The Freedom of Science Fiction

As I read Octavia Butler’s interview “Sci-Fi Visions: An Interview with Octavia Butler” with Rosalie G. Harrison in Conversations with Octavia Butler, she asked Butler what her early writing years were like. Butler described how frustrating they were and how English teachers were individuals that she had to escape from. She described how when she was in school, science fiction was indeed the one genre that never went over well with her English teachers. When Butler wrote science fiction for her English teachers, she was accused of plagiarism because of how strange it sounded to them. As a future English teacher, this situation really stood out to me because unless I was absolutely sure that a student copied an assignment I would never accuse them of doing so simply because what was written was strange/science fiction.

Throughout her involvement in a class called “Writing for Publication”, Butler learned that she had to write one way for her English teachers and another way for publishers (which I wish was not the case). Within this interview, she states that “I learned to write one way for English teachers and another way for myself . . . I discovered that there is one kind of writing that does not go over well with publishers and that was the kind English teachers seem to like” (3). I found this to be sad, because students should not have to hide their passion of writing within a specific genre from their English teachers simply because it is “strange.” I feel like this forces people to lie about who they are as a writer.

On page 4 of this interview, another aspect that stood out to me was Butler’s freedom that she aquired through writing science fiction. After completing the entirety of Butler’s Seed to Harvest, I felt that Butler definitely played by her own rules while creating the diverse and complicated plots of Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Patternmaster. I absolutely agree that science fiction is a free genre, and I feel like not enough people praise it for this specific reason. Butler has written about Vampires (Fledgling), a deadly disease, quests of creating the ultimate breed, the desire of aquiring ultimate power and control, and the list goes on. Octavia Butler was definitely a free writer who defined her own ways of writing for herself and for her audience.

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