Ek’abo Ebi! (Welcome Family!)
It was the late 1990’s. Sitting at my desk at work, I was twiddling my thumbs, waiting for an attorney to call me with my next assignment. Suddenly the phone rings. A friend of mine was on the line.
“Guuurl I have something that I think you should read!” She said excitedly. “Pick up this month’s issue of Essence Magazine. There’s an excerpt from a book called Wild Seed. The author’s name is Octavia Butler. Read it and tell me what you think!”
During my lunch break, I ran downstairs to a little magazine shop on the first floor. I snatched up that month’s magazine and settled down in a quiet corner on a comfy chair. Within in minutes I was caught up in a world I had never visited before. A harsh world where slavery was prevalent, a woman was a healer and shape shifter, and a spirit wore the shell of human bodies. Oh and did I say that this was in Africa?
At that time, I was an avid reader of African-American authors such as: E. Lynn Harris, Terry McMillian, Walter Mosley, Colin Channer, Bebe Moore Campbell and Maya Angelou. But this was the first time I heard of Ms. Butler or read a book of speculative fiction written by a WOC (woman of color). To say that I was hooked was an understatement. As a huge fan of shows such as Star Trek, Farscape, Babylon 5 and Xena: Warrior Princess, I had a real appreciation of stories influenced by sci-fi and fantasy. But I had even more appreciation for a well written story that not only started in Africa, but inflamed my imagination and exposed me to characters that were outside society’s idea of popular fiction.
That same evening, I ran to the nearest Barnes and Noble and picked up Wild Seed. I finished that book in 24 hours. After that I experienced the destruction of Doro (Sorry. Spoiler Alert) in Mind of my Mind, discovered Clay Ark’s disease in Patternmaster, and was exposed to a new alien species called the Oankali in Imago. I read everything I could get my hands on that Ms. Butler wrote. Her work was and continues to be a positive addiction for me. LOL! After reading her books, I could never look at literature the same way again. If anything, I began to demand more of the kind of books I read.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good action filled romance with some historical fiction on the side (Yay Nora Roberts and Amanda Quick). But when I started reading books like the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, I realized just how layered and thought provoking sci-fi/fantasy could be. I discovered that regardless of the race, it takes a special kind of person to create the worlds that rolled out of the minds of authors such as J.K. Rowlings and Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea).
So in 2003, I decided that I wanted to become a part of that group. I wanted to contribute my little piece to the big picture. I wanted to become an author. And what started as a pre-school book for my boys developed into (what I now proudly call) a YA fantasy influenced by West African culture.
Thanks to Ms. Butler, and others like her, I found the courage to throw my hat in the ring. To someday become a part of the list of WOC who contribute to speculative fiction. Griot, Bard, Jali, the name does not matter. As a storyteller I have been blessed with a gift and I intend to use it.
“All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
-Octavia E. Butler
Thank you Ms. Butler for your incredible imagination, your cause and effect on the world and the change your writing started within me. I am better for it. Is there someone out there (a writer, friend, family member etc.) that has influenced you as a writer? If so, drop me a line and tell me about it!
Mari e laipe!
See you soon!
Thanks for visiting ‘Amachi is Hope.’ If you were inspired or felt a connection with today’s blog (or any of my previous entries) please leave a comment. J
Hello Fam: I feel compelled to respond to this post. Ms. Butler (may she RIP) was an exceptional writer and trendsetter. As I mentioned in my post, her writing has forever changed the way I look at speculative fiction. If you've never read her work, p/u Wild Seed. I promise you won't regret it. And when you're done, come back and tell me what you thought! I look forward to hearing from you! S-