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Spelman College and Pioneers in Black Speculative Fiction Honor Award-Winning Science Fiction Novelist Octavia E. Butler


Terrilyn Simmons
(404) 270-5822

ATLANTA (March 12, 2013) -- Tananarive Due, 2012-2013 William and Camille Hanks Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College, is bringing together pioneers in Black speculative fiction to honor the legacy of science fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler, for her culminating event. Titled “Black to the Future: The Octavia E. Butler Celebration of the Fantastic Arts,” the half-day event takes place March 21, 2013 in the Cosby Academic Center and is free and open to the public.

Building on the celebration, Chair of Spelman’s English Department, Dr. Tarshia Stanley, will establish the Octavia E. Butler Society at the American Literature Association meeting in Boston in May 2013. 

Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), who won a MacArthur Genius Grant as well as Hugo and Nebula awards, was a pioneer and one of the nation’s most beloved standard bearers in the realm of social science fiction. Her novels, which include Kindred, Patternmaster and Parable of the Sower, are well-researched and deeply thoughtful meditations on power dynamics and community building between colliding populations of humans, mentally enhanced humans, and alien species. Her strong, complex heroines have resonated with readers for decades.

 “Octavia Butler has been an inspiration to an untold number of readers and writers, and I’m excited to see her gaining the respect that her work deserves,” said Due. “I first met Octavia at a black speculative fiction conference at Clark Atlanta University in 1997, and most of those who participated on that panel are returning to Spelman for this celebration.”

The award-winning panelists joining Due, an American Book Award winner, NAACP Image Award winner and author of 12 novels and a civil rights memoir, include: 

- Steven Barnes, author/screenwriter, work includes “Lion’s Blood” and “The Twilight Zone”
- Samuel R. Delany, author/literary critic, work includes “Dhalgren” and  “Babel-17”
Jewelle Gomez, author/poet/playwright, work includes “The Gilda Stories” and “Waiting for Giovanni”
- Nalo Hopkinson, author/editor, work includes “Brown Girl in the Ring” and “Midnight Robber”
- Brandon Massey, author/editor, work includes “Covenant” and “Don't Ever Tell”
- Nisi Shawl, author/editor, work includes “Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars”
- Sheree Renée Thomas, author/poet/editor, work includes “Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora”

“When I teach Octavia’s work to my writing students, I see their imaginations fire up,” said Due. “I want this celebration to create a sense of fellowship for those of us who knew and loved Octavia, and to help ignite the thrill of discovery in new generations.” 

“Black to the Future: The Octavia E. Butler Celebration” at Spelman includes:

- 12:30 p.m.-- A Black science fiction short film festival in the Cosby Auditorium
- 3 p.m. -- A performance paper at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art,
“Planet Rock: Techno, House Music & Afrofuturism” with dj lynnée denise
- 4 p.m.  -- A Cosby Lobby art exhibition
- 5 p.m.-- A student staged reading and panel discussion in the Cosby Auditorium (streamed live at www.spelman.edu)

Panelists will sign copies of their books following the panel discussion.

Tananarive Due, 2012-2013 Cosby Endowed Professor in the Humanities:
Award-winning author, Tananarive Due, is a leading voice in black speculative fiction. As a Cosby Chair, she has taught a screenwriting and journalism class. She also has a lecture series that brings the who’s who in writing talent and entrepreneurship to Spelman.  Prior to being named a Cosby Chair, Due spent a year teaching English composition and grammar at the College. She also teaches in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Antioch University, Los Angeles. In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism's Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University.

The William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professorship was established in 1988. The recipient utilizes the post for one year to expand the college’s curricular offerings by designing a course rooted in their specific area of expertise, and facilitating interdisciplinary initiatives. The residency concludes with a special culminating event developed and implemented by the Cosby Chair.
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; JPMorgan Chase Foundation President Kimberly Davis; former acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley; Harvard College Dean Evelyn Hammonds; author Pearl Cleage; and actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson. For more information, visit www.spelman.edu.

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