Octavia Butler was a science fiction writer like no other. Her works are essential for their prescient, intricate worldbuilding, empathy, and gripping characters. It's no surprise that more and more adaptations of her novels have moved ahead in recent years. From a soaring opera to bestselling graphic novel retellings, her work continues to find new fans through diverse mediums.
But what of the adaptations to come? Here's a look at all the Octavia Butler adaptations currently in development.
Parable of the Sower Movie
As of July 2021, a Parable of the Sower film is finally in development.
While not much more information about the project is available at this time, we do know that Garrett Bradley has been tapped to direct. Bradley is know for work which has a sociopolitical influence, including her most recent documentary Time, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
The novel follows Lauren Olamina, who lives with her family in in one of the few remaining safe neighborhoods on the edge of Los Angeles. Leaving the walls of their community, Lauren's preacher father sets out with a group to salvage what was left behind after drugs, disease, war, and water shortages wrought destruction upon their way of life. But as her father tries to guide people, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, which makes her remarkably sensitive to others' pain.
After their compound is ravaged, Lauren is forced out into a dangerous America. She and the last refugees must find safety in the north, but along the way Lauren might start a revolution that heralds the salvation of humankind.
Fledgling TV Show
On July 28th, 2021, Variety reported that HBO has ordered a pilot script adaptation of Butler's final novel, Fledgling.
Lovecraft Country writers Sonya Winton-Odamtten and Jonathan I. Kidd will write the pilot, and Issa Rae (Insecure) and J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) are attached to executive produce.
Butler's 2005 novel follows Shori, a genetically-modified vampire searching for a way to satiate her terrifying appetites—and to learn the truth about her identity.
Kindred TV Show
In 2021, FX ordered a pilot based on the novel Kindred. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins—a MacArthur Genius Award-winner who consulted on Watchmen—is tapped to write and executive produce the project. Executive producing alongside him are Courtney Lee-Mitchell, Joe Weisberg, and Joel Fields of The Americans, Ernestine Walker, Merrilee Heifetz, and Darren Aronofsky's production company, Protozoa Pictures.
It was announced in July 2021 that Janicza Bravo will direct the series, as well as executive produce. She has been a fan of the Kindred novel for a very long time, and audiences may be familiar with her work through Zola, Lemon, Atlanta, Dear White People, and In Treatment.
Mallori Johnson—a recent graduate from Juilliard—is slated to play the lead of the series.
Kindred is centered around a 26-year-old Black woman named Dana. As she celebrates her birthday with her husband, she's transported from her modern-day California home back into the antebellum South. While there, she saves the life of Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner.
But this isn't the only time the dangerous past pulls Dana back. Each time she's transported to the plantation, she's kept there for longer. This is a riveting and visionary tale of racism, sexism, and white supremacy across the centuries.
In December of 2021, Vanity Fair provided an update on the adaptation.
The outlet spoke with writer Jacobs-Jenkins and executive producer Lee-Mitchell on the day the pilot wrapped shooting. Jacobs-Jenkins, who has been a Butler reader since high school, told Vanity Fair, “As more information [about the pilot] is rolled out to the public, the response has been so encouraging and affirming. It’s been a long time coming, we’ve been developing this for a long time, but I feel very happy to be where we are. It’s kind of a miracle.”
Lee-Mitchell also told Vanity Fair that the resurgence of interest in Butler's work may be due in part to the political rise of Donald Trump: "So many of [her books] seem to be very prescient about the circumstances around him. I think people just started talking about her in those terms. Then people who hadn’t heard of her started reading her books.”
The series is set to premiere all eight episodes on Hulu on December 13th. Until then, check out the exciting teaser trailer below!
Wild Seed TV Show
A television series adaptation developed by Amazon is in the works for Wild Seed, the first chronological entry in the Patternist series. The story centers around two African immortals—Doro, a malevolent and violent being who takes over the bodies of his victims; and Anyanwu, a benevolent entity whose abilities include shape-shifting and healing.
Both are feared by humans, but have no equal — until they meet each other. Over generations, Doro covets Anyanwu, setting in motion a power struggle that changes the course of history.
The show is produced by JuVee Productions, which has Viola Davis and Julius Tennon at the helm. Nnedi Okorafor—acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy writer across literature, comics, and film—has been tapped to co-write the series alongside filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu, and she gave The Portalist an idea of what to expect.
Dawn TV Show
Also coming to Amazon is a series adaptation of Dawn, the first book in the Lilith's Blood trilogy. This post-apocalyptic tale follows Lilith lyapo, who awakens on a spaceship after a centuries-long slumber. While she slept, an alien race—the Oankali—saved humanity from nuclear war on a dying planet. Now it's up to Lilith to rebuild the future of her species. But at what cost?
Parable of the Talents Graphic Novel
As a follow-up to their graphic novel adaptations of Parable of the Sower and Kindred, writer and cartoonist Damian Duffy and illustrator John Jennings are adapting Parable of the Talents into a graphic novel. While there's no date set for publication yet, it's certainly a project to keep an eye on.
In Parable of the Talents, outside the peaceful community of Acorn, America continues to dissolve. Presidential candidate Andrew Steele Jarret pushes to “make America great again,” causing his followers to rally for an end to racial and religious tolerance and equality. When the violent extremists set their sights on Acorn, the community becomes the center of a dangerous fight for survival.
Although some of Butler’s fiction, such as her short story "Amnesty," have yet to be tapped for an adaptation, it may only be a matter of time before more of her work is honored in a theater, graphic novel, or screen adaptation.
Although few adaptations match the true genius of the source material, we look forward to retellings that continue to introduce new fans to Butler’s essential philosophies.