Author Spotlight: Octavia Butler
By Laura Wallace, Megan Coote, Tessa Thejas Thomas, Juliette Tulloch and Abbie Wright
For this issue we are shining the spotlight on author Octavia Butler (22 June 1947 to 24 February 2006), a celebrated science fiction author who received multiple Nebula and Hugo awards and the MacArthur “Genius” Grant for her work. Butler read science fiction from a young age but noticed a lack of female protagonists and she was disenchanted with the genre's portrayal of ethnicity and class, so she became one of the first African American and female science fiction writers, amassing a large readership even after her early death. Her bestselling novel Kindred has been adapted into a television series which debuted in 2022 and her novels explore important themes such as race, power and humanity. While her books are classified as science fiction, Butler has been quoted saying “I write about people who do extraordinary things. It just turned out it was called science fiction.” The covers for her novels are just as memorable as the stories within; they are rich and vibrant, and you can see our team's favourite designs listed below. Octavia Butler’s full body of work can be found here.
The Patternist Series
The uniting image in the redesigned covers of this series is the white moon positioned near the centre as a focal point. Each book in the series has its own muted but intense background colour. The white sans serif typeface with the author’s name is vivid against the bold, rich colours of the backgrounds.
Wild Seed is the fourth book in the Patternist sci-fi series published in 1980, but the earliest book in the chronology of the Patternist world. It is a story of two immortal characters, Doro and Anyanwu. When they meet, they embark on a journey from Africa to the New World, each following their path of destiny.
The cover of Wild Seed is striking, with elegant illustration. The reader gets the sense that the person in the image is flying or rising, with the artwork providing the feeling of movement of the wings. There is a strength to the image that indicates the immortality of the two characters within the book. The use of warm orange, white and deep blue keeps the imagery striking and classic, yet still modernised.
We love the strong and powerful redesign of this series!
Octavia Butler’s Kindred follows Dana who is sent back in time from 1976 to 1815 where she saves a young boy from drowning. The novel explores slavery, racism and oppression while utilising the notion of time travel to do so.
This 2018 paperback cover depicts Dana in a running stance with red ribbons around her arms. Around her, illustrations of trees and fire frame the cover and direct the reader’s eye to the centre. The woods and fire are both important to the plot of Kindred. The colour scheme is black and grey with hues of red, orange and yellow to contrast the white background. Red is a recurring colour in the novel, with the young boy Rufus who Dana saves having red hair. The serif font for the title compliments the setting of the novel.
Dawn: Lilith’s Brood
Hachette’s 2021 cover refresh of Butler’s iconic The Xenogenesis Trilogy incorporates vibrant colours and details, starting with the first instalment: Dawn: Lilith’s Brood. This post-apocalyptic story, first published in 1987, follows Lilith Iyapo as she wakes in a prison cell alone. After surviving a nuclear war, Lilith must lead humankind to a new beginning, but everything is not what it seems with the aliens who rescued them. The high-stakes world follows themes of gender, race, inner conflict, consent and coercion; it is certainly one of Butler’s most well-developed sci-fi stories. The design of the trilogy keeps the main character at the centre, illustrating a strong lead. The warm colour palette and waves of the patterned background imitate the sun rising in the sky, which is the perfect conception for the first novel in a powerful sci-fi trilogy.
Another of Octavia Butler’s works in her Patternist series and with similar themes to that of Wild Seed, Patternmaster’s cover provides a simple and elegant design that highlights the key themes in the novel. The novel describes a distant future in which the human race is sharply divided into Patternists and Clayarks, and they are ruled by the most powerful telepath, known as the Patternmaster.
The main cover image depicts a man holding a circular object and this central focus can be seen to highlight the amount of power the men in Butler’s future society hold. Additionally, the image of the woman within the image of the Patternmaster suggests that while the men may hold the power, women are still a very large part of how this power is controlled. The cover is perfect in highlighting the power struggles and the intersections of race and gender that are present in the novel. Furthermore, the gold and purple that make up the main colours of the cover make the book aesthetically pleasing.