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Octavia Butler, Grande Dame of Sci-Fi

Octavia Butler, Grande Dame of Sci-Fi

Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction writer. A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the “Genius Grant”.

Octavia Butler was the first black sci-fi author I ever read, and it was sort of life changing for me as a young black girl very into speculative fiction of all kinds. It let me know that I wasn’t alone or as weird as I thought, and that it was okay to be black and female and like science fiction. Not only was it okay to like sci-fi, Butler showed me it was possible to be represented in those stories, and even to create those stories myself (which I’ve since done). It sounds almost silly now, but it was a very big deal for thirteen-year-old me.

While gearing up to re-read her Parable of the Sower series (since dystopian reads are all the rage now, thanks to our current political climate), I discovered there were people who haven’t heard of her! So, in honor of new discoveries, I’m reblogging this Octavia Butler starter list in case you’ve not read her before (or if you just need a refresher).

Waiting on Wednesday: Toil & Trouble - 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

Waiting on Wednesday: Toil & Trouble - 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

So, it should be obvious that I love short stories. And I may have mentioned a time or two how much I also love witches in fiction. I can't help it; witches are just so compelling! 

Who doesn't love reading about rebellious outsiders, bold women who dare to be both powerful and different — despite the social, sometimes political, life or death costs? As a woman myself, it's hard not to be drawn to witchy women living life on their own terms, with not a fuck to give about what society says they should and should not do. Plus, there's magic! It's easy to see why witches are so alluring.

With all of that, it's a given that an anthology called Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft would make my can't-wait-to-read list, especially since I enjoyed the previous anthology about badass girls by the same editor. 

Add in stories full of diversity, from authors like Nova Ren Suma and Brenna Yovanoff, both of whom write so beautifully and hypnotically, and Zoraida Cordova, whose Brooklyn Brujas series I adore — August can't come fast enough! Check out this week's Waiting on Wednesday pick...

Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Week of May 15th

Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Week of May 15th

This week is the week of the sequel, with so many second books from quite a few of last year's new sci-fi and fantasy series. You'll find follow-ups to: the Nebula-nominated deco-punk fantasy Amberlough, the action-packed military sci-fi of Vanguard (book 1 in the Genesis Fleet series), and the ongoing steampunk adventure of last year's The Guns Above (book 1 in the Signal Airship series). 

In keeping with the series theme of the week, there's also the conclusion to Victoria Aveyard's wildly popular Red Queen series, and a new spin-off to Charlie Holmberg's enchanting steampunk-ish Paper Magician series, only now with plastic! I adored the magical world of The Paper Magician, so I'm excited for this new series set in that same world.

It's not all follow-ups and spin-offs, though. There's new stuff too! Like the Publishers Weekly-starred start to Neal Asher's newest sci-fi series, set in the Polity universe. And a beautifully-written dystopian novel by Jason Mott, and a new series by Mindee Arnett for those who can't get enough palace intrigue and magic in their YA fantasy.

There's also my other reading pick of the week, Sophie Cameron's debut YA fantasy about angels and grief. I realize that for a few years angels were the new vampires in YA fantasy and publishers churned out some not so great books as a result, but I don't care — I'll always be a sucker for fresh takes on angel mythology, plus it's full of diversity and set during the Edinburgh festival, so I'm in. 

Here are this week's best new sci-fi and fantasy books...

Beautiful Dreamer: A Poignant Sci-Fi Short Film for Mother's Day

Beautiful Dreamer: A Poignant Sci-Fi Short Film for Mother's Day

Ken Liu writes such beautifully touching sci-fi and fantasy. I dare you not to be moved by his short stories The Paper Menagerie, a multiple award-winning tale of a biracial boy in a Northeastern suburb whose paper menagerie comes to life with the magic of his mother's love, or Memories of My Mother, an incredibly poignant sci-fi tale of a dying mother who goes to great lengths to steal a few moments through the years in order to watch her daughter grow up.

With stories packing such an emotional punch, it's no surprise that filmmakers have adapted his work. Beautiful Dreamer is one such adaptation. Based on Memories of My Mother above, this 26-minute short captures all the love and heartache shared between a mother and daughter through the years that was so affecting (and, for me at least, emotionally devastating) in Liu's original flash fiction tale.

Take the time to read and watch them both this weekend — you'll only need half an hour. It'll be worth it, I promise.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Waiting on Wednesday: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I absolutely loved Hidden Figures, last year's Oscar-nominated biopic about the black female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race in the early '60s, and I'm here for all the stories of women working in that field, whether they're of the factual or science fictional variety. So when I came across The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel, of course it went right on the can't wait to read list!

Mary Robinette Kowal’s book began life as a novelette: The Lady Astronaut of Mars, about the first female astronaut's later years on a Mars colony. But there's so much more to this unexpectedly poignant tale than simply life on another planet, namely the desire for purpose and passion complicated by the heartache of aging and loss.

The Calculating Stars seems to be a prequel to the novelette, telling of how this first lady astronaut came to be, long before she ever stepped foot on Mars. Give the short story a read and, if you love Elma’s tale and voice like I did, you'll want to add the book to your must read list too...