Eva Parry introduced me (Parisian Phoenix Publisher Angel Ackerman) to Octavia E. Butler. She had read the Xenogenesis series (now Lilith’s Brood from what I can tell) as part of a high school independent reading project. She has been trying to get me to read them for years, but I kept telling her no.
KINDRED (OCTAVIA E. BUTLER)
And then Hulu launched a television adaptation of Kindred, and I keep seeing the commercials and the series looks captivating. I thought I would read Xenogenesis first and then watch Kindred with Eva. I’ve finished the first novel, Dawn, and am currently knee-deep in the second, Adult Rites. We have a battered copy of the trilogy in one hardcover volume.
So I thought I’d ask 18-year-old Eva, who is on our 2023 production schedule as the author of our anticipated tarot journal, why she likes Octavia E. Butler.
“Do I know much about Octavia E. Butler?” Eva quipped. “Absolutely not.”
So why does a Gen Z/post-millenial from the iGeneration like 35-year-old fiction?
Eva says Octavia E. Butler provides really good world building using simplistic language that makes the text and the story easy to understand despite the complexity of an entire alien society. “I love her aliens,” Eva said. When you think of aliens, you think of domineering aliens, Eva said, but these aliens want to work with humanity and then go separate ways, giving humanity a chance to start again after humans destroyed Earth and society by forging their own apocalypse.
The main character of the Xenogenesis series, Lilith, unfolds gradually and with such depth, Eva added. But perhaps most interestingly, some themes have become even more relevant in the present day. Some of the aliens are nonbinary in a book that was originally published in the 1987. These characters do not need gender to be whole.
Some of what Eva liked about the book I did not approach with as much enthusiasm, but like Eva, I liked Octavia E. Butler’s challenges to gender definitions and her structure of a society with male, female and neither, and parental roles that expand beyond what we would consider a family.
The story of the decline of Earth blends the futuristic, potentially utopian aliens with the now-forced-to-be-primitive humans. I’m probably halfway through the trilogy and I have my doubts about the motives of the alien creatures. What Eva found accessible and easy-to-read, I found heavy with dialogue and imbalance.
In the scene where Lilith must decide what humans to awaken to rebuild society, Octavia E. Butler provides rich dossiers for every potential citizen, but for most of the book(s), description remains sparse and two-dimensional. I feel like parts of the book are merely the outline for something Octavia E. Butler did not quite finish.
That said, I will finish the series and reserve any opinions until I complete the books.
FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE (TAFFY BRODESSER-AKNER)
In other television adaptions, Fleishman is in Trouble was my recent joyous binge. Rich on so many levels, I tried this out because like Kindred, I had seen and heard many commercials. And the commercials did not do it justice. Even the Hulu synopsis doesn’t really summarize what it’s about.
The series was created and written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, whose 2019 of the same name may have drawn on her experiences as a journalist at GQ and The New York Times. I believe I included a podcast featuring Taffy Brodesser-Akner in my “Life as a Writer” playlist on Spotify.
The opening of the first episode features voice-over that reads the first several hundred words of the book, as I recognized the literary construction of the sentences and had to download the free sample of the ebook.
This series will surely make you look at relationships, married and middle age from a multitude of perspectives.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE (MARGARET ATWOOD)
And if that’s not enough, The Handmaid’s Tale is still releasing new seasons. Myself, Eva and our art director, Gayle, went to see Margaret Atwood at a local college while Eva was still in high school. I watched a few episodes of the show, but honestly, Margaret Atwood’s book is dystopian enough without watching it come alive. I am working up the energy to try again, as Margaret was such an energetic and inspiration speaker. And, of course, I’ve read the book.