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The Octavia E. Butler Collection

 

The papers of Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006), the renowned science fiction writer, have resided at The Huntington since 2008, and since being made available to scholars for research, it has become one of the most heavily used archives at the institution.  The collection includes extensive drafts, notes, and research materials for more than a dozen novels, numerous short stories, and essays, as well as correspondence, ephemera, and assorted books.

 

Explore some of The Huntington’s Butler-related material, including the news release announcing receipt of her papers, a blog about how the collection is being used, a Huntington Frontiers magazine article, images from the collection, and a link to special events being organized by the L.A. arts organization, Clockshop.

 

An exhibition is planned for Spring 2017.

 


Mentoring in the AfterlifeMentoring in the Afterlife

VERSO: The Blog of The Huntington
When it came to finding the confidence to publish her writing, science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) could count on herself for a pep talk. “I shall be a bestselling writer,” she wrote in one of the notebooks contained in her papers. “I will find the way to do this. So be it! See to it!” she wrote. It worked. She published a dozen novels, including the bestselling Kindred, and won numerous awards—such as a MacArthur “genius” grant in 1995. Sadly, she died, unexpectedly, at the age of 58. Fortunately, she’d already decided to bequeath her papers to The Huntington.

 

To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Butler’s death, Clockshop, a Los Angeles non-profit arts organization, is partnering with The Huntington and several other institutions to celebrate her life and work during a yearlong series of literary, film, art, and cultural events. read on...


Celebrating Octavia ButlerCelebrating Octavia Butler

VERSO: The Blog of The Huntington
This year is the 10th anniversary of the great science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s untimely death; next year marks what would have been her 70th birthday. Butler created a body of work that helped launch a new genre called Afro-Futurism, which has become the focus of a remarkable amount of scholarly activity of late.

 

After her death, The Huntington became the recipient of her papers, which arrived in 2008 in two four-drawer file cabinets and about 35 large cartons. Butler’s papers required intense processing over the next three years. “She kept nearly everything, from her very first short stories, written at the age of 12, to book contracts and programs from speaking engagements,” says Natalie Russell, assistant curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington. read on...


butler_archive_436.pngHuntington Receives Papers of Science Fiction Writer Octavia Butler

Press Release, Oct. 1, 2009
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is the recipient of the papers of writer Octavia Butler, the most prominent African American woman in the field of science fiction. Butler died in 2006 at the age of 58.

 

The important collection takes a prominent position among The Huntington’s holdings representing the careers of other modern literary figures such as Jack London, Christopher Isherwood, and Charles Bukowski.

 

“Octavia Butler was not only an award-winning science fiction writer, but in a broader context, an important American literary figure, and her papers will be an invaluable resource for scholars,” said David Zeidberg, Avery Director of the Library at The Huntington. read on...


butler_verso_436.jpgWriting Herself In

VERSO: The Blog of The Huntington

The Huntington’s Education staff recently formed a partnership with WriteGirl, a Los Angeles–based creative writing and mentoring organization that, according to the WriteGirl website, “launched in December 2001 to bring the skills and energy of professional women writers to teenage girls who do not otherwise have access to creative writing or mentoring programs.” Huntington reader Ayana Jamieson is the founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, a group of scholars, artists, activists, and fans devoted to the works of science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, whose papers reside at The Huntington. Jamieson helped develop curriculum for the partnership, which included a one-day creative writing workshop at The Huntington using Butler materials. She shares a description of the day.  read on...

 


butler_bust_436.pngBeyond Category: Unpacking Octavia Butler

Huntington Frontiers, Spring/Summer 2014

Cataloging a manuscript collection is a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. You always find more than you bargained for. I recently completed cataloging the papers of science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, a journey both thrilling and frightening. Butler was the first black woman to gain prominence in a genre that flirts with the supernatural. Honored with both Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was also the first science fiction author to be awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” Her novel Kindred was selected for Pasadena’s 2006 One City, One Story program, but she passed away suddenly just weeks before her scheduled appearance.


Butler’s characters are complex, never fully good or fully evil. They inhabit stories that weave together themes of race, gender, sex, religion, power, and humanity. “No entertainment on Earth can match a good story compellingly told,” Butler wrote. Through the trials of strong and complicated characters, these stories ultimately reveal truths about us. Butler’s papers offer a window into her examination of these truths, her creative process, and her everyday life.   read on...

 


Images from the Octavia E. Butler Collection

Handwritten notes on inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Handwritten notes on inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. 


 

Page of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, ca. July 6, 1977–May 5, 1978. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Page of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, ca. July 6, 1977–May 5, 1978. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Working draft of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred (formerly titled To Keep thee in All Thy Ways) with handwritten notes by Butler, ca. 1977. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Working draft of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred (formerly titled To Keep thee in All Thy Ways) with handwritten notes by Butler, ca. 1977. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Photographic portrait of Octavia E. Butler at age 15 or 16, photographer unknown, ca. 1962. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photographic portrait of Octavia E. Butler at age 15 or 16, photographer unknown, ca. 1962. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Typed and handwritten notes by Octavia E. Butler for her novel Parable of the Sower, ca. 1989. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Typed and handwritten notes by Octavia E. Butler for her novel Parable of the Sower, ca. 1989. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Large card of notes written by Octavia E. Butler for her novel Parable of the Talents, ca. 1996. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Large card of notes written by Octavia E. Butler for her novel Parable of the Talents, ca. 1996. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Photograph of Octavia E. Butler in Machu Picchu, photographer unknown, 1985. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photograph of Octavia E. Butler in Machu Picchu, photographer unknown, 1985. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Photograph of Octavia E. Butler (center) with her aunts Irma (Guy) Harris (left) and Hazel Ruth (Guy) Walker (right), photographer unknown, undated. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photograph of Octavia E. Butler (center) with her aunts Irma (Guy) Harris (left) and Hazel Ruth (Guy) Walker (right), photographer unknown, undated. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Photograph of Octavia E. Butler signing a copy of the anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, photographer unknown, 2001. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photograph of Octavia E. Butler signing a copy of the anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, photographer unknown, 2001. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 


Photograph of Octavia E. Butler, photographer unknown, 2001. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photograph of Octavia E. Butler, photographer unknown, 2001. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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