How to Get Inspired by Dreadful Movies: An Octavia Butler Origin Story

Greatness doesn’t always beget greatness. Octavia Butler, who was born on this day 70 years ago, credited her award-winning writing career to one sci-fi train wreck.

When she was 12 years old, Butler turned on the television and stumbled across a movie called
Devil Girl From Mars
. The basic plot was about a man-obsessed Martian and her mission to find humans to mate with. The movie was…not good. Critics called it “delightfuly bad” at best and “undeniably awful” at worst.

Butler could’ve turned the channel. Instead she watched the entire campy thing from start to finish.

“It changed my life,” Butler confessed years later in an essay about why she started writing science fiction. “As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations. The first was that ‘Geez, I can write a better story than that.’ And then I thought, ‘Gee, anybody can write a better story than that.’ And my third thought was the clincher: ‘Somebody got paid for writing that awful story.’ So I was off and writing, and a year later I was busy submitting terrible pieces of fiction to innocent magazines.”

Butler’s being modest, of course. Those “terrible pieces” became the foundation of Wild Seed and the rest of her beloved Patternist series.

So next time you’re watching an awful movie, think of Butler. She turned one terrible film-watching experience into multiple Hugo and Nebula awards and a MacArthur Fellowship. What could you do?

Kindred

Parable of the Sower

The Unseen

Fledgling

Mind of My Mind

Bloodchild and Other Stories

Discover more of Octavia Butler’s books and quotes here. And share your thoughts on Butler, bad movies, or both in the comments!

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posted by Hayley
on June, 22

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