In 2017, musician/activist Toshi Reagon began creating an operatic stage adaptation of Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower — the 1993 Afrofuturist sci-fi novel about an America in the year 2020 that's ravaged by climate change and income inequality and greedy politicians who appeal to imaginary racists pasts while also promising to build a wall around the wealthy.
Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower: A Concert Experience received renowned productions from Boston to New York to Los Angeles. And now — since it is 2020, and we're living in an America ravaged by climate change and income inequality and greedy politicians who appeal to imaginary racists pasts while also promising to build a wall around the wealthy — the arts program at Emerson College (my alma mater) has announced a year-long residency with Reagon called Parable Path Boston, which will continue to explore Butler's work alongside real-time climate activism in Boston.
To kick off the program, ArtsEmerson will be hosting a one-night screening of the show on Friday, May 22 at 6pm, followed by an online talkback with Toshi Reagon. I'm pretty sure it's free, but you have to register ahead of time for a link.
I have some friends who were involved in the early workshops of the play, who still talk about it as one of their most formative artistic experiences. I know what I'm doing Friday night; but if you're not convinced to join me yet, there's more links below.
Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower [Toshi Reagon / ArtsEmerson]
Parable of the Songwriter: Toshi Reagon Explains Why an Octavia Butler-Inspired Opera Is More Relevant Than Ever [Maiysha Kai / The Root]
A Prescient Sci-Fi ‘Parable’ Gets Set to Music [Jeremy D. Read the rest
Seven Stories press just released this gorgeous boxed set of Octavia E. Butler's Parable novels. It's available today and would make a great gift for any reader.
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This boxed set pairs the bestselling Nebula-prize nominee, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which together tell the near-future odyssey of Lauren Olamina, a "hyper-empathic" young woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. In Sower, set in California in 2024, small walled communities protect from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of "Paints," people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. It is into this landscape that Lauren begins her journey, traveling on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown. The book has an introduction by feminist, journalist, activist, and author Gloria Steinem.
Parable of the Talents celebrates the classic Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, separation and community, to astonishing effect, in the shockingly familiar, broken world of 2032. It is told in the voice of Lauren Olamina's daughter –– from whom she has been separated for most of the girl's life –– with selections from Lauren's journal. Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder, and where the basic physical and emotional needs of people seem almost impossible to meet.
Octavia Butler (previously), the brilliant Afrofuturist, McArthur Genius Grant-winning science fiction writer, died far, far too soon, leaving behind a corpus of incredible, voraciously readable novels, and a community of writers who were inspired by her example.
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Macarthur "genius prize" recipient Octavia Butler (previously) is one of science fiction's most important figures, an author who wrote cracking, crackling, accessible and fast-moving adventure stories shot through with trenchant and smart allegories about race, gender and power (I like to think of her as "woke Heinlein").
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Can science fiction be a form of social activism? Walidah Imarisha thinks so, and she's recruited everyone from LeVar Burton to Mumia Abu-Jamal to help her prove it. Read the rest