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Octavia Estelle Butler is the first African-American woman to gain popularity and critical acclaim as a major science fiction writer. She was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California, to Laurice and Octavia M. (Guy) Butler. Butler was the only child of five pregnancies that her mother was able to carry to term. Her father, a shoeshine man, died when Butler was very young. Most of her memories are actually stories that she heard from her mother and grandmother. Her mother and she lived in a very racially mixed neighborhood. The unifying factor was the struggle to make ends meet. Butler "never personally experienced the more rigid forms of a segregated society" Butler was very shy in school, and describes herself as a daydreamer. These factors made it very difficult to succeed in school. She overcame dyslexia, and began writing when [she] was 10 years old...to escape loneliness and boredom.. At age twelve she became interested in science fiction.
Butler's patternists series, published between 1976 and 1984, tells of a society that is run by a specially-bred group of telepaths. This is an elite group who are mentally linked to one another in a hierarchical pattern. These telepaths are trying to create a superhuman race. This series includes the books: Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, Survivor, Wild Seed, and Clay's Ark. Patternmaster deals with the struggle between brawn and brain. It also comments on class structure and the role of women. Wild Seed incorporates a great deal of the Black experience, including slavery. Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago are the three novels that make up the Xenogenesis trilogy. These stories are about the near destruction of humankind through nuclear war and gene-swapping by extraterrestrials. The extraterrestials observe the humans as being hierarchical, which cause them to be prejudiced, and to have class divisions and conflict. These characteristics make it inevitable that mankind will eventually destroy itself without the aliens' help.