The Community Watch and Comment show for August 13 at 11am featured Tananarive Due, Stephen Barnes and Tarshia Stanley talking about the life and legacy of Octavia Butler.
The OEB Literary Society is a year old. Like most toddlers we experienced moments of rapid growth and incidences of bruised knees as we sought a way forward. At our initial meeting at the American Literature Association conference in Boston 2013, we put together a slate of officers and two members. We’ve now grown to more than 50 members and were able to sponsor two very excellent panels at ALA 2014 in Washington, DC! Both panels were well attended and provoked deep and interesting conversation.
Bryan Conn of the University of North Texas began the first panel with “‘It’s your body': Kindred’s Black Liberalism and the Logic of Contract” which caused a lively debate surrounding the in/ability of an enslaved person to participate in body contracts. Kristen Lillvis from Marshall University added another level of insight reading fictive musical performances as afrofuturist texts with a paper entitled: “Afrofuturist Tempo-rality in the Work of Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, and Gayl Jones.” Howard University professor and officer in the OEB society, Greg Hampton, added fruit to the African Diaspora scholar’s apple carts with his paper, “Reading Aimé Césaire with Octavia Butler: A Tempest and Discourse on Colonialism as Science Fiction Narratives of Aliens Invasion.”
The second panel sponsored by the society began with a reading of Earthseed and Black Liberation Theology. Clarence W. Tweedy from the University of Mary Washington gave us much to think about in his paper, “In the Name of Change: Prophecy and Redemption in the Fiction of Octavia Butler.” “Backward-Looking Futures: Horizons of Change in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower,” was an innovative read of circuitous time travel from Matthew Mullins of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The panel was rounded out by thoughts from Saddleback College’s Deanna Gross Scherger and her reading of feminist angst around issues of birth and body control in her paper, “The Gene Trade: Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series and the New Eugenics.” All in all it was a very nice birthday party!
The society is proud of the intellectual scholarship and diversity we were able to offer at ALA 2014. Among our goals for our terrific twos are to increase membership, to produce a newsletter, and to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the publication of Butler’s Fledgling. We will sponsor two more panels in 2015 and I personally hope to see significant strides made toward completing the MLA teaching series volume I have proposed: Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler. Please consider filling out the survey and submitting a proposal for the volume by July 1. All questions regarding the volume should be sent via email to: TeachingOctaviaButler@gmail.com. Questions about the society are fielded at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, Happy Birthday to the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society and Happy Summer to all of you!
As I come to the end of my Butler’s Daughter’s experience, I want to reflect on how I began it: One of the reasons I joined the Butler’s Daughter’s course is because I am a science fiction junkie. I loved Ender’s Game and Stargate and The Uglies series but I was always somewhat alarmed that there was never any people of color there. What happened to the people of color in the future? Did they die off? Were they massacared in the genocide Hitler dreamed of? What exactly happened?
In many of the books I read, there was this every hipster idea that if we were all the same, there would be no more strife caused by silly divisions like race or gender or sexuality. There would be problems of course, but these problems would be on the scale of alien attacks and world domination. There was a cohesiveness amongst the citizens of science fiction that seemed to branch from the fact that they were all the same.
What I love about Octavia Butlers books, and Dawn in particular, is that nothing happened to the people of color: Lillith is right there, leading the way into the new future. Dawn is an entire book about how not only diversity survives; it is vital to the world. The Oankali cannot live without diversity and seek out partners in order to avoid stagnation. This is in direct contradiction with the redirect of most science fiction novels, where the destruction of diversity results in unity of the world. However this kind of unity is false, achieved only by denying difference and thus denying people their individuality. By embracing diversity, Butler creates a more realistic future and a more achievable Utopia, one that may not be pretty, but is on its way to being equal.
It’s been rewarding to be reading about people of color in the future, to have a story where we exist and where we are working towards gaining equality. I personally feel as more people of color writers are recognized for their brilliance, we will see more of the story lines become common place. I am excited for that day.
Going into this panel, I had nothing but high expectations, and coming out of the panel, I felt pleased. It’s a known fact: people who read and enjoy Octavia Butler’s works are inherently cool. And now I’m one of them. The panel contained a mix of artists and activists, many of who relate their work back to Octavia Butler and are finding ways to use her texts to inspire movements. With a panel chocked full of insightful people, I jotted notes to keep up, but one comment really stuck out to me–no notes required. Junot Díaz (whose credentials are available on wikipedia. Also, Junot, a few girls in my class are hardcore fangirls) said that our subconscious has a way of showing up in the work that we do, and specifically our writing. It was an interesting idea considering many people set out to write about specific issues like racism, feminism, sexism, agism, etc in their writing, but what about the ideas we aren’t even thinking about? As frustrating as it can be, writing is so cathartic. As a Spelman student I actively think a lot about feminism and women’s roles within texts and in real-world situations, and a lot of that shows up in my writing, but I think after Junot’s comment, I am more inclined to regularly journal to see what I’m thinking about when I’m not even aware that I’m thinking. Is my mind ever really off the clock? As we move into the spring/summer/school-less months, I plan to journal for ten minutes a day; I want to know more about my subconscious, and I encourage readers of this blog to try it with me!
On another note, today was the last day of our Butler’s Daughter’s: Imagining Leadership class. I am particularly thankful for this class and glad to be one of the pioneers of this course because it opened my eyes to an entire field of study (afrofuturism), incredibly talented authors, and my own capabilities to write and produce science fiction with black protagonists. I’ve always been interested in science-fiction books and movies like Gattaca and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, for example, but it never occurred to me that I could be the one telling those stories, and that the people in the stories could look like me. Octavia is correct when she writes, “all you touch, you change,” because this course has enlightened me in so many unexpected ways, and moved me into long-term action as a reader, writer and thinker.
To our scarily-patient instructors Dr. Stanley and Professor Due, many thanks.
Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes have released their short film based on their novel Devil’s Wake to youtube.
A 13-year-old girl and her grandfather, hiding out in a wooded cabin after a plague, meet the challenge of their lives when her birthday trip to a trading post goes horribly awry. Starring Frankie Faison (The Silence of the Lambs, “The Wire,” “Banshee”) and introducing Saoirse Scott (“One Life to Live”).
Nominated for Best Narrrative Short: Pan African Film Festival and BronzeLens Film Festival.
Directed by Luchina Fisher (Death in the Family).
Written by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, based on their novel Devil’s Wake.
Royalty free music licensed by http://www.stockmusic.net
For more on Luchina Fisher: http://www.deathinthefamilyfilm.com
For more on Tananarive Due:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tanana…
For more on Steven Barnes: http://www.diamondhour.com
For more on Frankie Faison: https://twitter.com/FrankieFaison
For more on Saoirse Scott:https://www.facebook.com/SaoirseKScott
Because all she touched, she changed
Speculative Fiction from Around the World
BlackScienceFictionSociety.com was created to highlight, celebrate and develop black science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy & horror.
Because all she touched, she changed
"I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live." Weems
Writing journal of author Tananarive Due
Because all she touched, she changed