March 23, 2006
I Miss Her
When Octavia Butler died unexpectedly last month, the library due date slip that included her latest book was still taped to my mirror.
I took it hard.
My partner says that I tend to take these things hard, and she's right. I feel such a deep debt to the artists whose words and music and art have lit the way for me over the years. And I feel a particular connection to those whose work I think is maybe under-recognized.
I don't remember when I first read an Octavia Butler book, but I do remember what cemented my connection to her. I read the first edition of her Parable of the Sower and became increasingly incensed by the copyediting. Or complete lack of same. There were so many typos in that book that they actually got in the way of my enjoyment. She deserves better than this, I thought to myself, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something.
Finally I fired off a letter to the publisher, including an annotated list of the first 20 or so mistakes that had leapt off the page at me, and received a (mostly corrected) copy of the second edition for my troubles. Which was beside the point, really... I mostly just wanted to put folks on notice that as far as I was concerned, Ms. Butler had earned red-carpet treatment wherever she went for the rest of her days.
Her latest book had a new cast of characters, and I gobbled it down over the course of a weekend. As I reluctantly turned the last page, I comforted myself with the knowledge that there would be more where that came from. Except that there won't.
In keeping with her spirit, a memorial scholarship fund has been established that will "enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start."
It's a great idea. But I'm still missing her.