The late Octavia Estelle Butler, the first African American woman to gain popularity and critical acclaim as a science fiction writer, earned her associate of arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena City College before attending Cal State LA and UCLA.
Butler was born in Pasadena. She described herself as shy and a daydreamer in school, but she overcame dyslexia and began writing when she was 10 years old to escape loneliness and boredom.
At age 12, Butler became interested in science fiction, and she would later win several awards for her writing. In 1984 she earned a Hugo Award for her short story, ‘Speech Sounds,’ and in 1985 she won the Hugo Award for her novella ‘Bloodchild,’ which also took the 1984 Nebula Award. Considered science fiction’s highest awards, the Hugo and Nebula awards are decided on by other science fiction writers and fans.
Butler's patternists series, published between 1976 and 1984, tells of a society that is run by a specially-bred group of telepaths. This is an elite group who are mentally linked to one another in a hierarchical pattern, and these telepaths are trying to create a superhuman race. The series includes the books “Patternmaster,” “Mind of My Mind,” “Survivor,” “Wild Seed” and “Clay's Ark.” “Patternmaster” deals with the struggle between brawn and brain while commenting on class structure and the role of women. “Wild Seed” incorporates a great deal of the black experience, including slavery.
In 1995, Butler won the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” a fellowship viewed as an investment in a person’s originality, insight and potential.
“I'm not writing for some noble purpose; I just like telling a good story. If what I write about helps others understand this world we live in, so much the better for all of us,” Butler told fellow author Robert McTyre. “Every story I write adds to me a little, changes me a little, forces me to reexamine an attitude or belief, causes me to research and learn, helps me to understand people and grow. Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”