Tag Archives: Fledgling

Why I Miss Octavia Butler

Like a flailing restaurant patron who has a chunk of beef stuck in his windpipe, I write speculative fiction. It’s a messy process, of combing through research so I retain a kernel of accuracy in the story, say of physics or history, of plot points and character sketches, scratched out, erased, and written over in my notebooks. There are many notecards and scraps of paper tucked into my journals, so many that I tend to break the bindings of lesser-made books. Don’t forget this detail, that sub-theme, this one scene that keeps popping up in my daydreams. I go back, rewrite, reconceive, get frustrated, re-execute, finally feel satisfied.

Octavia Butler and her booksIt could very well be that all of my energy is in vain, and none of it is any good. I think it’s healthy for writers to drink a cup of hubris with a side of humility every so often. There is so little that keeps us honest. Writing is supposed to be sellable, and to make it to the commercial market, it needs to be definable—what’s the synopsis, who’s the audience, is it like any other bestseller out there, what’s the genre? It had better not fit in too many boxes, or the marketing department at the publisher will implode like an old Vegas casino.

Octavia Butler was one of those writers who defied pretty much everything in publishing—its tightness on genre categories, certainly, but also its expectations around audience appeal, topics that could be covered in fiction, and what bestselling authors should look and sound like. Read More…

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