There is a long and documented tradition of writers of African descent who employ the speculative fiction genre, chief among them is Octavia E. Butler. In addition to being awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, Butler received multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, and in 2000 received the lifetime achievement award from the PEN American Center. Her work is among the most studied and theorized of the speculative fiction genre and is important for its trailblazing capacity. Butler’s work crosses a number of disciplines including Literature, Environmental Studies, Political Science, and even Bio-Medical Ethics. Yet, as important as her work has been for innovating academic disciplines, Butler’s literary legacy is just as important for the inspiration and enjoyment it provides to independent readers and writers of speculative fiction.
As a tribute to the life and legacy of this brilliant author, The Octavia E. Butler Society held is inaugural meeting at the 2013 American Literature Association Conference in Boston, MA. The society sponsored two events, a panel on teaching Octavia E. Butler in the academy, and a roundtable discussing the need for such a society in the academy. In keeping with the tenor of Butler’s work, the Society established itself as the site at which academics, writers, readers, and future readers of the work could all meet to preserve the legacy and life that was Octavia E. Butler.
Preserve Butler’s literary legacy by encouraging the teaching of her works in the academy and other acts of scholarly engagement
Create a space for the critical and cultural engagement of Butler’s work across all disciplines and boundaries, invite conversation and collaboration between academics and independent scholars
Create a newsletter highlighting work on Octavia E. Butler, Speculative Fiction by writers of color and Afrofuturism
Provide a resource for those teaching Butler’s work
Award a book scholarship to students working on Octavia E. Butler
President Tarshia L. Stanley, St. Catherine University
Tarshia L. Stanley is Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences and Associate Professor of English at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She teaches courses in film and media studies particularly as it pertains to images of women of African descent. She has authored articles critiquing Black women in African, African American, and Caribbean cinema as well as Black female iconography in American popular culture and literature. Stanley has edited a forthcoming volume for the Modern Language Association’s teaching series entitled Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia E. Butler in the Academy. She received the A.B. from Duke University and the MA and Ph.D. from the University of Florida where she was a McKnight Doctoral Fellow.
Vice President Edmond Y. Chang, Ohio University
Dr. Edmond Y. Chang is an Assistant Professor of English at Ohio University. His areas of research include technoculture, race/gender/sexuality, video games, RPGs, and LARP, feminist media studies, cultural studies, popular culture, and 20/21C American literature. He earned his Ph.D. in English at the University of Washington. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on queer American literature, feminist science fiction, writers of color, virtual worlds, games, Buffy, Harry Potter, and more! He is completing his first book on queerness and digital games tentatively entitled Queerness Cannot Be Designed.
Membership Chair Claire P. Curtis, College of Charleston
Claire Curtis has been teaching in the department of political science since 1998. She teaches courses on the history of political thought, contemporary liberalism, sexual harassment and utopia. She has also taught in the Honors college and for the FYE program.
Dr. Curtis earned her MA and PhD from Johns Hopkins University and her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College. Dr. Curtis’ research interests are in utopia and dystopia and the intersections between political philosophy and fiction. She has recently published a book on postapocalyptic fiction and the social contract and is working on a project on young adult postapocalyptic fiction. She has also published on feminist utopian science fiction and is particularly interested in the work of Octavia Butler.
Publicity Chair Tananarive Due, Author
Tananarive Due is the Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College (2012-2014), where she teaches screenwriting and journalism. She also teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles. The American Book Award winner and NAACP Image Award recipient is the author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir. In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University.
Due has a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Leeds, England, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar. In addition to VONA, Due has taught at the Hurston-Wright Foundation’s Writers’ Week and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. As a screenwriter, she is a member of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA). She was recently awarded the Life Time Achievement Award in the Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Founding Treasurer, Gregory Hampton, Howard University
Dr. Hampton received a B.A. in Economics and African-American Studies from Oberlin College; an M.A. in African-American Studies from Yale University; and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Duke University. He published articles in the English Journal, the CLAJ (College Language Association Journal), Children’s Literature in Education: An International Quarterly, Obsidian III, and Callaloo. His most recent courses were invested in the problematic of the black body and its portrayal in both literature and film as well as literature across cultures (African, British, Native American, Caribbean, and Asian). His book Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler: Slaves, Aliens, and Vampires (Lexington Books) was the first monograph of literary criticism invested in examining the complete body of fiction produced by Octavia Butler. Greg’s most recent monograph, Imagining Slaves and Robots in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture: Reinventing Yesterday’s Slave with Tomorrow’s Robot (Lexington Books) is an interdisciplinary work about the relationship between technology and human nature. His next book, The Bloomsbury Handbook to Octavia E. Butler is forthcoming in 2020.
We are so grateful to Greg for saying yes and lending his support and expertise to the founding of the Society. His leaves an indelible contribution to the literary scholarship on Octavia E. Butler.