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Six Books About Octavia E. Butler

These books are powerful companions to Butler's own work. 

books about Octavia Butler
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  • Photo Credit: Image from the cover of 'A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky' by Lynell George.

Octavia Butler was one of the most influential figures in the history of speculative fiction. The author of several iconic works in the genre, Butler was the first sci-fi writer to receive a MacArthur Genius Grant. 

Despite her sudden death in 2006, Butler’s legacy has continued to flourish. She has inspired countless writers in the fields of science and speculative fiction. Many of her works are currently being adapted for TV and film, and in 2017 her dystopian novel Parable of the Sower was turned into an opera

If you’re craving more Butler content while you wait for these new adaptations, we’ve put together a list of six books about Octavia Butler that we hope will bring any reader closer to her philosophies.

a handful of earth a handful of sky

A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler

By Lynell George

A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky offers a guide to a creative life, using Butler as a model. The book goes far beyond the creative process too, delving into the very specific ways Butler shaped her own life. It emphasizes that anyone can lead an intentional and creative life, working with what you have to make something great—just as Butler did. 

Ultimately, the reader is left with a wealth of inspiration and a sense of familiarity with the world of the otherwise private writer.

octavia's brood

Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

By Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown

Octavia Butler was one of the most famous science fiction authors to integrate themes of social justice into her work. This anthology is a collection of 20 short stories in a similar vein. 

The stories cover a range of genres from traditional sci-fi to horror, but they all contain themes of ways to better our world, and calls for justice and equity. Although none of Butler’s work is contained in this collection, her influence is beautifully clear throughout.

RELATED: In This Era of Change, We Must Manifest Octavia Butler's Earthseed

luminescent threads

Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler

By Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal

This anthology of original essays and letters is a loving tribute to the continued legacy of Octavia Butler. Writers, academics, artists, and many others reflect on her treatment of themes of identity and race, as well as her pioneering role as a Black woman in speculative fiction. 

When the anthology was first released in 2017, editor Alexandra Pierce reflected for The Portalist on her own experience working on Luminescent Threads and what she and her collaborators learned about Butler. You can find her thoughts here.

conversations with octavia butler

Conversations With Octavia Butler

By Consuela Francis

Ranging from 1980 to just before her death in 2006, this collection of interviews paints a full portrait of Octavia Butler. 

She emerges as a deep thinker who's reflective not just about he own writing and her genre of choice, but about the world around her. 

In these interviews, she also sheds light on the harder aspects of being a trailblazing figure in her field.

RELATED: Octavia Butler Interviews to Watch or Listen to Today

changing bodies in the fiction of octavia butler

Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler: Slaves, Aliens, and Vampires

By Gregory Jerome Hampton

Changing Bodies in the Fiction of Octavia Butler examines Butler’s work from a more academic standpoint, specifically through the lenses of African-American studies and gender studies. 

Author Gregory Jerome Hampton argues that Butler’s work is critical to our modern understanding of identity formation, as she often used sci-fi conventions to examine things like race, gender, and class. 

Although it is a more scholarly text than others on this list, Hampton has clearly made an effort to stay away from exclusive language in order to keep the text accessible to all audiences.

RELATED: Afrofuturism Books That Explore the Past, Present, and Future

strange matings

Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler

By Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl

Strange Matings seeks to continue the questions posed by Octavia Butler’s body of work. It is a wide-ranging anthology that includes academic essays, personal reflections, poems, interviews, and much more. 

In addition to furthering discussions of her work, the book also attempts to define Butler’s legacy. The love the contributors and editors have for Butler shines through in this work that will be enjoyed by any fan.

RELATED: She Tried to Wake Me: My Humbling First Meeting With Octavia Butler