Science fiction author Octavia Estelle Butler was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California, and died in 2006 after a fall. In a short bio at the back of her novels, Butler identifies herself as "comfortably asocial - a hermit in the middle of Los Angeles - 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." Butler is a two-time Hugo and Nebula award winner, and has received a Genius Grant for her work, which includes the Xenogenesis Trilogy and the Patternist series.

Like many of Butler's admirers, I find her stories very readable and intelligent. I particularly appreciate Butler's writing style, which is clear and unsentimental, yet at the same time hard-hitting. Her fiction differs from the sf I grew up on because it features strong, often female, black main characters. More than this, however, Butler's fiction seems to turn around the overarching theme of difference: not just the contrast of black to white, or woman to man, though these are central concerns for her, but also the contrast between humans and others - aliens, mutations, and the hybrid offspring of human-alien/human-mutation mating. There is something profoundly menacing about Butler's hybrid children, neither one thing nor the other, with fearsome and often incomprehensible abilities. These are not easy, light books. Yet Butler's worlds are so skillfully painted and peopled that reading these books is deeply satisfying as well as unsettling. I have great respect for Butler as a writer and a thinker, and would highly recommend her books to you, dear friends.

There is a comprehensive bibliography of Butler's work, with tragically horrible wallpaper, at