A Sad Day in Science Fiction

Octavia Butler, one of the most original voices in science fiction of the past 30 years, died on Friday after suffering a fatal concussion. Although she wasn't as well-known outside the genre as, say, Isaac Asimov, Butler's works were as thought-provoking as any I have ever read, tackling religion, gender and race issues within the boundaries of some highly imaginative speculative fiction. Butler was the first SF writer to win a MacArthur "genius" grant (it has since been awarded to David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem, both writers with loose affiliations to the speculative fiction and SF communities) and was one of the few African-American women writing SF in any form. Her novels and short stories won the Hugo, Nebula and James Tiptree, Jr., awards. Butler's last novel, Fledgling, was published last year. —Martha Harbison