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8 Octavia E. Butler Quotes We Really Need Right Now

8 Octavia E. Butler Quotes We Really Need Right Now

Written by guest blogger, Dawn Kofie. Dawn is a content designer, writer and editor. She's a fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, yoga and butter.


Octavia Estelle Butler went from working in unchallenging temp jobs that meant she could get up in the early hours of the morning to write, to being the Grande Dame of Sci-Fi.

She was the first science fiction author to be granted a prestigious MacArthur fellowship (also known as the ‘genius grant’). And the first Black woman to win the prestigious Hugo and Nebula science fiction writing awards. 

Her novels and short stories are clear-eyed and scarily prescient. They explore issues including climate change, women's rights, big pharma and human beings’ deep, enduring - and destructive - love affair with hierarchy. 

There are currently  2 TV adaptations of Butler’s novels in the works.

Here’s a small selection of her wise words.


On unquestioning acceptance

“Beware, all too often we say what we hear others say. We think what we are told that we think. We see what we are permitted to see. Worse, we see what we are told that we see.”

On keeping going

“That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.”

On anger

“When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing.”

On labels

“People have the right to call themselves whatever they like. That doesn't bother me. It's other people doing the calling that bothers me.”

On the real killer


At war

Or at peace,

More people die

Of unenlightened self-interest

Than of any other disease.”

On being underestimated

“My race and sex had a great deal more to do with what people believed I could do than with what I actually could do.”

On the cycle of global violence

“We go on having stupid wars that we justify and get passionate about, but in the end, all they do is kill huge numbers of people, maim others, impoverish still more, spread disease and hunger, and set the stage for the next war. And when we look at all of that in history, we just shrug our shoulders and say, well, that’s the way things are. That’s the way things always have been.”

On friendship

“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.”

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