Earth and announces that all the men on Mars have died and they need more men. None of the Earthmen want to go! And I thought, 'Geez, I can write a better story than that.' I got busy writing what I thought of as science fiction.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Locus Magazine, June 2000

If you want a thing--truly want it, want it so badly that you need it as you need air to breathe, then unless you die, you will have it. Why not? It has you. There is no escape. What a cruel and terrible thing escape would be if escape were possible.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Parable of the Talents

It’s interesting how many science fiction writers get going when they are very young. I was on a program with Greg Bear and he mentioned that he had gotten started writing when he was eight. And I began writing when I was 10. I think we’re influenced by the stuff, we find it and we love it and we’re influenced by it….I know I collected my first rejection slip when I was 13, and I went on collecting them for a long time after that.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, 2003 interview

In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Parable of the Talents

My big problem is my mother gave me this gene -- there must be a gene for it, or several perhaps. It's the pack rat gene, you know, where you just don't throw things out. I haven't thrown books out since I was a kid. I gave some books away when I was a little girl. My mother said I could give some to the Salvation Army. I gave some to a friend, and her brothers and sisters tore them bits. That was the last time I gave books away in large amounts. I just keep stuff. I still have books from childhood.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Motion Magazine, Mar. 14, 2004

I don't think of religion as nasty. Religion kept some of my relatives alive, because it was all they had. If they hadn't had some hope of heaven, some companionship in Jesus, they probably would have committed suicide, their lives were so hellish. But they could go to church and have that exuberance together, and that was good, the community of it. When they were in pain, when they had to go to work even though they were in terrible pain, they had God to fall back on, and I think that's what religion does for the majority of the people. I don't think most people intellectualize about religion. They use it to keep themselves alive. I'm not talking about most Americans. We don't need it that way, most of us, now. But there was certainly a time when many of us did, maybe most of us.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Locus Magazine, June 2000

Positive obsession is about not being able to stop just because you’re afraid and full of doubts. Positive obsession is dangerous. It’s about not being able to stop at all.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Bloodchild and Other Stories

One who could hunger could starve.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Lilith's Brood

We give our dead
To the orchards
And the groves.
We give our dead
To life.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Parable of the Talents

I'm glad I was raised as a Baptist, because I got my conscience installed early.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Locus Magazine, June 2000

I think writers use absolutely everything that happens to us, and surely if I had had a different sort of childhood and still come out a writer, I'd be a different kind of writer. It's on a par with, but different from, the fact that I had four brothers who were born and died before I was born. Some of them didn't come to term, some of them did come to term and then died. But my mother couldn't carry a child to term, for the most part something went wrong. If they had lived, I would be a very different person. So, anything that happens in your life that is important, if it didn't happen you would be someone different.

OCTAVIA E. BUTLER, Motion Magazine, Mar. 14, 2004

When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing.



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