Octavia Butler's Inspiring Plan to be a Bestselling Author

Posted on February 4, 2016

Photo of Octavia Butler

The Huntington Library is celebrating the literary legacy of Ocatvia E. Butler. After Ms. Butler's untimely death in 2006 at the age of 58, her papers were left to the Library where they have been sorted, edited and archived. For the next year, Ms. Butler's legacy will be celebrated with various events and exhibitions.

Considered one of the greatest science fiction authors of the 20th century, she was the first black woman to achieve international success as a science fiction author. She is the only science fiction author to have received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship. In 2000, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN West.

The Huntington Library has made available some of her journal entries, including a fascinating entry about her determination to be a successful author whose books will be read by millions of people. She writes to herself,

I shall be a bestselling writer. After Imago, each of my books will be on the bestseller lists of LAT, NYT, PW, WP, etc. My novels will go onto the above lists whether publishers push them hard or not, whether I’m paid a high advance or not, whether I ever win another award or not."

This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My novels go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists and they reach the top and they stay on top for months . Each of my novels does this.

So be it! I will find the way to do this. See to it! So be it! See to it!

But her program for success wasn't just for herself. Conscious of the difficulties she had faced as black woman trying to get published and be accepted as an author, she was determined to help other black youths get ahead in life. She wrote,

I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer's workshops

I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons

I will help poor black youngsters go to college

*****

My books will be read by millions of people!

So be it! See to it!

Handwritten notes by Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler is the author of the Patternist series (Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, Survivor, Wild Seed, and Clay's Ark, the Lilith’s Brood/ Xenogenesis series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) and the Parable/Earthseed series (Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents. She is also the author of the standalone novels Kindred and Fledgling. She is the recipient of multiple writing awards, including two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, and a Solstice Award. In 2010 was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Her dream of inspiring young black writers came true: there is a scholarship to Clarion named after her.

The Huntington Library has teamed up with the L.A. arts organization Clockshop to celebrate the life and legacy of Ms. Butler. You can learn more about Ms. Butler's archives and upcoming events at huntington.org.

Photo: Patti Perret, 1984

Photo 2: The Huntington Library