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Octavia E. Butler makes the New York Times Best Sellers list

September 4, 2020, 11:47 PM UTC

An abbreviated raceAhead today, it has been a long year this week and we all need to reward ourselves for our labor. A little inspiration below; we will return to the news next week.

But first, here’s your poetic week in review, in Haiku.

I have eaten the
plums that were in the ice box.
Yeah, they were cold; too

bad for you. I did
not eat the soup that was in
the pantry. I thought

I would throw the cans,
maybe the bags? Of the soup?
at all the people.

I needed them: Bricks 
are too heavy to throw, I
should have saved the soup

for my family. 
Forgive me about the plum
thing. I threw them, too.

Have a sensibly nutritious long weekend.

Ellen McGirt
@ellmcgirt
Ellen.McGirt@fortune.com

In Brief

Nearly fifty years after she began publishing and 14 years after her death, a novel written by the science fiction titan Octavia E. Butler has finally made it to the New York Times Best Seller List.

And not just any novel.

Parable of the Sower, first published in 1993, is the eerily prescient and dystopian tale of California in 2024, beset by climate change upheaval and with a deeply divided populace in a desperate fight over scarce resources. Oh, and private armies protect corporate interests, and there is a troubling presidential candidate. For starters.

Butler’s agent, Merrilee Heifetz, tweeted the news. “This was one of her life goals. Thank you all for making it happen!"

Butler has always deserved — and believed she would find — this sort of validation. She made inclusive worlds that challenged racism, gender stereotypes, and power, and sought to stoke a moral imagination in her readers. She was the first science fiction author to be awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant and has attracted loyal fans and other extraordinary Black women to the genre. Parable has even been turned into an opera by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

But it looks like now, we need her more than ever.

In a lovely essay, Cella Sum, a designer and a Masters in Human-Computer Interaction and Design student at UC Irvine, describes some of the ways she’s thinking about the future she plans to help make, and how Butler’s approach to science fiction can play an essential role.

“Octavia Butler had long understood how our past and present connect with our imagined futures. She saw science fiction as a method ‘for looking ahead’ in such a way that is not about ‘what our future will be,' but how we think about it, foresee it,” she writes. “In other words, science fiction can help us think critically about our past and present in order to be better equipped to shape the future.”

It is poignant, then, that so many are returning to her work to reflect and perhaps inspire their own critical thinking — necessary to fix a world coming undone by overlapping crises and structural cruelty. 

But I also find comfort in the idea that the labor Butler performed so long ago is being rewarded with a renewed audience and an overdue accolade. I have to believe she knew she was playing a long, long game. Inspiration can take some time.

It feels like a sign for everyone.

For those who labor, for those do the work, the seed is planted. Know hope and rest up.

 

“Embrace diversity.  Unite— Or be divided, robbed, ruled, killed by those who see you as prey. Embrace diversity or be destroyed.” Parable of the Sower

 

Today's mood board

"During her life, @OctaviaEButler set the goal to be on the NYT bestseller list (as seen in her journal below). We are thrilled to say that today her novel PARABLE OF THE SOWER achieved that goal! What an amazing day and an incredible thing to add to her legacy! CONGRATS OCTAVIA!"  @GrandCentralPub