SOURCE: Spelman College


February 23, 2016 20:20 ET

Spelman College Hosts Octavia Butler Conference Feb 26-28 to Honor Author's Life and Legacy

Butler Is Known for Her Groundbreaking Work as a Woman and African American in the Genre of Science Fiction

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwired - February 23, 2016) - Spelman College will host the conference "Celebrating Letters, Life, and Legacy," Feb 26-28, to honor the life and literary contributions of world-renowned science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler. Presented by the Department of English and the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society, the conference will feature presentations from Butler scholars and intergenerational talks on the enduring resonance and relevance of Butler's writings and the intersection of Afrofuturism and social justice.

Known for her groundbreaking work as a woman and African American in the genre of science fiction, Butler's novels examine race, sex, power and what it means to be human. Feb. 24 will mark the 10th anniversary of Butler's death at the age of 58.

"There's an incredible amount of interest in her work, particularly in the environmental and social justice movement," said Tarshia Stanley, Ph.D., chair of Spelman's English Department and president of the Octavia Butler Literary Society. "Afrofuturism is the cultural lens through which people of color see their lives and future. African people have always been a part of the scientific movement and technological innovations with an eye to the future."

With strong complex heroines at the center of her stories, Butler portrayed life in dystopian worlds with incisive meditations on power dynamics and community building between colliding populations of humans, mentally enhanced humans and alien species.

Her first novel "Patternmaster," published in 1976, became part of her four-volume Patternist series. In the late 1980s, she published her Xenogenesis trilogy ("Dawn," "Adulthood Rites" and "Imago"), which explored issues of genetics and race. Other books include "Parable of the Sower" of the two-book Parable series, "Bloodchild" and "Kindred." 

In addition to winning multiple Hugo and Nebula awards during her career, Butler became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship in 1995. Five years later, she received the prestigious PEN Lifetime Achievement Award.

While most of Stanley's students are not familiar with Butler, she has found they eventually become lifelong fans of the author once exposed to her work. Stanley teaches a literature course titled "Butler's Daughters: Imagining Leadership in Black Speculative Fiction," designed to expose students to models for leadership in contemporary Black women's science fiction, fantasy and horror.

"There's something to be learned from Butler's heroines and the way they lead. All her heroines are young women of color, and they have to figure out how we overcome challenges in future spaces and dystopian worlds," said Stanley. "Butler totally understands the way we think as human beings. Her work is instrumental in helping us figure out who we are going to be as we move forward and what kind of people are we going to be. I hope people who don't know her work will see how scholars use her work in the academy."

During the conference, scholars, students, and Butler fans will gather for 14 sessions at which papers will be presented and issues raised on a range of topics inspired by the author's books -- from disability and difference to violence and unassuming heroines, as well as environmentalism and slavery.

The conference paper sessions are free and open to the public, however, pre-registration is required. To register email: All sessions will be held in the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D. Academic Center (350 Spelman Lane, Atlanta 30314. GPS Address: 440 Westview Drive, Atlanta 30310).

Conference Schedule

  • Feb. 26 - Welcome dinner featuring guest speaker Sandra Govan, Ph.D., English professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (ticket required).
  • Feb. 27 - (1.) Paper Sessions. (2.) College and high school English teachers are invited to participate in a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon.
  • Feb. 28 - (1.) Paper Sessions. (2.) Panel discussion and screening of John Akomfrah's science fiction documentary "The Last Angel of History" in the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.

Visit the following link for more information and a complete schedule of events.

About the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society
Spelman College is the founding home of the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society, spearheaded in 2013 by Tarshia Stanley, Ph.D., chair of Spelman's English Department. The society works to preserve Butler's literary legacy through the teaching of her works and creating other opportunities for scholarly and cultural engagement. In 2013, Spelman began offering the literature course "Butler's Daughters: Imagining Leadership in Black Speculative Fiction," which Stanley initially co-taught with Tananarive Due, author and former Spelman College Distinguished Visiting Scholar.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a highly selective, liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, Ga., the College's picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Outstanding alumnae include Children's Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer, Former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman's first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, Harvard University professor Evelynn Hammonds, author Pearl Cleage and actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson. For more information, visit

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Contact Information

  • Contact information

    Audrey Arthur
    Spelman College Office of Communications
    (404) 270-5892 office