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15 Fascinating Facts About Octavia Butler

On the anniversary of her death, we look back on the extraordinary life of a remarkable writer.

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She was raised by women

Kindred was inspired by the time a very young Butler spent with her mother at work 

A terrible sci-fi movie helped launch her career

octavia butler facts devil girl from mars
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  • Photo Credit: British Lion Films

She was bullied

octavia butler facts 15 portrait
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  • Detail of picture of Octavia Butler taken when she was 15 or 16, circa 1962.

    Photo Credit: Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A classmate's comment motivated her to write Kindred

She was friends with author Samuel R. Delany

octavia butler samuel r delany
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  • Actor Avery Brooks (L.) and Samuel R. Delany (R.) at a tribute to Octavia Butler.

    Photo Credit: Houari B / Flickr (CC)

She supported herself by working as a potato chip inspector

She was given a $5,000 advance for Kindred

She was a world traveler

octavia butler facts traveler machu picchu
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  • Butler in Machu Picchu in 1985, photographer unknown.

    Photo Credit: Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

She was the first science fiction author to win a MacArthur Genius Grant

She avoided reading critical theory about her work

octavia butler facts parable of the talents
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  • Notes written by Octavia E. Butler for her novel Parable of the Talents, ca. 1996.

    Photo Credit: Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

When she moved to Seattle, she brought 300 boxes of books with her  

octavia butler facts book collection
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  • Photograph of Octavia E. Butler seated by her bookcase, 1986.

    Photo Credit: Patti Perret, photograph of Octavia E. Butler seated by her bookcase, 1986. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Butler never drove

She was a fan of Fantastic Four comics and the Sookie Stackhouse novels 

She was incredibly determined

octavia butler facts notebook
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  • Detail of a page from Octavia Butler's notebook.

    Photo Credit: ctavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.