Saturday, June 1, 2013

Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler

I'm pleased to announce the publication of Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler, an anthology edited by Rebecca Holden and Nisi Shawl, which Aqueduct Press is releasing in trade paperback and e-book editions. Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler celebrates the work and explores the influence and legacy of the brilliant Octavia E. Butler. Author Nisi Shawl and scholar Rebecca J. Holden have joined forces to bring together a mix of scholars and writers, each of whom values Butler’s work in their own particular ways. As the editors write in their introduction:
Strange Matings seeks to continue Butler’s uncomfortable insights about humanity, and also to instigate new conversations about Butler and her work — conversations that encourage academic voices to “talk” to the private voices, the poetic voices to answer the analytic… How did her work affect conceptions of what science fiction is and could be? How did her portrayals of African Americans challenge accepted assumptions and affect others writing in the field? In what ways did her commitment to issues of race and gender express itself? How did this dual commitment affect the emerging field of overtly feminist science fiction? How did it affect the perception of her work? In what ways did Butler inspire other writers and change the “face” of science fiction? How did she “queer” science fiction? In what ways did she inspire us and motivate us take up difficult subjects and tasks? In other words, what is her legacy?”
Earlier this week Publishers Weekly ran a review of Strange Matings:
This noteworthy anthology—published by a feminist small press in memory of Butler, an African-American science-fiction author—consists of a wide-ranging selection of sometimes-dense scholarly essays, highly readable reminiscences and personal essays, poems, correspondence, photographs, and interviews. Though she wasn't prolific, Butler (1947–2006) produced several important novels (Kindred, Lilith's Brood, Parable of the Sower) and short stories (“Blood Child,” “Speech Sounds”) that changed the genre of science fiction and helped empower many new SF writers of color. Highlights of this anthology include “Gambling Against History,” Susan Knabe and Wendy Gay Pearson’s queer reading of Kindred, Butler’s seemingly heterosexual time-travel/slave narrative; “The Spirit in the Seed,” writer, performer, and Ifa/Orisha priestess Luisah Teish’s heartfelt recollection of her discovery of Butler’s early novel Wild Seed; reminiscences by genre writers Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, editor Shawl, and Nnedi Okorafor about what Butler and her work meant for their careers; and scholar Shari Evans’s “From ‘Hierarchical Behavior’ to Strategic Amnesia,” undoubtedly the most perceptive essay yet written on Fledgling, Butler’s final novel. Readers unfamiliar with the author’s fiction should start with her novels, but her many devoted fans will find this volume highly satisfying.
Nisi and Rebecca organized a panel at WisCon on the book, which included the two of them plus Candra Gill, Ben Rosenbaum, and me. It was, at moments, deeply emotional for audience and panelists alike. Rebecca also presented a talk based on her paper. I have an essay in the book myself--which I presented at WisCon in 2008; at that time, the book had been accepted for publication by a university press. The editors turned to Aqueduct to publish it when the university press flaked out on them (something that is happening with academic presses with alarming frequency, and by no means a reflection on the quality of the book). One last thing I should mention: Strange Matings boasts numerous photos of Octavia Butler, black and white in the print edition, full color in the e-book editions. You can purchase Strange Matings now through Aqueduct's website.

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