Library of America to Publish the Works of Octavia Butler

Nonprofit publisher Library of America is expanding its speculative fiction offerings: it’ll release a volume containing the works of Octavia Butler in 2021, co-edited by Nisi Shawl and Gerry Canavan.

Shawl revealed the news on Twitter, noting that they’ll be writing an introduction for the book, which will be released next spring

Canavan explained to Tor.com that the publisher is approaching Butler’s works as it has with prior genre authors, producing: “definitive editions of Butler’s works that reflect her recognized status as one of the most important and widely influential authors of the twentieth century.”

Shawl and Canavan are well-versed in Butler’s works. Shawl co-edited Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler, is the co-founder of the Carl Brandon Society (which administers the Octavia Butler Memorial Scholarship), and has written extensively about the late author, while Canavan recently covered the author in his entry in the University of Illinois Press’s Modern Masters of Science Fiction biography series.

Both say that this volume will include Butler’s novels Kindred and Fledging, the contents of her collection Bloodchild and Other Stories, as well as a handful of other short stories.

Those works, Canavan noted, have “floated in and out of print in editions of varying quality, especially from the early part of her career, so the LOA edition will be an opportunity to bring together all those pieces under one umbrella.”

According to Library of America Associate Editor Stefanie Peters, “Butler’s work has clearly not only stood the test of time but expanded the horizons of science fiction and American literature in general,” and that “we are hoping to continue this edition with Butler’s complete work, and we are committed to publishing the texts as Butler would have wished, which means that there will be some interesting textual work done from her manuscript, as well as some exciting ‘extras’ that I don’t want to comment on yet.”

The initial plan, Peters explains, is to release a total of four volumes of Butler’s work, with a new book coming out every year or two.

There has been a resurgence in interest for Butler’s work in recent years. Subterranean Press will soon release a new edition of her collection, Unexpected Stories, while Seven Stories Press recently released a beautiful boxed set of her Earthseed novels, Grand Central Publishing re-released both Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents with a foreword from N.K. Jemisin, and The Folio Society published its own edition of Kindred, featuring an introduction by Tananarive Due.

Library of America has increasingly dipped its toes into the science fiction and fantasy genres in recent years. The publisher started with collections of works by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Philip K. Dick, and has expanded their offerings to include the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeline L’Engle, and collections of novels from the 1950s and 1960s from Gary K. Wolfe, and anthologies like Lisa Yaszek’s The Future is Female!

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