Butler’s Speculative Fiction sounds scarily familiar…

In Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler explores a society’s collapse as a result of climate change, corporate greed, and wealth inequality.

The novel follows 15-year old Lauren Oya Olamina as she attempts to make sense of the world around her: the middle-class lives behind high walls for protection; pharmaceutical companies produce drugs that result in pyromania; climate change has resulted in the scarcity of water; the United States has elected a president who promises to bring back jobs and the “good old days” and who is also against science.

Reading Parable of the Sower in 2018 is very eerie, especially when looking at the United States today. According to an article in The New Yorker, “Butler extrapolated her vision of a near-future dystopia from what she read in the news, forecasting what kind of collapse might result if the forces of late-stage capitalism, climate change, mass incarceration, big pharma, gun violence, and the tech industry continued unhampered.” Considering that the book was published in 1993, one has to wonder what direction we are taking in terms of progress.

One interesting aspect of the book is Olamina’s made-up religion called “Earthseed”. Olamina believes that everything on Earth can be transplanted. Therefore, “The Destiny of Earthsead is to take root among the stars.” Olamina’s God is not an omniscient being. She believes that “God is change” in a literal sense; therefore, one’s survival depends upon the ability to adapt to change.

While Butler’s Parable of the Sower offers a scathing critique of the current sociopolitical climate, it is also a riveting story about people overcoming great obstacles.

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