The Writers We Lost Too Soon

by Tee Tate

Dear Octavia E. Butler,

I miss you. I miss your presence in the Science Fiction genre. I miss your novels that have us ponder the notions of feminism and racial diversity. I miss the vivid worlds  you create in every single one of your works. Most of all, I miss a leader in the African-American Science Fiction writers community.

I always hoped I would be able to meet you at a conference or festival. I always hoped that I could ask you for words of wisdom, inspiration. I always hoped…I wished.

Unfortunately you were taken from the Earth far too soon. Your work was unfinished, but those of us left behind must be happy with that. We must be happy with the numerous works that have left an impact on so many writers, readers, society. We must be happy that you had the temerity to publish your first science fiction story in 1971, at a time when there were no other female African-American writers doing so. You led the path for so many of us to follow, and we are all happy for that.

I want you to know, Octavia, that I was only 18 when I read Kindred and I was completely moved by the story. I have read it numerous times since then and each time I gain some new insight, new meaning in Dana’s struggle. A few years later, I read Parable of the Sower and novel literally rocked my world. I realized that Lauren could possibly be my child and that the world she lives in is created, in part,  by my generation. I decided then and there that I needed to help bring about change in our society. It was your words, Octavia, that created a change in me.

Lastly, it is your writing that inspires me to be a SciFi writer of color. I wish to join the ranks of the few female African-American women writing speculative fiction about characters who resemble the people, the world around me. I read your works now, not only to lose myself, but to learn. To become better.

Octavia, you may be gone, but your legacy remains.


K. Imani Tennyson

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