Tag Archives: Octavia Butler

Octavia E. Butler Clarion Scholarship Award

Cross-posted from laurieopal


I was talking to a friend on the phone yesterday and I mentioned that I was on deadline to get the Octavia Butler Scholarship Awards in the mail very soon. And I realized I’d never talked about making them on the blogs.

The owl was her totem. Octavia had asked me to make the owl for her years ago when she was very much alive. When she died, much too young, in her late 50’s, I was asked to make her owl as a Carl Brandon Society’s Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship award for the Clarion Writers Work Shop. And I was, of course very happy to do it. I didn’t realize until I read the article below that I had been making them since 2007 and that I had made more than 21 of them. I’m _very_ grateful to be able to do this in her memory.

Octavia Butler was a magnificent writer and was, among other things, the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006) was a brilliant African American writer who broke barriers with her courageous and profoundly truthful books and stories. Winner of many awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, and speculative fiction’s highest honors, the Hugo and the Nebula, Octavia was greatly loved during her lifetime and will be greatly missed. – Carl Brandon Society

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship enables writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It furthers Octavia’s legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.

The first Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarships were awarded in the summer of 2007, and they have been awarded annually each subsequent year at the conclusion of the Clarion and Clarion West Workshops. As of the summer of 2018, 21 Butler Scholarships have been awarded. – Carl Brandon Society

And I’ve been very happy by how appreciative the winning writers have been to have this token of Octavia.


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The Power of Positive Lying

Lynne Murray says:

I have been thinking recently about the power of art to reframe reality. Novels, for example are a fancy form of extended lying, with the same kind of embroidery and polishing that turns simple anecdotes into family legends. The truth may be useful when one is in therapy, but the legend will tell you quite a lot about the person doing the telling.

Humans learn by stories and even anecdotes better than by facts and figures, and legends creep in and out of fiction as needed.

Case in point, when I was researching alternative wedding ceremonies for Bride of the Living Dead, the romantic comedy for women who love horror movies too much” I found a lot of material on “handfasting.” Most of the online sites devoted to such things described it as a medieval Scottish ceremony that had traditionally accompanied a kind of trial marriage “for a year and a day.” I’ve got a few Scots on a branch of my family tree so I especially liked the idea that such a sensible custom had once existed.

The only problem was that further research revealed that this particular tradition was totally bogus.

As medieval scholar Sharon L. Krossa points out:

[A]fter formal betrothals called “handfastings” had ceased to be actually practiced in Scotland, a curious myth arose in the late 18th century that “handfasting” referred [to] a trial marriage of a year and a day after which the partners could either marry permanently or part freely and that this kind of “handfasting” had been practiced in former times but not currently.

What began as a English tourist’s tall tale about those wild and crazy Scots in the 1790s was picked up by Sir Walter Scott, who used it in his 1820 novel The Monastery,

Obviously not every wizard story becomes a Harry Potter, As the most popular exploder of legends, puts it. “[L]egends are expressions of adult fears and concerns…”

The handfasting trial marriage story may have begun as a legend in the Snopes vein, something that no one in the 1790s had ever witnessed but was really supposed to have happened. Sir Walter Scott wove it into his tapestry and helped turn it into one of those things that many people “know” because it’s been talked about so often and researched so seldom.

The do-it-yourself with no permanent commitment, and revisit it after a year aspect of the handfasting legend resonates differently with current views on relationships. The idea that such a custom really existed in Scotland appeals to a nostalgic affinity for all things Celtic. Plus it seems a very heartfelt way to express commitment without bringing in any organized religion, which gives it an edge among those who want an alternative ceremony.

What interests me is how Sir Walter Scott’s book got into reality for real.

Artists can make up any world we want, turn weaknesses into strengths and show sides of things no one dreamed of. For example in her last novel, Fledgling, author Octavia E. Butler created a black vampire who was empowered by the melanin in her skin to be able to walk in the sunlight without burning as lighter-skinned vampires could not. She also created a vampire species where females have more power than males because their venom is stronger.

Why not?

The pay for turning daily life into plausible fiction may not be much, but the payoff of turning the world on its head and taking the reader along to see a different way is the reason many, if not most, novelists stay in the game.