Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) was an African-American science fiction author, who was widely recognized and respected for her unique and powerful presence within the sci-fi genre.
I first heard about Butler’s book, Parable of the Sower (which is part of the Earthseed series) during the final season of The OA when it is mentioned in passing during a scene with Kingsley Ben-Adir’s character in a bookstore.
Since then, it has been recommended several times by people whose opinions I trust, so I finally started to dive in. Needless to say, I have been completely in awe of how wildly prophetic the pages are, and dumbfounded at the fact it came out in 1993.
Experiencing this book feels as though it was a sacred channeling from Butler, perhaps a warning about the times to come, perhaps a glimpse into what is actually happening in the time now.
Parable of the Sower follows the story of a young woman named Lauren Oya Olamina, who has something called “hyper-empathy”, which is the ability to feel the pain or sensations of people.
Set in the 2020s, society has collapsed due to climate change, growing wealth inequality, and corporate greed. Nothing is safe. Water is a precious commodity. People murder and steal. Life is riddled with rotting corpses, as the maggots of death are part of daily life in this future scenario.
Yet, Lauren believes that the destiny of humanity is to travel beyond Earth and live on other planets. That “Earthseed”, as she calls it, is what is preparing us for our place amongst the stars.
“That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.” – Octavia E. Butler
Butler’s commentary on life, death, “God”, humanity, and a very familiar future present, is unlike anything I have read. Since we are in a space of lockdown and quarantine, if you’re looking for something to experience and dive into, I HIGHLY recommend this book and can’t wait to devour more of the series.
Meanwhile, here are 10 quotes from Parable of the Sower that offer prescient wisdom for our highly-pressured times.
“All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
God– Octavia E. Butler
“Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.”– Octavia E. Butler
Are all around you.
All that you perceive,
All that you experience,
All that is given to you
or taken from you,
All that you love or hate,
need or fear
Will teach you–
If you will learn.
God is your first
and your last teacher.
God is your harshest teacher:
Learn or die.”– Octavia E. Butler
“Prodigy is, at its essence,
adaptability and persistent,
positive obsession. Without
persistence, what remains is an
enthusiasm of the moment. Without
adaptability, what remains may
be channeled into destructive
fanaticism. Without positive
obsession, there is nothing at all.“– Octavia E. Butler
“Intelligence is ongoing, individual
adaptability. Adaptations that an intelligent
species may make
in a single generation, other species
many generations of selective
selective dying. Yet intelligence is
If it is misdirected by accident or by
intent, it can
foster its own orgies of breeding and
dying.”– Octavia E. Butler
Fighting their rescuers.:– Octavia E. Butler
God as Creator // Destroyer:
Is both creative and destructive,
Demanding and yielding,
Sculptor and clay.
God is Infinite Potential:
God is Change.“– Octavia E. Butler
The Non-Dual Nature of God:
“God is neither good nor evil,
God is Power.
God is Change.
We must find the rest of what we need
in one another,
in our Destiny.“– Octavia E. Butler
The Disintegration of Stability:
“When apparent stability disintegrates,
As it must—
God is Change—
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
Most fear.“– Octavia E. Butler
Who will rule,
Who will lead,
Who will define,
Who will dominate.
Are essentially power struggles,
And most are no more intellectual
than two rams
knocking their heads together.“– Octavia E. Butler
DISCLAIMER: I do make a small commission from the affiliate links to the book if you choose to make a purchase.