Google is marking the birthday of science fiction author Octavia E. Butler today with one of their iconic Google doodles.
Butler broke many boundaries with her science fiction work by including diverse protagonists in her stories, and also with her identity as a Black lesbian woman in the predominately White male space of science fiction writing.
She died in 2006 from a fall, and Friday would have been her 71st birthday.
Her family also released a statement to coincide with Friday’s Google Doodle: “Her spirit of generosity and compassion compelled her to support the disenfranchised,” they wrote. “She sought to speak truth to power, challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes, and empower people striving for better lives. Although we miss her, we celebrate the rich life she led and its magnitude in meaning.”
Google’s artwork depicts Butler’s silhouette alongside an open book and other faceless silhouettes from outer space.
Here are five things to know about Butler and her body of work:
She Was An Avid Reader
Born in Pasadena, Calif., in 1947, Butler suffered from anxiety and spent much of her time in the library, where she discovered her love for science fiction. Her father was a shoe shiner who died when she was young, and her mother was a maid. By the age of 10, her mother gave her a typewriter and her love for storytelling grew.
Her Breakthrough Bestseller
Her most popular novel and breakthrough after years of writing was her fourth novel Kindred. According to the Guardian, the novel follows “a young African American writer from Los Angeles of 1976 is pulled back in time to the deep south of 1817. She is compelled to safeguard her repugnant slave-owning ancestor so as to ensure he grows up to rape her slave ancestor, thus becoming her great-great-great grandfather; if he dies, she cannot exist.”
Butler won various awards including two Nebula awards and two Hugo awards in her career, both of the most prestigious prizes in science fiction. She also became the first science-fiction author to get the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 1995. The foundation said Butler’s “imaginative stories are transcendent fables, which have as much to do with the future as with the present and the past.”
Butler As Inspiration
Many artists and activists – such as Janelle Monáe – have said they’re influenced by Butler’s work. “I’m a huge lover of science fiction as well: I love Octavia Butler ….” Monae told Rolling Stone in a 2012 interview. “I’ve always had a fascination with the supernatural. So I kind of meshed all this in my mind.”
Butler In Pop Culture Today
A theatrical adaptation of the writer’s 1993 dystopian novel Parable of the Sower debuted at New York’s Public Theater this past January. And it was announced last year that director Ava DuVernay would be adapting Butler’s book, Dawn, into a television series. It is not clear what network will pick up the show just yet.