Octavia E. Butler’s name trends on Twitter today (June 22) in recognition of what would have been the late science fiction and fantasy author’s 71st birthday. Google celebrated Butler’s influence on literature by featuring her likeness on its homepage Doodle.
Per biographies on her website and Google’s blog, Butler was born on June 22, 1947, in Pasadena, California. Social anxiety prompted her to spend a lot of time in the library, where she developed an appreciation for science fiction. She began writing when her mother bought her a typewriter at age 10 and carried her passion into her education at Pasadena Community College, UCLA and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.
Butler, who wrote in various fiction formats, is best known for novels and short stories like “Kindred,” ”Bloodchild,” and the “Xenogenesis” trilogy. Her canon uses otherworldly scenarios to tackle racism, sexism, class conflict and other forms of real-world oppression. Fans cite her development of fictional alternative communities with Black leaders as a key influence on Afrofuturism. Her legacy lives on, well beyond her death from a stroke in 2006.
“Our family is grateful and honored by the opportunity to invoke the memory of Octavia E. Butler,” her family said in a statement on Google’s blog post. “Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised. She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”