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Octavia E. Butler (Modern Masters of Science Fiction) Paperback – October 31, 2016
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"A deep reading of the work of the late science-fiction master."--Kirkus Reviews
"A must-read for scholars of [science fiction], Canavan's scholarship is both a work of sharply dedicated research and a loving tribute to one of [science fiction’s] most creative geniuses. Highly recommended."--Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
Canavan does an excellent job of analyzing Butler’s various novels through the lenses of her journals and other drafts accessible at the Huntington Library. He shows how Butler focused on certain topics over her career: power, racism, sexism, slavery, procreation, and rape. Though her stories can be seen as “bleak,” she did not see a how the societies she explored could lead to a happy ending. She definitely did not write utopian fiction.
This is a must-read book for any Octavia E. Butler fan, or for anyone who is interested in alternate views in science fiction. Canavan proves an excellent guide through Butler’s fiction, and you’ll want to take time with this book, exploring Butler’s books and stories as Canavan moves through them. There is absolutely so much to be explored here, and I’m sure much fruit will be born from the Huntington Library on Octavia E. Butler. I’ll be rereading and enjoying this book for some time to come.
Canavan accessed Butler's archives and it provided a rich source for understanding not only why she wrote the way she did but also the process she went through. Drafts, notes, and every other kind of written material showed a writer who wrestled with her personal issues in addition to her writing. These personal struggles gave her writing much of its savory flavor.
One thing I was glad that Canavan did not do was try to delve too deeply into Butler's psychological history and turn this into some kind of second rate psychoanalysis of either the writer or her work. He also hopes that future researchers avoid making too much of Butler's personal life and even devotes part of the introduction to the ethics in using an archive that Butler did not have a chance to "prune" and take out some of the more personal pieces that might speak only to her depression or self-loathing at a particular moment.
While being familiar with her work will certainly make this a more pleasurable read it should still be of interest to those less familiar who may be more interested in the process itself rather than specific discussions of a work or works. I have read most of her published works and found this to be a wonderful way for me to both revisit the works as well as imagine variations based on changes she made or influences that helped her make the decisions she made. The writing is academic still quite accessible. Canavan uses minimal jargon and keeps any theory to a bare minimum.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.