and then octavia was born

today, 65 years ago, octavia butler was one day old.

i love the idea of this, of her being born, and being a tiny baby with little clenched hands and curling toes and round and screaming hello into the world, being held and protected and celebrated.

i wonder how she looked, how she sounded, what her first sight was, first smell.

i honor her mother, also an octavia, and her father who would only get a short time with her before his death – these people got to love her just for her very existence, before anyone knew her as a genius recluse science fiction prophet. i wonder how her mother and grandmother felt about the young writer.

now, i was going to write something yesterday, on her birthday, but it wasn’t that kind of day. it was the 4th day of a road trip, in the company of one of my greatest friends, where I was the only person who could drive. and after the days of pavement and landscape, all I could do was drive, sing music really loud, and take in the beautiful world around me. the thought that kept coming to me was that i truly wish America was as beautiful inside, in it’s practices and policies and laws and humanity, as it is on the outside. such a beautiful country, and i am really aware of how i feel both home and visitor all the time as i travel here.

anyway, as soon as i got to detroit it was time for jenny lee’s birthday which featured my favorite ballroom hustle teacher and fireworks! i had a dazed lovely reunion with a lot of my detroit family, and got to sweat the road out on the dance floor – summer is truly here. but after that, there was no space for an intentional love note, which any writing i do on octavia will always be.

this coming weekend is the allied media conference. lots of us in the amc family have been immersing ourselves in octavia’s work for a few years, in workshops and conversations and community. this year, because of my sabbatical, i didn’t propose a session on her…and yet as i returned, a session fell into my lap that someone else had proposed who then couldn’t make it to the conference! i’m thrilled because the session proposal is very cool, aligns with the anthology i’m working on with walidah imarisha, and because it is healing to me every time i get to explore octavia’s work with others.

healing because so many of us are shy, are writers, are disgruntled creators, don’t agree with how very meta major things in the world are going. because so many of us are heroines of stories that haven’t yet been written, and need massive time alone to envision the specifics of how humans can be deeply transformed. because we need imperfect characters who take us with them on journeys into strength, letting us see that it actually looks like vulnerability, yielding, merging, emerging, and loving.

if you are at the amc, come through this session, we will honor octavia’s birth by diving all the way into one of her worlds:

Edible space ships, off-grid “resistor” towns, and alien-induced polyamory are some of the projections for challenge and change for human survival in Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood. What happens when we embrace change? When change is no longer challenging? Can we live our fantasies? Join us for a celebration of our collective awakening as we take a personal look inside the Lilith’s Brood series and collectively write the next short story in this series, redefining land, life, love, and liberation.

we will also be geeking out on octavia and other dope science fiction writers in this session:

Transformative Justice Science Fiction Reader, begun at AMC2011. Containing awesome writing about how writers like Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Samuel Delaney and more have imagined ways to deal with violence without police or prisons, this reader will help us dream our way into putting transformative justice into practice. Participants will walk away with copies of the Reader and the opportunity to continuously build on it via a Tumblr and Googledoc!

if you aren’t there, reread lilith’s brood (the xenogenesis series) and reflect on how it intersects with your lifestyle now. remember that the genius who wrote it was imperfect, and a baby once, lonely sometimes, and not always pleased with her work.

then create something brilliant.