Tag Archives: Octavia Butler

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Live From San Diego Comic Fest: The Afrofuturism Panel

By Arturo R. García

The final day of the Comic Fest opened with one of the most far-ranging topics in speculative fiction in Afrofuturism. And true to form, the speakers reached into the past and toward the future in discussing not only their interpretation of the concept, but how it has influenced their fandom and their work.
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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Junot Diaz

By Andrea Plaid

If we had to pick a Racialicious poster boy–that aphrodisiac of sapiosexuality–Junot Diaz would be it.

Junot Diaz. Photo: Carolyn Cole. Via Los Angeles Times.

The R’s Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson says this about his book, The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao:

My eyes drank in every word of “Wildwood,” the second chapter in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the plane from Baltimore to Austin, the narrative gripped me solidly by the throat, turning a casual curiosity about Oscar into a desperate longing to hear more from his sister Lola.

When the plane touched down, my sweatshirt was crunchy with the salt from shed tears and I had run through six napkins while the story unfolded. I grabbed my bags, and called my boyfriend who had been badgering me about reading the novel for some months now.

“Why didn’t you mention Lola?” I asked.

“Who? Oscar’s sister? Why is that…oh.” His voice suddenly bloomed with recognition and we sat in silence for a few seconds.

In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus – obviously, Oscar – or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.

….

Because in the book I read – as in life – the men in each of these women’s lives were not central figures. There are men, yes, and Oscar is the unifying force in the narrative, but the people Belicia and Lola were involved with were not the point unto themselves. The men stood for the method of escape. With the exception of The Gangster and Yunior, all the men in the book that Lola and Belicia were involved with were ways to get the hell out.

Lola’s boyfriend Aldo is the method to escape her mother. Sure, she loved him. Kind of. But reading through the lines, the catalyst for her leaving with Aldo was that he asked to her to come live with him. Sex was part of the travel cost. As I have written before, a guy is the easiest way to escape a fucked up family life.

But this easily overlooked difference belies the true genius in Oscar Wao. It isn’t just a documenting a fictionalized account of the things that happen in our real life communities. The book shines in how Diaz fills in what would normally be an outline, and shows us the after. Or more appropriately, how Diaz demonstrates how there ain’t no happily ever after. There are just choices and consequences.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Jakeya Caruthers

By Andrea Plaid

Jakeya Caruthers. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Meeting one of my long-admired-from-afar writer/thinkers, Darnell Moore, over coffee-talk about gentrification and public transportation, I asked for suggestions for people I could interview for future Crushes. He said that he knew this sistah at Stanford University who taught a class on Afrofuturism.

“Latoya’s taking a class on that as part of her Stanford Fellowship,” I said. “This has got to be the same woman teaching it…”

While Latoya’s family and I drove her back to JFK airport from her weekend stay in NYC, she was all hyped up about–yep!–her Afrofuturism class.

“With Jakeya, right? I’m planning to interview her for the Crush post…”

“Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!!”

So, y’all know what my first question was for Professor Caruthers…

In full disclosure, the R’s intrepid leader, Latoya Peterson, is completely in love with your class, especially the homework! What are you teaching our gurl in your class?

Wow, that’s really humbling!

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Mind of My Mind and Coercive Control [Octavia Butler Book Club]

*Trigger Warning/Spolier Alert*

Mind of My Mind Cover

“Are we going back home?” Vivan asked.

Karl glanced at her, then looked around. He realized that he was heading back toward Palo Verde. He had left home heading nowhere in particular except away from Mary and Doro. Now he had made a large U and was heading back to them. And it wasn’t just an ordinary impulse driving him. It was Mary’s pattern.

He pulled over to the curb, stopped under a NO PARKING sign. He leaned back in the seat, his eyes closed.

“Will you tell me what’s the matter with you?” Vivan asked.

“No.”

She was doing all she could to keep calm. It was his silence that frightened her. His silence and his obvious anger. He wondered why he had brought her with him. Then he remembered.”You’re not leaving me,” he said.

“But if Mary came through transition all right–”

“I said you’re not leaving!”

“All right.” She was almost crying with fear. “What are you going to do with me?”

He turned to glare at her in disgust.

“Karl, for heaven’s sake! Tell me what’s wrong!” Now she was crying.

“Be quiet.” Had he ever loved her, really? Had she ever been more than a pet-like all the rest of his women? “How was Doro last night?” he asked.

She looked startled. By mutual agreement, they did not discuss her nights with Doro. Or they hadn’t until now. “Doro?” she said.

“Doro.”

“Oh, now – ” She sniffed, trying to compose herself. “Now, just a minute – ”

“How was he?”

She frowned at him, disbelieving. “That can’t be what’s bothering you. Not after all this time. Not as though it was my fault either!”

“That’s a pretty good body he’s wearing,” said Karl. “And I could see from the way you were hanging on him this morning that he must have given you a pretty good – ”

“That’s enough!” Outrage was fast replacing her fear.

A pet, he thought. What difference did it make what you said or did to a pet?

“I’ll defy Doro when you do,” she said icily. “The moment you refuse to do what he tells you and stick to your refusal, I’ll stand with you!”

A pet. In pets, free will was tolerated only as long as the pet owner found it amusing. Continue reading

Mind of My Mind [Octavia Butler Book Club]

Mind of My Mind

[Doro] glanced at Rina in annoyance. Rina shrank back against the wall.

“What’s the matter with you?” he asked. “Do you think you’re safer over there?”

“Don’t hurt me,” she said. “Please.”

“Why would you beat a three-year-old like that, Rina?”

“I didn’t do it! I swear. It was a guy who brought me home a couple of nights ago. Mary woke up screaming from a nightmare or something, and he-”

“Hell,” said Doro in disgust. “Is that supposed to be an excuse?”

Rina began to cry silently, tears streaming down her face. “You don’t know,” she said in a low voice. “You don’t understand what it’s like for me having that kid here.” She was no longer slurring her words, in spite of her tears. Her fear had sobered her. She wiped her eyes. “I really didn’t hit her. You know I wouldn’t dare lie to you.” She stared at Doro a moment, then shook her head. “I’ve wanted to hit her though –so many time. I can hardly even stand to go near her sober anymore…” She looked at the body cooling on the floor and began to tremble.

This month’s selection is Mind of My Mind, the second in the Patternist series.

Some free floating framing questions:

1. How does Butler depict the post-slavery world?
2. Are our minds inherently fragile or resilient?
3. How are people shaped by violence?
4. Approaching this book, after reading Wild Seed, what do you think about Doro’s humanity or inhumanity?

Happy reading.

Billy Dee Williams and Octavia Butler on Star Wars

I spotted Billy Dee Williams explaining the mindset of Lando Calrissian over at Wired:

And it immediately made me think of Octavia Butler’s take:

I’m glad he was there, but watching Billy Dee Williams play that role was like watching Jesus Christ Superstar and realizing we’d finally made it into Biblical films: we could play Judas.

Vote: Should We Read Octavia Butler’s Survivor?

Survivor Cover

So, Book Clubbers, I need to resolve a little problem that’s popped up.

Over the weekend, I read Survivor using the link that commenter FtrYBFMD provided.

On one hand, I can see why Butler hated the novel. Her novels are generally known for complicated morality – this one reads pretty clearly. There aren’t really good guys but there are clear bad guys, and it’s more in line with a lot of the other sci-fi I read. (As a matter of fact, it’s forcing me to reflect on how easily I accept the idea of colonizing other planets, lands, and worlds – and how easily authors accept human superiority, even when they question it.) Jo Walton, writing for Tor, provides some context for Butler’s distaste:

Survivor (1978) is part of the Pattern series, but has not been reprinted since 1981. Butler repudiated the novel and refused to allow it to be reprinted:

    When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, “No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage.” People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.

All I can say is, she clearly watched a better grade of Star Trek than I ever did. I can understand her problem with the biology, but what she seems to be saying there is that Survivor is a dishonest novel. Well, I kind of like it. I’m sorry you can’t read it.

Oh, but we can. In addition to the link, Racialicious readers have emailed in and volunteered to scan their copies. So if we wanted to, we could. But there’s a couple ethical questions here. Continue reading