Octavia Butler's Earthseed series (Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents) paints a grim near future. Protagonist Lauren Oya Olemina fights to survive and prevail in this hellscape America plagued by religious extremists, rampant illiteracy, intense violence, and more. Lauren has found the true form of god, that of change and seeks to share the words of Earthseed: the books of the living. Butler's work is a harrowing tale of a world, though alien to us isn’t too hard to imagine. It is the exaggerated, horrifying outcome of our current actions, almost a promise. But she also offers an answer to these horrors, a comfort in the form of Earthseed; of community and resistance. Gabe breaks down the books and their themes. Kat explains the scary motivations behind Butler's series and where we are now. What can we learn from the Earthseed series?
Sources in this Episode: Why So Many Readers Are Turning to Octavia Butler's Apocalypse Fiction Right Now Parable of the Sower study guide Illiteracy is costing America — here’s why https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/state-county-estimates.asp thinkimpact https://realtimeinequality.org/ Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Crime in U.S. Cities: Year-End 2021 Update
For more on the Parables: Octavia Tried to Tell Us Octavia’s Parables
Ways to Help & Things to Learn: Kat found a website that allows you to search by area what plants are native to where you live, to make sure you’re working with your environment instead of against it: This also helps climate change. There are also places that teach about foraging and herbalism https://theherbalacademy.com/herbalism-courses/In foraging be mindful of the environments around you and your impact on them. Learn about the ways in which different plants grow, and the importance of not over foraging or damaging local ecosystems: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-to-forage-wild-foodsThe Gathering Basket Cookbooks - Rooted in the cultivation of Indigenous food sovereignty and elevating and preserving Indigenous Narratives, I-Collective is developing a Cookbook and Webinar Series to assist in strengthening the connection of our people to their food. Indigenous food sovereignty is critical because many health issues are tied to colonialism and the exploitation of resources, land, and people: https://www.icollectiveinc.org/
Media from this week's episode:
Parable of the Sower (1993)
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future. (First of an unfinished trilogy).
Writer: Octavia E. Butler
Parable of the Talents (2001)
Continues the story of Lauren Olamina in socially and economically depressed California in the 2030s. Convinced that her community should colonize the stars, Lauren and her followers make preparations. But the collapse of society and rise of fanatics result in Lauren's followers being enslaved, and her daughter stolen from her. Now, Lauren must fight back to save the new world order.
Writer:Octavia E. Butler
What We Learn from Octavia's Parables: God is Change & more by Gabe Castro
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
“In order to rise
From its own ashes
The Earthseed series follow Lauren Oya Olemina, a young empath living in an apocalyptic world of unrest and hopelessness. In Parable of the Sower, Olemina is young and growing in this bleak landscape. She introduces her complicated world, the only one she’s ever known. This world, though alien to us isn’t too hard to imagine. It is the exaggerated, horrifying outcome of our current actions, almost a promise.
Let’s glimpse into this world. Olemina lives with her family in a walled town where outside the walls is pure danger and chaos. People fight, steal, murder, and intoxicate themselves to survive. Cars are rare because gas is impossible. Food is limited due to climate change and unsustainable farming practices. Climate change also results in rampant forest fires in California where Olemina lives. The police force is small and privatized, catering to the upperclass, are incredibly expensive and entirely unhelpful. Special drugs have corrupted the mentality of entire communities of people. One drug, parateco, dubbed the ‘genius drug’ results in children like Olemina, known as “sharers” who physically feel what others feel, having been born with this trait after their mothers abused the narcotic. Other drugs like pyro inspires an intense delight for fire and flame. Olemina describes the sensation as “better than sex” to watch a fire burn. Education is no longer free but mandatory by law. Schools have shutdown and families are now expected to educate their children or they are sent to neighborhood classes. Slavery has resurfaced with a new face, with such a pathetic workforce many are forced to become laborers who work not for money, but creds they can only use on the compounds of the company. Later, we learn about the cruel practice of collaring people into working for free. These collars are controlled by a device on a belt by the captor who can send terrible, mindbreaking pain to the wearer. Children are murdered, made into workers or sex slaves, uneducated, and lost. The bleak world has inspired fear and hopelessness, making room and inspiring the rise of religious factions that seek to make America great again. Desiring to return to an impossible time that never existed. Without acknowledging any of the real issues that brought us to this point, these radicals work to cleanse the country of the broken, damned heathens that have destroyed the greatest country in the world.
Olemina’s world is dropped into further hell when her home is attacked by pyromaniacs who deemed this vulnerable community the villain, the rich, for having anything of substance even though it is barely enough to survive. (isn’t it so that the rich sit atop their castles while we fight amongst ourselves for scraps?). Her family is taken from her and she must walk north to survive, in the hopes of finding somewhere to be safe and heard. Parable of the Sower shows Olemina as she begins to find her tribe, slowly through her journey accumulating strays and the needy. She finds love and community on the road and seeks to build a stable home.
But there is more to Olemina and Parable of the Sower than a simple too-close-to-home apocalypse because Olemina doesn’t only work to survive and build a community. Her greatest desire is to spread the word of Earthseed, to share the knowledge, hope a