Scope and Content of Collection
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Title: Octavia E. Butler Papers
Collection Number: mssOEB 1-8000
Butler, Octavia E.
Extent: 8000 pieces in 354 boxes, 1 volume, 2 binders, and 18 broadsides.
Huntington Library. Manuscripts Department
San Marino, California 91108
Abstract: The personal and professional papers of American science fiction author Octavia E. Butler.
Language of Material: English
The collection is open for qualified researchers as of Nov. 1, 2013.
The literary copyright of materials by Octavia E. Butler is held by the Estate of Octavia E. Butler. Anyone wishing to quote
from or publish any manuscript material by Octavia E. Butler must contact the agent listed below. Questions should also be
directed to the agent below.
Agent contact info:
21 West 26th St
New York City, NY 10010
The copyright for materials by others represented in the collection is held by other parties. It is the responsibility of
the researcher to determine the current copyright holder and obtain permission from the appropriate parties.
The Huntington Library retains the physical rights to the material. In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the
manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director, in addition
to permission obtained from any copyright holders. For materials by Octavia E. Butler researchers should contact both the
library and the agent as listed above for publication permission.
Octavia E. Butler Papers. Huntington Library. Manuscripts Department
Bequest of Octavia E. Butler. Accessioned August, 2008.
Octavia Estelle Butler (1947-2006) was an American science fiction writer, and the first black woman in her field. She was
born and raised in Altadena, California by her mother, Octavia M. Butler, a maid. Her father Laurice, a shoeshiner, died when
she was a baby. When she was young she was known as Estelle, or Junie (short for Junior), to differentiate herself from her
mother. Later, though she used Octavia, she was adamant about including her middle initial in published settings.
A shy, only child, Octavia began writing at 10, and turned to science fiction by 12. She often cited Devil Girl from Mars,
a movie she saw on television, as her inspiration: “I thought, I can write a better story than that.” Despite being told
repeatedly by family and friends that writing science fiction was not a career for a black person Octavia pursued creative
writing courses at Pasadena City College, and won a student short story writing contest in 1966. She graduated with an Associate’s
degree and went on to California State University, Los Angeles, where she studied a variety of subjects, but never completed
In 1969 Octavia was admitted to the Screen Writers’ Guild Open Door program where she caught the attention of Harlan Ellison.
Ellison encouraged Octavia to attend the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in science fiction and fantasy at Clarion State College
in Pennsylvania, which she did in the summer of 1970. There she published her first story, “Crossover,” in Clarion, an anthology
of student works. She also sold her short story “Childfinder” to Harlan Ellison, to be part of the now infamously unpublished
Last Dangerous Visions anthology.
For the next five years Octavia wrote and supported herself with menial jobs, but did not sell any of her writing. Finally,
in 1976, Doubleday published Octavia’s first novel, Patternmaster, followed shortly by Mind of my Mind (1977) and Survivor
(1978). These three are the first of five related novels known as Butler’s Patternist series, based on her earliest childhood
science fiction. Her best known work, Kindred, appeared in 1979, and has become a standard in many high school and college
As Octavia gained popularity she began to attend and speak at science fiction conventions and at conferences. Though still
incredibly shy she challenged herself to public speaking and appeared at many colleges and events. In the late 1980s she published
her Xenogenesis trilogy, and then in the 1990s published Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. In 1995, Octavia
became the first science fiction writer to receive a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grant. Her last novel, Fledgling, was
published in 2005. In all, Octavia published 12 novels and one volume of short works. She received 2 Hugos and 2 Nebulas.
In 2000 Octavia moved to Lake Forest Park, Washington, fulfilling a longtime dream of living in the Northwest. She passed
away suddenly after a fall outside her home in 2006, probably from a stroke or related head trauma, at the age of 58.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection consists of five series: Manuscripts, Correspondence, Photographs, Subject Files and Research Materials, and
Ephemera. There are 354 boxes, as well as 1 volume, 2 binders, and 18 loose broadside folders.
Manuscripts are subdivided into manuscripts by Octavia E. Butler, notecards, diaries, commonplace books, and manuscripts by
others. They are arranged alphabetically by author, then title or chronologically within each subseries. Manuscripts by Octavia
E. Butler include drafts of all her published works, as well as numerous drafts of complete and partial short stories, one
unpublished novel, Blindsight, and several partial drafts of unfinished novels, including Parable of the Trickster. There
are also essays and speeches and notes on various research, writing, and domestic subjects. The notecards include both working
notes and research notes, as well as notes used for speaking engagaments. The commonplace books are a particularly rich subseries
where Octavia compiled working notes for novels and short stories, research, journal entries, notes on daily life and activities,
and more. Very little of the contents of the commonplace books are indexed. Manuscripts by others include working copies of
short stories from the Clarion workshop of 1970, pre-publication novels, and other short stories, plays, and essays.
Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name, then chronologically. Notable correspondents include
Harlan Ellison, Robin Scott Wilson, Toni Cade Bambara, Vonda N. McIntyre, Greg Bear, Suzy McKee Charnas, Tananrive Due, Martin
Harry Greenberg, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Important personal correspondents include Marjorie Rae Nadler, Leslie Howle, Lynn
Marron, Sandra Y. Govan, Frances Deutsch Louis, and Victoria Rose. In particular correspondence to and from Victoria Rose,
Marjorie Rae Nadler, and Lynn Marron offers insight into Octavia life and writing early in her career. Octavia’s correspondence
with her agent at Writer’s House, Inc. and her publishers, including Doubleday and Company, inc, Seven Stories Press, Warner
Books, St. Martin’s Press, and Four Wall Eight Windows, often contains great detail about works in progress and marketing
Photographs are arranged chronologically in several groups: loose photos (small), loose photos (large), album pages, and photo
album. Highlights include photographs from conventions, speaking engagements, and or book signings, numerous photographs of
Ocatvia’s trip to Peru and the Amazon as part of her research for her Xenogenesis trilogy, and photographs from travels in
the Southern California desert and north coast, and Washington.
The subject files represent Octavia’s arrangement of clippings by topic. Subject headings are taken from the envelopes Octavia
used for filing in most cases, and the arrangement largely follows a numbering scheme devised by Octavia. The original envelopes
are included in each folder when present. The research materials are other clippings and subject materials that have been
arranged by the cataloger, using Octavia’s schema where possible. Together the subject files and research materials are a
compendium of topics of interest to Octavia, largely scientific, medical, and anthropological in nature.
The ephemera are arranged in 19 subseries, alphabetically. Notable subseries include Awards, Organizations: MacArthur Foundation,
Organizations: Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), Publicity and Production, Schools (which includes a variety of juvenilia),
Speaking Engagements, and Travel.
In addition there are oversize materials, housed separately, for all the above series. Researchers should be sure to search
the oversize series for additional materials.
Women, authors, American -- 20th Century -- Archives
Women, authors, American -- 21st Century -- Archives
Science fiction -- Societies, etc.
Science fiction -- Periodicals
Science fiction, American -- Women authors
African American women authors -- 20th Century -- Archives
African American women authors -- 21st Century -- Archives
Feminism -- United States
Black nationalism -- United States
American literature -- African American authors
Bambara, Toni Cade
Barnes, Steven, 1952-
Bates, Russell, 1941-
Bear, Greg, 1951-
Bogstad, Janice M., 1950-
Bova, Ben, 1932-
Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Brown, Christy, ǂd 1932-1981
Busby, F. M.
Delany, Samuel R.
Due, Tananarive, 1966-
Effinger, George Alec
Elliot, Jeffrey M.
Gunn, James E., 1923-
Hampton, Gregory Jerome, 1968-
Hartwell, David G.
Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-
Louis, Frances Deutsch
McCaffrey, Larry, 1946-
McIntyre, Vonda N.
Resnick, Michael D.
Rowell, Charles H.
Skal, David J.
Walker, Alice, 1944-, recipient.
Williams, Sherley Anne, 1944-1999.
Wilson, Robin Scott
Wood, N. Lee
Zaki, Hoda M., 1950-
Charnas, Suzy McKee
Nadler, Marjorie Rae
California State University, Los Angeles
Doubleday and Company, inc.
Four Walls Eight Windows (Firm)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Los Angeles Public Library
Pasadena City College (Pasadena, Calif.)
Science Fiction Writers of America
Seven Stories Press
World Science Fiction Convention (30th: 1972: Los Angeles, Calif.)
World Science Fiction Convention (38th : 1980 : Boston, Mass.)
World Science Fiction Convention (42nd : 1984 : Los Angeles, Calif.)
World Science Fiction Convention (44th : 1986 : Smyrna, Georgia)
World Science Fiction Convention (54th : 1996 : Los Angeles, Calif.)
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