RIP, Octavia Butler, "genius" science fiction writer

Octavia Butler, the brilliant science fiction writer, reportedly died on Saturday following a fall that was followed by fatal bleeding in her skull gave her a fatal concussion. Butler was the incredible writer who was the first genre author to win the MacArthur Foundation's "Genius" grant. She was the first prominent African-American woman in the field, and her novels and short stories were an inspiration to a generation of writers of all backgrounds and both sexes (I was ready to give up writing after a five-year bout of writers' block in my mid-twenties when I read the introduction to her short story collection in which she recounted her own block and decided to keep trying). I recently reviewed her wonderful novel Fledgling here, a vampire book that, like all of Butler's work, was a disturbing, light-touch allegory about race and sex politics skinned with a fast-moving, heart-wrenching storyline.

Butler was only 58 when she died on Saturday. Her oeuvre is too modest, but will never be forgotten. She had many amazing books left in her. I only met her once, very briefly, and I was tongue-tied in her presence, but she was gracious and friendly. The field and the world has lost someone wonderful this weekend.

Several people have confirmed this now, though nothing authoritative has been published. I'll update this post if something firmer emerges.


(Thanks, Bill, Jeff and Steve!)

Update: Here's the Seattle Post Intelligencer obit, and here's the Chicago Tribune — thanks, Robn.

(Photo from NikolasCo/Flickr)