She found a refuge at the Pasadena Public Library, where she leaped into science fiction. She especially liked Theodore Sturgeon, Ursula K. Le Guin, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Zenna Henderson, whose book Pilgrimage she would buy for her friends to read. She was a comic-book nerd: first DC and then Marvel. When she was 12 years old, she watched Devil Girl From Mars, a black-and-white British science-fiction movie about a female alien commander named Nyah who has mind-control powers, a vaporizing ray gun, and a tight leather outfit with a cape that touches the floor. Butler thought she could come up with a better story than that, so she began to write her own: temporary escape hatches from a life of “boredom, calluses, humiliation, and not enough money,” as she saw it. “I needed my fantasies to shield me from the world.”
In the last few years, there’s been a spike of interest in Butler’s work, with many television and movie adaptations of her work heading our way. What this profile speaks to best, in my view, is those early years Butler was trying to write herself in, and negotiate her steadfast commitment to becoming a successful science-fiction writer with her many real life challenges (poverty, sexism, racism). Early in her career, Butler wrote each morning at 2am before heading out for a full day of manual labor. Again and again, she advocated for herself and for her work, and kept writing.
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