Episode 66: The Legacy of Octavia E. Butler with Damian E. Duffy, John Jennings, and Shelley Streeby

We are sad to inform you all that this is our last episode for this season, How Do You Like it So Far? crew!  We’ve had a lovely run this year with countless, unforgettable guests, wonderful, thought-provoking conservations, and an amazing fanbase.  We could not have asked for anything more and we are so thankful you have stuck with us during a global pandemic.  If anything, we know we can do this podcast whenever, wherever, and however and we will keep doing just that!  

This week (tears our FINAL week), we continue our series on how science fiction thinks about disaster, especially in our new normal surrounding COVID-19 and the global pandemic.  We examine the work and legacy of Octavia E. Butler, an exceptional science fiction writer who wrote about gender and sexuality in bold new ways.  Henry and Colin welcome Shelley Streeby, Professor of Literature and Ethnic Studies at UC – San Diego, Director of Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, and author of The Future of Climate Change: World Making Through Science Fiction and Activism, John Jennings, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies and a Collaborating Faculty Member in the Department of Creative Writing at UC – Riverside, and Damian E. Duffy, a Cartoonist, Scholar, Lecturer, Writer, Curator, Teacher, #1 New York Times Bestseller Graphic Novelist.  Jennings and Duffy are collaborating on a project to adapt Butler’s Kindred and Parable of the Sower to graphic novels.  They discuss their decision to choose Parable of the Sower as their next graphic novel after the election of Donald Trump and their process of translating the novel into graphic images (Spoiler: Jennings does the art and Duffy crafts the story points).  Each of our guests tells us about their first encounter with Butler’s work and how they found her to be a buried treasure and became lifelong fans of her work.  They dive deep into the Parable of the Sower as a cautionary tale if we as a society do not change our behavior.  They talk about Butler as a writer who focuses on what connects us rather than what makes us different.  Listen in as Streeby, Duffy, Jennings, Henry and Colin discuss the ways Parable of the Sower can make us think of our current moment involving the coronavirus.  They also discuss in great detail Butler’s legacy and the influence she has had on the next crop of African-American science fiction writers.  Also, looking for something to read while stuck inside?  Check out the notes section for a list of Octavia E. Butler’s work, along with other great African-American writers! 

Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Octavia E. Butler’s work referenced in this podcast:
Wild Seed
Xenogenesis Trilogy
Parable of the Sower
“Speech sounds”

African-American authors referenced in this podcast:  
W.E.B. DuBoisThe Comet
Toni Morrison
Pauline Hopkins – One Blood
Sheree R. Thomas – Dark Matter

Movies Mentioned in this Podcast:
Harry BelafonteThe World,The Flesh, and the Devil
Z for Zackariah

Aimee Bahng – Butler as a feminst philosopher of science

1992 LA Uprisings

Octavia got her start at Clarion

Butler left 350 boxes of material to the Huntington Library

How she was thinking of indigenous people and people of color

Rob Nixon – Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor


Streeby’s piece on Butler as a histo-featurist

Afro-Futurism – Butler is directly connected to it
Mark Dery – Black to the Future (1993)

Parable of the Sower:
Global warming is a character
Robert Heinlein type of fiction
Cautionary Tale
More about how prescient the book is
1991 interview where she talks about writing the book 
Prop 182 at that time in the 1990s

Bruce Sterling and design-fiction
How Do You Like it So Far? Bruce Sterling Episode

Walidah Imarisha – definition of visionary fiction in Octavia’s Brood

Tom Moylan’s definition of critical dystopias

Obama – empathy gap in America
Trump lacks any sort of empathy 
Empathy under neoliberalism

Stacey Robinson – imagines Black-centric spaces

Henry’s Science Fiction Talks at MIT:
Butler’s Talk at MIT
Henry’s Essay on Butler at MIT
Samuel Delaney
Joe Halderman
Michael A. Burstein

Importance of libraries to Butler

Damian Duffy’s Essay – interstitial literacy

Black Monday Murders by Tomm Coker and Jonathan Hickman

Octavia’s E. Butler’s Legacy:
Octavia E. Butler Scholarship
Octavia’s Brood 
Radio Imagination Program (2016) 
Julia Meltzer and Clockshop Arts Collective
Adrienne Maree Brown – Co-Editor of Octavia’s Brood
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption
Black Angel
Dani McClain A Homing Instinct 
Ayana Jamison – Founder of Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network
Toshi ReagonParable of the Sower opera

Octavia E. Butler Scholars:
Mothership by Bill Campbell and Edward Hall
N.K. Jemisin
Nalo Hopkinson
Nnedi Okorafor
MegaScope –  new graphic novel on speculative fiction from people of color

Scott McCloud episode

Nick SousanisUnflattening

The Space MerchantsCyril M. Kornbluth and Frederick Pohl

Henry’s essay on the book 

Share your thoughts via Twitter with Henry and Colin and also through email at [email protected]!

1 thought on “Episode 66: The Legacy of Octavia E. Butler with Damian E. Duffy, John Jennings, and Shelley Streeby”

  1. Will they be collaborating on anymore of Butler’s work? She changed my entire world, her work needs to be spread and shared. When I caught wind of the Graphic novels, I dropped everything I was doing and immediately purchased them both. I have every book Butler has written, my spirit craves her work. When I found out the graphic novels existed, I had to have them. I pray they create more, namely the xenogenisis series. I have always wanted to see the Oankali brought to life. Heartfelt thank you to everyone who made the graphic novels happen, the world needs them. I hope there will be more to come!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *