- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Octavia E. Butler on Habit, Freedom, Writing, and More.

Happy birthday, Octavia E. Butler! Here are some quotes from her writing.

 

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”

 

“Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

 

“In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.”

 

“First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

 

“All struggles
Are essentially
Power struggles.
Who will rule,
Who will lead,
Who will define,
refine,
confine,
design,
Who will dominate.
All struggles
Are essentially
Power struggles,
And most
are no more intellectual
than two rams
knocking their heads together.”

 

“Consider—
We are born
Not with purpose,
But with potential.”

 

“Choose your leaders
with wisdom and forethought.

To be led by a coward
is to be controlled
by all that the coward fears.

To be led by a fool
is to be led
by the opportunists
who control the fool.

To be led by a thief
is to offer up
your most precious treasures
to be stolen.

To be led by a liar
is to ask
to be lied to.

To be led by a tyrant
is to sell yourself
and those you love
into slavery.”

 

“When vision fails
Direction is lost.

When direction is lost
Purpose may be forgotten.

When purpose if forgotten
Emotion rules alone.

When emotion rules alone,
Destruction…destruction.”

 

“Beware:
All too often,
We say
What we hear others say.
We think
What we’re told that we think.
We see
What we’re permitted to see.
Worse!
We see what we’re told that we see.
Repetition and pride are the keys to this.
To hear and to see
Even an obvious lie
Again
And again and again
May be to say it,
Almost by reflex
Then to defend it
Because we’ve said it
And at last to embrace it
Because we’ve defended it
And because we cannot admit
That we’ve embraced and defended
An obvious lie.
Thus, without thought,
Without intent,
We make
Mere echoes
Of ourselves—
And we say
What we hear others say.”

 

“All religions are ultimately cargo cults.
Adherents perform required rituals, follow
specific rules, and expect to be supernaturally
gifted with desired rewards—long life,
honor, wisdom, children, good health, wealth,
victory over opponents, immortality after
death, any desired rewards.”

 

“Short-lived people, people who could die, did not know what enemies loneliness and boredom could be.”

 

“From what I’ve read, […] the world goes crazy every three or four decades. The trick is to survive until it goes sane again.”

 

“You’re truly free for the first time. What could be more difficult than that?”

 

“Sometimes when I’m interviewed, the interviewer either compliments me on my ‘talent’, my ‘gift’ or asks me how I discovered it. […] I used to struggle to answer this politely, to explain that I didn’t believe much in writing talent. People who want to write either do it or they don’t. At last I began to say that my most important talent—or habit—was persistence. Without it, I would have given up writing long before I finished my first novel. It’s amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up.”

 

“If you want a thing—truly want it, want it so badly that you need it as you need air to breathe, then unless you die, you will have it. Why not? It has you. There is no escape. What a cruel and terrible thing escape would be if escape were possible.”

 

“I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.”

 

“We keep falling into the same ditches, you know? I mean, we learn more and more about the physical universe, more about our own bodies, more technology, but somehow, down through history, we go on building empires of one kind or another, then destroying them in one way or another. We go on having stupid wars that we justify and get passionate about, but in the end, all they do is kill huge numbers of people, maim others, impoverish still more, spread disease and hunger, and set the stage for the next war. And when we look at all of that in history, we just shrug our shoulders and say, well, that’s the way things are. That’s the way things always have been.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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