Lesson Plan: “Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction Predicted the World We Live In”

5. Watch 3D visuals through the room created by media artist Ainslee Alem Robson: What story do they tell? How do they improve your reader experience? Which article visualization stands out, and why?

6. In the introduction to the article, Ms George writes:

As a black woman and writer, Butler tore down walls that seemed impermeable, writing about themes that seemed unclassifiable.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Butler’s birth. Its themes, ideas, and characters continue to resonate with new readers at a time when so many are looking for, if not hope, then at least a map to move forward.

What did you learn from the interactive Times? What did you find more instructive, surprising, memorable or moving? Why do you think Butler’s work continues to excite, hurt and resonate with readers after his death? What would you say is his lasting legacy?

seven. What does Butler’s life story tell you about being and becoming a writer? What lessons or inspiration can you draw from this?

Option 1: Read the rest of the article using a puzzle strategy.

Below we have divided the rest of the article into four sections. You will become an expert in one of the subjects and then share what you learn with your classmates. Teachers can decide to assign a student or a small group to each topic or allow students to choose.

Students, read your section and take notes on the key points your classmates need to know to understand your topic. You can use the questions below to guide your reading:

“The Breakthrough, 1978-1979: Where ‘Kindred’ Came From”

  • How Ms Butler researched her 1979 novel ‘Kindred,’ which tells the story of Edana ‘Dana’ Franklin, a struggling black writer who travels her life to contemporary Southern California to a working plantation in the pre-war south?

  • How did a trip to George and Martha Washington’s home in Mount Vernon help Butler understand and absorb “the loss, grief, and slavering voices of the dead”?

  • Ayana AH Jamieson, founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, says part of the underlying message of this book is that “although it is about a person dealing with their own family history , it’s also all of us”. What does “Kindred” teach about “kinship and alliances, and what it means to survive,” according to the article? How do these themes and messages relate to your own life?

“Premonitions, 1993-2006: a predicted ‘parable'”

  • What drew Butler to the subject of power? What aspects of power did she explore in novels like “The Parable of the Sower”? How do the special powers Butler gave his characters mirror those in his own life, according to the article?

  • How is “Parable of the Sower” similar and different from “Kindred”? How does the life-and-death situation Lauren Oya Olamina faces in the 1993 novel compare to that of Dana, the protagonist of Butler’s 1979 classic?

  • Although Butler often calls himself a pessimist, Ms George argues that “in the dark landscape of her ‘Parable’ novels are shimmering wisps of hope – slivers of blue at the edges of fictional fiery skies”. Do you agree? How would you describe Butler’s vision in the Parable series? Optimist, pessimist or something else?

“The Present, 2004-2022: ‘Take Root Among the Stars'”

  • Why did NASA name the Mars landing site of the Perseverance rover Octavia E. Butler Landing?

  • How did Butler help develop and expand science fiction readership? How did Butler respond to people who asked, “What good is sci-fi for black people?” How convincing was his answer? What other reasons do you see for the power and value of science fiction?

  • Ms. Greene writes of Butler’s view of her own work: “Fiction was more than ‘stories’, she thought. It was a way to acquire a new set of eyes – to effect change. What evidence from the article supports this claim?

Once you have finished reading your puzzle section, form teaching groups with at least one expert in each of the other topics and share what you have learned with each other.

Option 2. Learn more about Octavia Butler.

What questions do you still have about Butler, his life and his work? What would you like to deepen?

To learn more about Butler’s life and prolific career, you can read one or more of the following Times articles:

Or check out some of these sources beyond the Times:

Option 3: Write an original science fiction story to explore social issues.

Drawing inspiration from Butler’s imaginary worlds, create a fictional past or future to explore and reveal truths about ourselves and our present.

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