Reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents was both emotionally strenuous and deeply, deeply satisfying. As we catch up to the years in which it is set, the story of Lauren Oya Olamina and her Earthseed faith reads less like the future-possible and more like the present-probable. But unlike pretty much any other fiction I’ve read that deals in what horrors await, Butler’s is interested what more we might be capable of, what positive visions might guide us, and what social, philosophical, and emotional tools we might need to do more than survive.
I was folding down corners for sections that hit me hardest, and when I looked back they almost all had to do with Olamina struggling with the reality of Earthseed, the belief system she herself created.
She knows Earthseed to be true, and she also knows that the truth is not a great comfort.
Aside from the cold comfort of truth, Olamina’s only real support and meaning comes from loving connection to others…
and from devotion to a greater purpose.
In an interview with Butler at the end of Parable of the Talents, she describes a similar struggle with her own creation: it was never enough for her to understand Olamina intellectually, the truth of the story demanded that Butler commit to loving her. Only then would Olamina’s struggles have any meaning.
There are a lot of books about the climate crisis out there in the world. These two are the closest to my heart: who do we have to become to create the world we need for our survival?
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth