Born in 1947, Octavia Butler described herself as an only child that didn’t know how to get along with other children. She often found herself alone, and in that solitude, she let her mind wander, and built worlds and characters. Butler went on to win the Nebula Award, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, and the Hugo Award.
The imagination cultivated in her youth led to Butler's prescient and vital novels. We’ve compiled six interviews with Octavia Butler for you to watch or listen to, so that you can appreciate the author’s insight in her own words.
Democracy Now: November, 2005
In this interview filmed only three months before Butler's untimely death, she spoke to Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman and Juan González. It was one of her last TV interviews.
Butler explains to Goodman and González why she was drawn to write Fledgling, a fantasy novel about the first Black vampire. She states that it was a relief to write something more "lightweight" after her Parable novels, which she describes as "cautionary tales."
Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction: April, 2000
In this interview from April 2000, filmed at Balticon 34, Butler discusses her experiences at the Clarion Workshop, as well as the confining expectations that can accompany identifying as a sci-fi writer, rather than simply a writer.
NPR: September, 2001
In this radio interview with Scott Simon of Weekend Edition, Butler and Simon discuss how humanity would fare in a world without racism. Butler explores the concepts of absolute empathy and tolerance, and reads a passage from an essay she wrote for NPR on the subject.
Museum of Pop Culture: 2003
In this interview with the Museum of Pop Culture, Butler discusses why she turned to fantasy writing as a child because "my life was so damn boring." She also speaks to how a terrible sci-fi movie inspired her first book, Patternmaster.
Sci-Fi Buzz: circa 1994
In the above video, the interview with Butler appears at the 14:41 time mark.
In this interview from the early 1990s, Butler offers prescient predictions for the 2020s. Chillingly, she refers to the 2020s here as the decade of "the burn." As always, Octavia tried to tell us.
The Charlie Rose Show: June, 2001
Although the public's perspective on Charlie Rose himself has greatly changed since this interview was recorded, these clips of Butler remain a treasure.
In this interview, Butler discusses how writing was vital to her survival, and how Kindred was in some ways inspired by the string of terrible day jobs she worked before transitioning to writing full-time.
Want more articles on Octavia Butler?