We lose Don Knotts and Darren McGavin over the weekend. It’s not a surprise, really. Knotts was old when I was a kid and McGavin was older than he. I grew up on Andy Griffith and the Herbie movies. As far as I knew, Knotts was like required viewing for every kid. And I’ll always remember McGavin for his obsession over the amazing fishnet stocking leg lamp in A Christmas Story.
But the real surprise this weekend is the death of Octavia Butler, who dies on Saturday after slipping on ice and hitting her head. She was a science fiction writer whose importance came not from being black or being a woman (both of which are rare in that field) but because she managed to weave important contemporary themes of race and struggle into her stories. The strange thing is that I happen to be exactly in the middle of her newest book and on the Friday of her accident, I happened to listen to an episode of NPR’s Science Friday on which she appeared. The episode is about the ways in which SF writers have a hand in inventing the future and solving many of today’s problems. And the reason I want to listen to the episode is specifically because she’s one of the guests and for some reason I want to hear what her voice sounds like.
The new book is Fledgling. It’s about an young black girl who awakens in a dark cave, horribly battered and stricken with amnesia. She soon comes to learn that though she appears to be an eleven-year-old girl, she’s actually a fifty-something-year-old vampire who has been genetically altered to be resistant to sunlight. It’s full of strange sexual and racial and social undertones and has been keeping me up at night, not because it’s at all scary, but because it’s so damned interesting.
Link to the NPR episode.
Link to the boingboing post that turned me on to the book.