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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

As a bit of a reminder, there are some spoilers to Octavia Butler’s works in this article. This would be the time to click away!

For my honors thesis, I decided to analyze how Black authors contribute to the counter-discourse in literature, specifically on how they protest stereotypes and stigmas that vary from pornotroping to the demonization of voodoo. When I presented this idea to one of the first professors I took at my university, however, she recommended that I read some of Octavia Butler’s works. 

Upon first hearing her name, I recognized it, yet never pinpointed how significant she was to my thesis. My former professor recommended that I cover her trilogy, Lilith’s Brood, or look at her separate works like Kindred. I never knew how much I would be into her work until I was assigned to read the first book of the trilogy for a class. 

For the first time in years, I sat down and thoroughly immersed myself in Butler’s world that she portrays in Dawn. I imagined the appearance of the Oankali aliens, remained enamored with the appearance of the spaceship the main character, Lilith, resided in, and grimaced whenever there was some form of graphic imagery pertaining to violence. I was enthralled with what Butler provided in her works, and felt determined to learn more about her.

But, what made Butler so fascinating to me? I could answer the question in different ways. She calls attention to medical malpractice that Black people face, particularly how they are often subject to medical experimentation without their consent. She also combats the idea of the patriarchal white man taking a significant role as the person who led humans and Oankali back to Earth, prompting Lilith, a strong Black woman, to be the calm in the calamity. She also integrates different people of color to take on different roles within the power dynamics of the group of humans in the story, making it refreshing to read in terms of integrating different representations into novels from the 20th century. 

I could go on and on about how Octavia Butler is an iconic author who was ahead of her time, but I beg of you; take the time to look at her work if you ever have the chance. She has definitely helped me get into science fiction novels, and I don’t plan on putting any of her books down anytime soon. 

Kayla Batchelor

UC Riverside '23

I'm an English major that is dedicated to writing about mental health, entertainment, relationships, politics, LGBTQIA+ issues, and literature.