Doodle for Google of Octavia Butler. (Image: Google Doodle.)

Google Doodle Celebrates Science Fiction Legend Octavia E. Butler’s 71st Birthday

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Today’s United States Google Doodle celebrates Octavia E. Butler’s 71st birthday. Butler, born in 1947, was the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship. She wrote incredible stories like Bloodchild and the Parable series at a moment when the genre was heavily populated by white men, and many saw it as the territory of white men.

Butler isn’t only an inspiration because of her literary talent—her life story and determination are nothing short of amazing. The writer was raised by her mother and grandmother after her father passed away when she was 7, grew up surrounded by institutional racism and segregation, was a victim of bullying, struggled through school with undiagnosed dyslexia, and worked countless day jobs that meant she sometimes had to wake up at 2 AM in order to write.

One of my favorite science fiction books is Kindred, Butler’s story about an African woman named Dana in 1976 California who time travels back to a nineteenth-century Maryland plantation. Butler’s portrayal of history and slavery is unflinching, unforgettable, unlike anything else you’ve read. She talks strikingly in an interview about making room for a specific kind of empathy for enslaved individuals who fought for survival:

“They were fighting, they just weren’t fighting with fists, which is sometimes easy and pointless. The quick and dirty solution is often the one that’s most admired until you have to live with the result. I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”

Her influence, imagination, and legacy in literature can not be overstated:

A message from her family at the Google Doodle page writes:

“Our family is grateful and honored by the opportunity to invoke the memory of Octavia E. Butler. Her uniqueness emerged at an early age when she expressed a strong interest in the written word. It was clear, even then, that Octavia had found her destiny—she decided to pursue a career as a professional writer.

Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised. She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes, and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.

Today, on her birthday, it is with immense pride that we give tribute to Octavia for the magnificent gifts she bestowed upon all of us. Her legacy endures. As long as we speak her name, she lives.”

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