Parable Series by Octavia Butler Conversation 3: Parable of the Sower Chapters 9-25

Parable Series by Octavia Butler Conversation 3

Parable of the Sower Chapters 9-25

Recording will not be available; see below for Conversation notes and forum discussion.



About Octavia Butler : "Octavia Butler passed away on February 24th, 2006 at the age of only 58, leaving behind a body of work whose influence cannot be exaggerated. Butler was a Black, female genre writer at a time when science fiction was still seen by many as the territory of white men. Her writing centered on women of color in a way few narratives then did, and posited that empathy could be humanity’s saving grace. As today’s environmental and human rights crises make painfully clear, Butler’s work is only going to become more relevant and necessary as time goes on. " - Carolyn Cox, The Portalist, 2018, URL : 1

Seed Questions

  • What brings you to this group? What do you know about Octavia Butler and why are you drawn to read her books?
  • What do we think about Butler’s religious ideas? Are they viable? What do they tell us about both the power of religion and its limitations?
  • Butler paints a bleak portrait of the future. Do we agree that this is a likely future? Or is it overly pessimistic?

Upcoming sessions

All sessions will occur 10 AM- 12PM MDT; 12 PM - 2 PM EDT

In your timezone: 4:00:00 PM6:00:00 PM


Week 8 (Sept. 26th): Parable of the Talents - Ch. 13-21 + Epilogue
Week 11 (Oct. 17th): Parable of the Talents - Wrap-up
(skipped the 10th week because of the Gebser conference)


For more information about Butler and her books, refer back to the [announcement thread. (


Hi all,

I hope this finds you well!

I’m getting in touch as I’m a social researcher based at Newcastle University in the UK, working on a project that focuses on science fiction readers online, and their engagement with social, science, and technological futures through science fiction. I’ve been primarily observing the discussions of a Goodreads group, and I was really excited to come across Infinite Conversations! I’ve listened to the first two conversations, which are so rich and fascinating.

It would be really great to be able to engage with you and your discussions as part of my research, if you are open to it. There is a brief introduction to the project on this webpage, as well as a link to an information sheet PDF about the project’s aims, ethics, and consent:

The project I’m working on is called ‘Prospecting Futures Online’ part of a wider inter-institutional project, ‘Unsettling Scientific Stories’. In brief: the aim of the project is to explore online discussion (social media, blogs, fan sites) and work with reading groups to analyse how science fiction readers engage with the different kinds of futures that emerge from science fiction and their social implications.

If you are happy, I will follow your conversations (and perhaps participate, if that is important), and then in October I would email individuals for informed consent to work with specific aspects of the discussion. With your consent, I would use anonymised and contextualised quotes from your discussion to understand how reading groups think and talk together about books.

I’m working on this project with Lisa Garforth (the Principle Investigator) until December, so while it is a short project, we take the knowledge and enthusiasm of readers very seriously, and hope to develop a better understanding of how fictional narratives enable readers to think creatively and critically about social and science futures.

I am really excited about the possibility of engaging with your group discussions, and I am happy to answer any and all questions and address any worries or concerns.

Miranda Iossifidis


Hello Miranda. your project, I believe, aligns with the Cosmos Collective Project as a whole (Infinite Conversations could be considered one giant star in the Cosmos Collective). Specifically, it aligns with our Readers groups, as we select readings, more often than not, that spark a new narrative that will likely provide embracing metaphors for integrating our collective futures. Your project (along with some of your personal work) are valiant and appealing.

Some participants in the Parable Series were present for Le Guin’s Dispossessed reading group. You may have noticed, if you watched these recordings carefully, that Marco recently utilized the same quote you have listed below (highlighted in bold):

Science fiction has long been concerned with re-imagining notions of imprisonment, from the contemporary critical dystopian work of Vagabond to Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, which on the first page reminds us of the border of Anarres: ‘like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.’ (14) Amongst restricted reports of the strike, with many prisoners not knowing which other prisons are striking, and minimal mainstream media coverage, one image stays with me: a striking inmate reading on his bed. I like to imagine it’s feminist science fiction that Angel has time to read because they’re not working a twelve hour shift for a few pennies per hour. I search online to see if I can get a closer look at the cover title, and discover that the photograph is from January 2015; it is so hard to find an image of the largest prison strike in U.S. history as it enters its second month.
–From your Prison Abolition, Utopianism and Science Fiction - Mould Map (2016)

Your Mould Map adds some additional contemporary depth to the discussions we shared pertaining to the wall.

Some minor issues with your proposal: We would love to have you join us for the Parable series discussions if you have or are interested in reading the books. If you wish to explain your project, though, it may interfere with the discussion. I personally have signed up to allow for email contact (as I support your project wholeheartedly). I would like to hear what others think before we insert a plug and use up some of our precious discussion time. Thank you for reaching out Miranda!


I think this sounds great! But what about Butler’s proclamation (in an interview posted) that she does not like for her novels to be genre-ized as science fiction, as it limits the appeal to more versatile readers?


Hi Miranda,

What I would like to do is bring the issue to our next online reading group meeting for a check-in before agreeing. You are welcome to attend also, we welcome additional participants. I am certainly in favor of the initiative on initial review.

Concerning Katina’s point, I am not sure that we need to be beholden to Butler’s own views, but we could certainly discuss the issue. It doesn’t sound like the project promotes Butler’s work as « purely » or « only » science fiction… instead, it seems to honor her contributions to literature. But I do think we need to discuss the issue as a group before making a decision. There may be other issues I/we haven’t thought about


Sounds like a good plan, Geoffrey. For the record, I am OK with everything that has been proposed so far and expect it would be really interesting and fun…


Hi all,

Thanks so much for responding to my introduction and invitation/request! I really appreciate it.

The idea of you all checking in at your next online reading group to discuss (and hopefully agree) sounds great.

I wouldn’t want to disrupt your group dynamic or divert the conversations in any way, as you’ve got such a great thing going on. In this sense, perhaps it’s best for me to be more of an observer of the next discussions, if you don’t mind.

@Douggins I did notice the mention of The Dispossessed and @KPr2204 this is a really interesting point - I’m looking at Parable because the Goodreads group I’m following are reading it. I think questions of genre are fascinating.

If you do agree to participate in the project, there is a consent form (and more info) on the website:

Thanks, have a great weekend!


Yet, Mr. G. and Marco, I do think that this a crucial POV to consider when approaching black literature (a genre that Butler has no choice in being associated with).

I think that what you are doing is amazing, Miranda! I would encourage viewing the Butler interviews IC posted on this site. They gave me a lot more insight into the themes presented in her novel. Esp. her response to the somewhat offensive, “novelty” of being black female contributing to the genre of sci-fi.

One of the interviewees asked her what, on the surface appears to be an embarrassingly stupid question. Yet, he may be well-versed in African-American literature and therefore, has a perspective which few literature critics have discovered about black arts. And he phrased it in the following way, “I’m not going to ask you what it’s like to be an African-American female contributing to a white male dominated genre of sci-fiction/literature, but instead, I will ask what you think it is like for your white, male counterparts to receive your contributions…?” Huh? Well, she answered it in the most obvious way, though I don’t agree with her answer.

Butler says that she has no possible way of knowing how white, male sci-fi writers relate to her fiction. She’s lying to protect her legacy! She knows. She’s just being careful for the sake of book sales. Butler is old enough to recognize the truths set forth in W.E.B. Dubois’ “Souls of Black Folks” and Wright’s “Invisible Man”
with the famous “Battle Royale” scene. These pioneers in black thought (of whom Butler would be well familiar) revealed to the world that black people have a double-consciousness. We often wear a mask to accompany this dual-perception. Black people always know what white folks are thinking about them (even and esp. in the subconscious recesses of their minds) - no matter how much the PC culture has attempted to whitewash the issue.

She does know how her white male counterparts feel about her black, female contribution to their own historical domain of literature. Some of them are scared out of their wits. And they poorly disguise it with novelty and accolades - when really, their interest in studying her is an expression of this fear.



I’ll let you in on a little secret…Shhh!

Below is a dramatized account of a sacred secret about black people’s transition into white culture. Every black person with any noble interests in penetrating the barriers of white, male dominated domains (I. e., academia, arts, sciences, technology, etc.) has successfully endured this cultural rite of passage, incl. Butler…incl. myself.

Watch and tell me what you think:
Butler’s Battle Royale


This is a very painful scene to watch. This scene comes from a great novel that was also difficult to read. It is painful for me to watch. It makes me want to cry. But I dont cry. I suffer, like most men must, stoically watching the horror show. We learn how to take the punches.

I was once told by a black straight man that he could tell if a white woman had slept with a black man. He said he could tell because a white woman who had slept with a black man would treat him like he was a human being. I wondered about that? He was a therapist and was pretty sophisticated.

I told this straight man that gay men are different from straight men in important ways. He said that was an exaggerated claim. So one day I invited him over to meet my black boyfriend. A straight black guy, a black gay guy and a Caucasian gay guy having a wide ranging conversation. At the end of the afternoon, he turned to me and said," You are right. Gay men are different."

My boyfriend said," I know he is a friend of yours but I think he is kind of obnoxious." I felt caught in the middle of somewhere else. Another Country?

I’ll tell you about the moment I learned I was a white man. I grew up in the segregated south and so only socialized with black folks when I was an adult, when I got to college. Later in New York, first live- in lover, (who was black) was entertaining a black friend of his and I noticed that they would often talk about someone as acting " so white. " I was puzzled by this. A few days later, I told the same company, " I met this white guy today…" When I said it, I realized with a shock, that I had never described anyone as a " white guy." It was a spontaneous utterance but a profound one. I could start to see through the layers of cultural distortions between identities and how they get set up and acted out. I got very sensitive to body language, to the power of what was not said, but strongly felt. Culture is invisible until you violate one of it’s rules. Then you get a cold shoulder, a hostile glance or a punch in the face. We learn how to cover up and hide.

What I loved about Baldwin was his ability to see through the eyes of someone who loved him. And he was loved by white persons of both sexes. There is a stunning romance between Rufus, a black bi sexual jazz artist, and a white man and a white woman. He could see through the white person’s eyes and how they suffered, too, because of their love for him. He understood how racism wasn’t in ‘white people’. Few people entered into those taboo areas as Baldwin did. He said blacks are inside white people, white people are inside black people.

So I bring all of this to the table, Katina, without pretending to have found any answers to our stark human condition. Walk a mile in another person’s high heels before you judge them. Love hurts.

Margaret Mead told Baldwin." Jimmy, I don’t believe in racial guilt. " He argued with her about this but you could tell that underneath the argument that he deeply loved her. It is a stunning dialogue between two great intellectuals.

I have very mixed feelings. In general I find myself hating white people a lot for what they have done. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.


Tony, a black man I was once in love with, told me, before we broke up, " You got a black woman deep down inside of you."

Oh really? I have listened to Aretha and Lady Day my entire adult life so is it any wonder that I am influenced by them?


That’s right, JohnnyD54! And once you GET Black, (by any means necessary, even from the repeated lovelorn crooning of Lady Day and Aretha [God Rest her Singin’ Soul]). you NEVA’ go Back! Got Black?


Wait? What’s up with all this “Black Woman” talk, all of a sudden? What in the heck influenced that? Hmmm??? I wonder? :wink:

1 Like

Well I think ( and you may disagree) but good music and art transcends gender norms. Through art we can tune into the life worlds of others who are of a different gender, race, orientation, etc. After all half of a man’s ancestors are female. Half of a woman’s ancestors are male. It would seem that deep down inside we can slip and slide in and out of many different kinds of identifications. As you mentioned previously, there is a spectrum of masculine and feminine qualities and some go for the extremes or can move around a bit depending on who they are with. That’s why reading and writing can be so liberating and probably why we spend so much effort thinking about aesthetics and culture. When we read we can go into another world, become someone else.

I am very aware that this remark by an ex-lover is not good evidence for anything but his remark triggered a felt sense of something that is accurate. Even if I have never had children, I have a deep soul level response to children. Men can nurture, too, and I am glad to see that happening more often in our culture. Gay men and women have been at this social transformation for a while now. And as some philosopher said it is more important that a statement be interesting than true. I think what Tony said was interesting.


True for you. Yes, indeed, I believe that you have a black woman deep inside of you, too. As evidenced by the warm and welcoming way that you have responded to my rants and raves on IC. I feel like, of all the folks I’ve engaged on this platform, YOU “get me” the most.

I believe that YOU and I, JohnnyD54, (Yes, YOU!) could develop an everlasting, soul-mate type of friendship in the real world apart from this platform. You’ve got the type of soul that I’m drawn to and desire to befriend. I could embrace you as BFF material.

May I ask for your hand in deep friendship? YES or NO
(please check one)


Your comment made me wonder (or wander into another train of thought)

I wonder if I have a “white man” living deep inside of me"? Hmmm? Hmmm? Let me think about it…

…Okay, I do have a white male living deep inside of me but NOT a white female. I can relate better to the former population than I can, the latter. In fact, I can’t relate to white females at all. Only on the level of being a woman, but not that of a “white” woman. With all of that “Soccer Mom” malarky and Botox. Black really don’t crack.

I have a white man living inside me because they took root there when I was over-exposed to them in the Ivy League Halls of Academia. As a philosophy major at William and Mary (Considered Major Ivy League to SouthEast Coasters - a parent’s dream school!) I unconsciously absorbed some of the language, expression and argumentative mannerisms of white men.

UPon observing the subtle power plays that white men use to impose their will upon others via the available resources of academia (in which, I too, had been given access upon successful completion of my Battle Royale!)_ , I conscientiously and deliberately studied the ways in which white men communicate in the world to affirm their inbred sense of “melatonin - free” status. I wanted a piece of that and adopted it as part of my armor in the realm of real world intelligentsia. It has served me well (and others, too).


Mind YOU, Before you respond to my invitation for “real world friendship”, I must warn you that this is the type of friendship whereby, you can call upon this person to contact a Bail Bondsman to arrange and acquire the funds to bail your friend out of jail, in the event that a grave misunderstanding arises, which could result in an unwarranted arrest.

(I already have a secret stash of “bail cash” stowed away, in the event that this happens. Hence, when I make my one phone call, I could just give you the details on how to acquire these funds to bail me out)

And I would do the same for you, of course. That’s the ultimate test of true friendship. Someone willing to bail you out of jail if you mistakenly get arrested for something. Right? Wouldn’t you agree?

Can I get a witness???

What about an “Amen”?


YES! I whole heartedly accept!


Amen, sister, I am there for you. When other friendships are all forgot, ours will still be hot!


Now this is getting complex. I like your ruminating upon such an odd question. As we get out of school and the family systems that shaped us we can begin to change our ways of relating to our past(s) when we were told the way things are.

I will tell you a wierd story. My father, who died a few years back, was an awful man, cruel, bigoted, mean southern white man. I detested him. But I saw once a very odd thing. My parents ran a store that catered to local folks, what they called a resale shop, full of good deals. A black lady, came in one day to shop, with her small son, who took a strange liking to my father. The little boy climbed all over my father, who received the child’s affection, in a kind and gentle manner. I was kind of shocked to see this little child melt the rough behavior of my mean father. So even a mean racist pig can have a moment where he let’s down his guard. The wierd thing is that this boys mother became a regular customer and every time she visited , her son ran up to my Dad and wanted to play. They bonded!

Now I know that this is not a deep story, for my father remained a cruel and intolerant man but underneath all of that he could not resist the innocence of that little kid.

Did Daddy have a little black boy inside of him? I imagine that he did and that is why I can forgive him ( a little bit) for the cruelty he frequently expressed towards just about everyone. I think this is the real tragedy of our lives, is that we freeze into false identities that come out of long dead past and dont pay attention to reality.

I think this is what Baldwin meant when he said black people are inside white people and vice versa. Baldwin visited a southern town that had lifted the rule about Blacks being forced to sit in the back of the bus, The first day, he reported, when he got on the bus, he didnt sit in the front. He sat sort of in the middle. He said everyone black and white were kind of shy with one another. He said the atmosphere was like people making up after a lover’s quarrel.

That story makes me want to cry. Sorry if I get a little corny but I think Baldwin was a very deep man, deep as the rivers…