Make Change Not to-do Lists

MUAM-2014-TO-DO_LISTWe are already a week into the new year. For many academics this also means the new semester is beginning–despite the polar vortex–this week and next. As I look at all the things that I didn’t get to check off my to-do list in 2013, I’m very proud to say launching the OEB Society is not one of them!

I’m so glad to finally have connected with a group of people who see not only the importance of Butler’s work but the value of organizing a society around it. I am especially glad to have allowed myself to move in this direction in my scholarship. I spent so many years admiring Butler’s work, but not incorporating it into my scholarship because I am a “film and visual media” person. I didn’t think I had the background in speculative fiction or the time to really study her work in a professional way. Then came OEB’s untimely passing in 2006 and I deeply regretted that I did not get to meet her. Wait–let me change that. I regretted that I did not make the time to meet her. I kept thinking it would happen–one day. I kept moving it to my new year’s to-do list.

As I looked at this year’s list of things I really want to accomplish, I asked myself what would Lauren or Lilith or Dana put on their “things to do in 2014” list. While I’m still thinking about what Lilith and Dana would say, I’m sure that Lauren would write: Make Change–Not to-do lists! I’m also sure  Ms. Butler would concur.

What would your favorite character from a Butler novel put on their to-do list this year?

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She Had Me at Uhura

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A few years ago I got a phone call from the president of a prominent women’s organization. She was familiar with my work on images of women in the media and invited me to suggest a book for her group to read. I was poised to tell her she had the wrong person because her group was composed of business women and I thought I had very little to offer bankers and insurance executives. However as we continued to chat,  she brought up the (at the time) new Star Trek film. When she said that a Black woman’s voice was the first thing those who encountered the Enterprise (in the 1960’s television show) heard I got really excited and I agreed to come to her national meeting. Then I suggested Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower as the book everyone should read.

I prepared to meet these titans of the business world and I developed a lecture that discussed how the protagonist of Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina, was a model for corporate and civic leadership. I had an extraordinary time at the conference and my theory was well received. I developed relationships that are ongoing and I expanded my scholarship. In fact, I will be teaching a course in the spring on models of leadership in Black speculative fiction and I’ll post a call for papers on how Black Speculative fiction imagines or re-imagines leadership.

Who knew my favorite after school tv show when I was kid would combine with JJ Abram’s revision, a business executive’s phone call, and Octavia Butler’s wisdom to lead me where I had not dared to go before–corporate America.