Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, July 8, 2016

Octavia, One Day...

Image Source: Fusion Article
Why is Hollywood ignoring this incredible black science fiction writer?
Topics: #BlackLivesMatter, Biology, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, Science Fiction, Women in Science

You probably haven't heard of Octavia Estelle Butler unless you've read her work, or follow online forums like Black Science Fiction Society (as I do). It might not be important to you if you're not a part of the culture. What will likely be somewhat related and familiar is Justin Timberlake's first #inspired to Jesse Williams' speech at the BET Awards and his rejoinder to black twitter (when they accused him of appropriating the culture, but not the struggles for profit). It's unfortunate, but not equivalent to the dismissive #alllivesmatter (just clumsy). Daily there are those who strive mightily to make the Diaspora infantile based on its concerns, political choices, perspectives...and tastes in science fiction. The deaths... no: the executions of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota proved again "we're all one bullet from being a hashtag." The Dallas shooting, opposite the peaceful protest of these assassinations was an action-reaction to congressional inaction to previous mass shootings; action-reaction to a Justice System blind and mute to black bodies abused by overzealous officers. This "post-racial society" isn't.

In my readings on the subject of "Afrofuturism," I've come across the notion many times that the transatlantic slave trade was essentially the first "alien abduction," replete with advanced technology; different dialects; aloof foreign-looking men appropriating black bodies on mother ships - the 1st christened hauntingly as the "Good Ship Jesus."

In a post February 3, 2015 I titled "The Grand Dame," I said this:

I came to Octavia Butler in "Mind of My Mind" midway in the Patternist series; followed by "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents." It was a respite from often, science fiction clearly written without other cultures in mind. Literary whitewashing tends to translate in realities where diversity cannot be tolerated. She sadly left us in 2006 due to poor health. It is a wonder some of her books haven't made it into the theaters, especially the Parable series. I can only hope they will be one day.

One day...

I purchased her novel "Dawn" at the news on Facebook (via io9) it was optioned to be made into a television series. As with most of her works I've read, it is exciting and disturbing at the same time. The aliens seem to have three genders: male and female Oankali and Ooloi - a third sex. When it was written, it was groundbreaking but not without precedent: some Native American tribes recognized FIVE genders before the European invasion and the imposition of authoritarian rule. In today's expansion of LGBT rights, it could be a hit in the current zeitgeist post the Supreme Court ruling last year. The Oankali and Ooloi, if depicted as my mind's eye does during the rapt reading on my Kindle, have to be digested in bites; sexuality between not just humans, but whole other alien SPECIES (through the Ooloi) is a bit much. I envisioned Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix would at least take it up, since traditional network television tends to go for the what I call the "dominant default": the space hero must be a clone of Buck Rogers and John Wayne; any minorities other than Lieutenant Uhura being conveniently placed in the infamous "red shirts" with short series and/or screen time.
I literally just found this here, but it's what I see in my mind's eye some FX guru could bring to life.

One day...
Kinda...The artist had a different definition, but some of his comments recalled Butler's book.

Then I read this article in Fusion:

There is no better time for Octavia Butler’s work to be adapted. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she did not deal with robots, mechanized suits of war, or quantum physics. She eschewed these to explore aliens, mutants and mutagens, space travel, and biological manipulation. Her hyperspace was the body. With body hackers and body modification techniques experiencing exponential growth, and scientists engaging in genetic tinkering with the likes of Crispr, Butler’s Xenogenesis saga would be the visual representation of the early 21st century’s zeitgeist, despite being written decades ago.

We should be seeing Butler’s work on screen. We need more science fiction film and television from a black perspective. We have seen multiple visions of utopian and dystopian futures from white men. We’ve yet to see science fiction worlds from a hyper-marginalized lens.

When you see the world as one not to be conquered or defended, but as one that is oppressive and limiting and dangerous, you will tell more than just good-versus-bad stories. You will avoid the typical tropes of science fiction. And you will give voice to, and render visible, the voiceless and the unseen. Octavia Butler does this, and so much more. The question is still out there: Why hasn’t any of Butler’s work been adapted for the screen?

We, her many fans, are still patiently day.

Related link:
Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy: A Biologist’s Response
by Joan Slonczewski, presented at SFRA, Cleveland, June 30, 2000

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