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Octavia Butler’s 1979 bio is an object lesson in writing author bios.

Emily Temple

July 26, 2021, 9:40am

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Review of Books published a fairly wild essay by Miguel Esteban who, at the tender age of 14, commissioned a now-famous essay on race in science fiction from Octavia Butler. The whole piece is worth a read (the gall of teenage boys! the grace of Octavia!) but one detail brought me particular delight: Esteban shares the author bio that Butler provided for the 1979 Fantasy Faire convention. Not surprisingly, it is very good:

Octavia Butler is a hermit, living in the middle of Los Angeles, a pessimist (if she isn’t careful), a feminist, a quiet egotist, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty and drive. She has written Patternmasters, Mind of My Mind, Survivor, Kindred, and Wild Seed. Kindred, among other things, is a rather shocking novel of slavery in early America, which probably should be read by every white American.

Having spent too much time agonizing over how straightforward / clever / opaque / forthcoming / fun / boring to be in the various author bios I have been asked to provide over my career, I know how hard writing these can be (and how people will judge you on them), and Butler nails it. May we all have such clear-eyed confidence and warm, irreverent self-regard, such well-calibrated humor. And may we all write better author bios in her image.

[via LARB]

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