content by

Aliya Whiteley

Starting with the Womb: Octavia E Butler’s Dawn

I first found Dawn, about fifteen years ago, in my local library. I hadn’t heard of Octavia Butler. I’m not sure why I picked Dawn up. It was probably the post-apocalyptic blurb; I’ve always been drawn to stories about the end of humanity as we know it. I hadn’t yet realised that what I liked about those stories was often the fact that they are really about beginnings, too.

Dawn is absolutely about a beginning, and how painful that can be. Butler makes hundreds of brave choices throughout the book that still stagger me, and defy traditional writing advice. That’s obvious from that first section alone, Womb, with its introduction to Lilith Iyapo, one of the few survivors of a terrible war on Earth, saved and also kidnapped and drugged by an alien race called the Oankali.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

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