The first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship
"Octavia Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction writer. A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship…
During the 1990s, Butler worked on the novels that solidified her fame as a writer: Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). In 1995, she became the first science-fiction writer to be awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, an award that came with a prize of $295,000.
"Who am I? I am a forty-seven-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I am also comfortably asocial—a hermit.... A pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive."...
Most critics praise Butler for her unflinching exposition of human flaws, which she depicts with striking realism. The New York Times regarded her novels as "evocative" if "often troubling" explorations of "far-reaching issues of race, sex, power". The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction called her examination of humanity "clear-headed and brutally unsentimental" and Village Voice's Dorothy Allison described her as "writing the most detailed social criticism" where "the hard edge of cruelty, violence, and domination is described in stark detail." Locus regarded her as "one of those authors who pay serious attention to the way human beings actually work together and against each other, and she does so with extraordinary plausibility." The Houston Post ranked her "among the best SF writers, blessed with a mind capable of conceiving complicated futuristic situations that shed considerable light on our current affairs."
Scholars, on the other hand, focus on Butler's choice to write from the point of view of marginal characters and communities and thus "expanded SF to reflect the experiences and expertise of the disenfranchised." While surveying Butler's novels, critic Burton Raffel noted how race and gender influence her writing: "I do not think any of these eight books could have been written by a man, as they most emphatically were not, nor, with the single exception of her first book, Pattern-Master (1976), are likely to have been written, as they most emphatically were, by anyone but an African American." Robert Crossley commended how Butler's "feminist aesthetic" works to expose sexual, racial, and cultural chauvinisms because it is "enriched by a historical consciousness that shapes the depiction of enslavement both in the real past and in imaginary pasts and futures."
Butler has been praised widely for her spare yet vivid style, with Washington Post Book World calling her craftsmanship "superb". Burton Raffel regards her prose as "carefully, expertly crafted" and "crystalline, at its best, sensuous, sensitive, exact not in the least directed at calling attention to itself."" (1)