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Conversations with Octavia Butler

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  163 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Octavia Butler (1947-2006) spent the majority of her prolific career as the only major black female author of science fiction. Winner of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards as well as a MacArthur -genius- grant, the first for a science fiction writer, Butler created worlds that challenged notions of race, sex, gender, and humanity. Whether in the postapocalyptic future of the ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by University Press of Mississippi (first published December 2nd 2009)
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Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I purposely took a long time to finish this book. This collection of interviews is like the closest I'll ever get to hearing or seeing Octavia Butler in person, so I dragged it out, not wanting it to end.

My biggest critique is that there is some repetition, and a more narrow focus -- there isn't as much material about the Patternmaster books or Lilith's Brood. Her more popular books, the Parables and Kindred, get most of the attention.

My other critique is really not about the book, but about N
Originally posted at The BiblioSanctum

I have to thank my friend Tracie for recommending Octavia E. Butler to me. I started with her Xenogenesis trilogy, and have been slowly building my collection since. Every time I read a book by Ms. Butler, I find myself wishing I could get inside the her mind. Her works are so far from the typical science fiction, dystopian stories and they share the constant theme of forcing us to question our humanity and society and the rules we adhere to and the many, ma
Bogi Takács
From 2016:

One of my #diversebooks recommendations! I tweeted about this book at length, this is the beginning of my thread.

From 2019:

Reread for my upcoming review of Imago. I found myself taking pictures of various pages with my phone to type up quotes later, SO MANY QUOTES (I did put some into the review, but some will have to become a standalone post...)
not what I was hoping for and crazy tedious, there is not that much variety in the questions she’s asked and there’s lots annoying questions so there is a LOT of very boring repetition.. but if you’re really into octavia butler it’s still cool!! You can tell she is relentlessly awesome no matter how boring or annoying the person she’s talking to is. Fun to see what she’s asked continually and what she brings up over and over
Happy Birthday Octavia! Thank you for forever changing our imaginations and paving the way for women in speculative fiction! p.s. check out the google header for today :)
C.E. G
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For committed fans of Octavia Butler, this is a treat. The interviews are a little repetitive and sometimes ask about things I'm less interested in, such as writing or the literary world, but it's great to hear Octavia Butler in conversation. She's even more of a weirdo than I thought she'd be. I love that her first stories as a child were soap operas about a magic horse, and that she alarmed her peers during discussions about their hopes and dreams, because she'd say that if she could do whatev ...more
Hailey M
Kind of repetitive and some of the interviewers are literally so annoying. It's essential reading, though, if you're like me and have read all of Butler's books at least once. It really helps to draw lines between all the pieces of her body of work and it's fascinating to hear where some of her ideas came from. It's also heartbreaking to hear her talk about novels she was working on that didn't get finished before she died. She had so much left to say.

That all being said, I don't recommend this
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was pretty sad finishing this book, because it's the last of the books I could find by or about Octavia Butler.

I'm glad I saved this book for last--having read all of her other books (besides Survivor, which seems impossible to find), it was nice to close this reading chapter of my life with a collection of interviews that explore the themes of her work.

As the introduction states, if you read the collection as a whole, it gets pretty repetitive pretty quickly. You also sympathize with her and
Elijah Brown
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're a fan of Octavia Butler, it'll be hard for you to not like this book. With the collection of transcripts of interviews ranging all throughout her career, the reader gets a really vivid look into her mind: straight from her own words. This book provides much biographical information on her life, including her life growing up and her starting out as a writer. But the interviews, for the most part, provide insight on the common themes of her novels and the real world inspiration that back ...more
There's a lot of repetition here, in the questions Butler received but also in her rote answers; it speaks to the lack of depth in the average interview (and those which are more distinctive are rarely better for it, like the NPR interview with unlikable, ill-prepared Juan Williams or the issue-drive and jargon-loaded MELUS interview) but moreso to the ways Butler was pigeonholed by her distinctive role as the first black female sci-fi author. Butler's penchant for "grazing," gathering environme ...more
Dan'l Danehy-oakes
A good look into the life-history and creative processes of a major SF writer, through a collection of interviews with various newspapers, magazines, websites, and radio shows, over a 26-year period.

By the very nature of the book, there is some repetition. Interviewers ask the same, or similar, questions and get the same, or similar answers. (There is one vignette, about the genesis of Kindred, that reappears with very little variation, at least ten times.

It is a good vignette, though.) But eve
Sean Estelle
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I loved most about this career-spanning set of interviews was the repetition of clear ideas, themes, experiences that Butler was drawing on in order to spin out so many different amazing worlds and books and universes - she had a project and she stuck to it, and these interviews make that very clear.

“The nice thing about being a writer is that anything that doesn’t kill or dismember you is typewriter fodder.”
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am always happy to read more by and about Butler. These interviews were a treat to read. I especially liked the interview with Charles Rowell, 1997. The interview with Juan Williams (NPR, 2000) was painfully awkward to read. He clearly did not know a lot about her works and even got one of her book titles wrong, ouch!
Extended reading for Butler completists. Reprints of every interview or public group discussion Butler had. A fair amount of redundancy due the common set of questions asked. The best were the group discussions whether more general themes were explored .
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who is a fan of Butler's writing or simply wants to know more about this wonderful and inspiring writer, this book is a fascinating read. It collects interviews done with her over a span of decades, and each interview is well worth the read. ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant collection of interviews. What a brilliant woman, and what an incisive mind. Lots of reflections on her books and some solid writing advice. I got this from the library and will be buying my own copy.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, auntie Octavia. "I don’t feel I have any particular literary talent at all. It was what I wanted to do, and I followed what I wanted to do." ...more
Michael Dipietro
Love reading OEB in her own voice. Lots of repetition here, but some interesting gems. More of a research volume than something to read start to finish, honestly.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
pretty solid interview collection.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Excellent book to hear her voice! Most interesting is her discussing how she came to write specific works and how she was warning about climate change in the 1980s.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A bit redundant, but extremely valuable to get direct insight into Butler's thinking about her work and broader perspectives on social dynamics. ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The interviewers are on the whole unimaginative so there is a lot of repetition here. Octavia remains inspirational as a feminist hermit visionary!
Cardyn Brooks
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This compilation of interviews with Octavia Butler from the 1990s through just before her death in 2006 reminded me of her overall brilliance. Her remarks about the environment, sociobiology, entrenched hierarchies and catastrophic one-upsmanship are eerily relevant today.

Conversations With Octavia Butler is a powerful tool for becoming acquainted with the individual and her writing. I was fortunate enough to have seen her at the 2004 BEA in Chicago and reading this book makes me wish I'd overco
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
Octavia Butler is a fascinating woman. From the short article on Wikepedia on her and her lovely and intriguing bio at the back of every book she's written there's been a shortage of information on one of America's greatest writers. This book is the closest will ever get to knowing the genius, playfulness, knowledge, and pain that composes Octavia Butler. If your a writer, the book is full of encouraging advice from Butler. A must have for all Octavia Butler fans. ...more
Sep 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed all of these interviews for the most part. However, since clusters of these interviews were done during the same time period-the interviews often are redundant. So if you read one around the time of kindred-you basically read all the interviews from that time period. Otherwise, glad to have it around. Her work certainly showcases her brilliance as do these interviews. Long live Octavia Butler!
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I truly recommend this collection of interviews. Conseula Francis has gathered a variety of sources who open up Ms. Butler in different ways from 1980-2006. While I've never had the gift of knowing Ms. Butler, I feel like every page allowed me to spend time with her wisdom in ways that go beyond her books. I am truly grateful for this gift. ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book is like having a conversation with Octavia Butler. When I am working on a creative project, I can flip to any page and get inspiration. I feel her words come alive. Amazing woman. I wish I had a chance to meet her while she was alive. This book gives so much insight into her stories and life. A must read for all Octavia Butler fans!
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I actually loved how repetitive this was. The anecdotes and explanations she gave repeatedly were clearly important to her, and I won't forget them. It also gives great insight into the kinds of questions she had to field repeatedly as the only prominent black woman SF writer for so long. Her patience needed to be immense. She seems very shy, kind, and thoughtful. ...more
Christina Stiles
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The book is a series of reprinted interviews with Octavia Butler, so some of the information is repeated throughout. Still, it was an enjoyable read. I definitely want to read her novels now.
Mills College Library
813.54 B9863 2010
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Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer, one of the best-known among the few African-American women in the field. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

After her father died, Butler was raised by her widowed mother. Extremely shy as a child, Octavia found an outlet at the li

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