An original and eerily prophetic writer, Octavia E. Butler used the conventions of science fiction to explore the dangerous legacy of racism in America in harrowingly personal terms. She broke new ground with books that featured complex Black female protagonists—“I wrote myself in,” she would later recall—establishing herself as one of thepioneers of the Afrofuturist aesthetic. In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, in recognition of her achievement in creating new aspirations for the genre and for American literature.
This ﬁrst volume in the Library of America edition of Butler’s collected works opens with her masterpiece, Kindred, one of the landmark American novels of the last half century. Its heroine, Dana, a Black woman, is pulled back and forth between the present and the pre–Civil War past, where she ﬁnds herself enslaved on the plantation of a white ancestor whose life she must save to preserve her own. In Fledgling, an amnesiac discovers that she is a vampire, with a difference: she is a new, experimental birth with brown skin, giving her the fearful ability to go out in sunlight. Rounding out the volume are eight short stories and ﬁve essays—including two never before collected, plus a newly researched chronology of Butler’s life and career and helpful explanatory notes prepared by scholar Gerry Canavan. Butler’s friend, the writer and editor Nisi Shawl, provides an introduction.