For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile. Care to join me?
I have to make a confession here: I’m cheating. Of the three works comprising the collection published under the title Xenogenesis, I’ve only read one: Imago. I included this title in my list, so I could focus on its author, Octavia Butler.
I picked up Imago shortly after it was published, not realizing it was part of a series. The fact that I have not gone back to read the other two books in the series is a major shortcoming of my reading character, and one I intend to correct after this A to Z challenge is finished.
It may have been the harder science fiction elements of genetic manipulation that first attracted me to Imago, but it was the “softer” elements, the social themes, and what it means to be human that kept me in thrall. To be honest, I’ve always been drawn to stories that teach me how this human story plays out, that reveal the best, and the worst in all of us, and that suggest we can be better. Octavia Butler is one of the masters of revealing the human condition.
I first read Kindred in high school, intrigued by the time travel aspect of the story. What I wasn’t prepared for was the absolute emotional power of the tale, the devastating artistry of the language. Kindred was the first book I read that revealed race to me in a way my upbringing in the military had not prepared me for. It also put the Civil War in a context that I had never seen before. The version I had been taught was almost sterile, but this was the antebellum South with little to veil it.
So why is Octavia Butler on my list? Well, not only does she tell a hell of a story, and tell it with breathtaking artistry, but she was one of the first women science fiction writers I read. From her, I learned to appreciate the unique timbre of a woman’s voice in writing.