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

You got it, Bro! Love Ya’!

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That little boy may have been the key to his salvation! I think that it is a beautiful story and example of how infectious our natures can be, which transcend race and gender.


Thank you for jogging my memory. I just flashed on that odd story in response to your self-inquiry. It made me loosen up the hold I have on admitting that my father had anything redeemable about him. Hatred is, as someone wise once said, too great a burden to bear. I have tried to lay down that weary load and so maybe sharing this in this forum can stimulate some self-reflections about these huge moral problems we are all of us forced to face. We cant kick this can down the road.


Thanks for this, Katina, I’ve not seen this powerful dramatisation of Invisible Man before. I agree that considering questions of race, gender, and class in Butler’s work is very important.

I’m going to read the Butler interviews you’ve pointed me to, and hopefully join the conversation tomorrow to discuss Parable.


We would love to have you!

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When you HATE what you used to LOVE,
And LOVE what you used to HATE,
You’ve changed!

(Earthseed Propaganda Poem composed by “Parable” Reader, K. Press)
(Ahem…just for fun)


From the Migration Series Jacob Lawrence


These paintings are real! Esp. the last one with sunlight traced gold around their faces. Are these images pulled from the web or part of someone’s personal collection?

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I saw this series on display at Museum of Modern Art a decade ago. I was struck by the small canvases, post card size, some of them, and yet they had so much power. I got these images from the Jacob Lawrence website.


I made a real booboo… I forgot to start the recording of the session on Octavia Butler today! So our wonderful words are not going to be kept for posterity! I was distracted at the beginning of the session, and completely forgot! I’m so sorry!


It was great to meet you all yesterday, thanks for having me, and for agreeing to participate in the research project (which you may choose to change your mind on at any time).

The consent form and more information that I mentioned yesterday, can be found here: Prospecting Futures Online

Ah that’s a shame about the recording, but these things happen! Would people be open to sharing / continuing some of yesterday’s discussion here?


Below are my spotty notes taken from the session, which I have loosely edited. I have made this a wiki so anyone can edit in their comments, memories, etc. Hope this helps!

In Attendance

Dona Abbad
Mary Thaler
Katina Press
Jocelyne Kiss
Geoffrey Edwards
Miranda Lossifidis
Johnny Davis
Douglas Duff
Marco Morelli


(short chat, hellos)

Geoffrey opens with quote from Chapter 25:

Create no images of God.
Accept the images
that God has provided.
They are everywhere,
in everything.
God is Change—
Seed to tree,
tree to forest;
Rain to river,
river to sea;
Grubs to bees,
bees to swarm.
From one, many;
from many, one;
Forever uniting, growing, dissolving—
forever Changing.
The universe
is God’s self-portrait.

Opening Comments:

Doug: notes the flow of the novel; real story with real characters

@ 8 minutes: enter Miranda

9:00 - Mary: loves the trial and error of the characters attempts to situate in the troublesome world.

Geoffrey: the sense of spirit and generosity

Jocelyne: Face of God; Butler’s fighting of the system in the novel as a building of strength, rhythm; where did this expression come from, since raised in Christian milieu? Butler and Olamina develop together in their creation of the Earthseed/God is Change; similar to Sufi belief (I am God)…a building of reality. Butler fighting the system as she fights herself (rebuilds her beliefs).

15:30 - Mary: Protestant God, make no images; is this Animism?
16:30- Marco: Pan(en)theism has an Absolute. The Absolute is Change…very interesting
18: John - limits to Science Fiction; sees as first-rate melodrama, elements of theology, sociological…all of this is in the background, holds the narrative together…the tension of the challenges drives the novel; Lauren giving us a long-term focus, wants others to cooperate. She has to tap into the imaginal side -SF limits her…not fully convinced of the dystopian themes

20:00 - John: Migrating populations, natural disasters and refugees vs settled population’s acceptance/rejection; American issues with this theme; current tensions/stresses…a long history;
Ceremony for the dead; reconnecting ancestors with the living; culture nature divide

26:00 - John: Experience with homelessness, finding ways to make it work.
(Doug’s side notes (unspoken): where I lay my head is home; this view is something that we all have…my head is my home; but it is not a conquering, it is a nomadic lifestyle, an exile lifestyle…we are all in exile with genius ideas roaming about the headspace…how do you add people to see your head as the true home…start a religion)

27:30 - Mary: Exodus theme into promised land…the book resists that the promised land is a place…the myths

29:45 - Geoffrey: from the wall —> a road movie, Kerouac-esque ; the real story is in the accumulation of people, the accidents as the way people become known and drawn into the community

…John and Geoffrey discern the main lines of the story (accidents as gateways into relationships or modes of survival)

36: Miranda - what happens in periods of crisis a compelling argument.
Responding to Mary: we do not know whether they will end up in a place, the different encounters


36:30 Mary introduces Hyperempathy
John: Mirror Touch (doctor’s book); Lauren able to suppress the conditions when in high violence.
Mary: what does this gift mean?
Doug: same question
Jocelyne: rare condition; links with Face of God, the process that Lauren develops
Mary: Lauren needs people; needs to build the community and perhaps the hyperempathy is the reason

The Genesis Story + Lauren’s various role developments (Lauren is Change)

46:30 - Marco: sees as a Genesis story; not an allegory, but the series as the biblical texts of this religion; Butler proud of the verses, encapsulated essential wisdom. Verses as seeds being planted in the readers mind…the story is accidental, yet Butler showing that the genesis of a new beginning is forged in a situation of intense stress/disillusion (Hell). The need arises to project a future. Lauren is the generator of the seeds, the highest sower providing seeds for other sowers. Theology from the ground up, theology of necessity.

51:40 - Geoffrey: importance of verses; self-confidence developed by repeating expressions of self-confidence; a deep psychological connection to Butler.

Katina: Lauren as Abraham; pick up and find land based on faith. Then Moses….
THe repetiton of verses as a mantra to stay focused on the goal.

John: A biblical character and a crossdresser; (God is Change)
Mary: Harriet Tubman had to cross dress during Underground Railroad

SF or Science Fiction

(take note that Doug used SF interchangably here, meaning either SF (as Haraway describes) or science fiction in general…he did not parse out the actual usage by the speaker until Geoffrey distinguishes the two)

Geoffrey: Do you have a SF problem John?
John: not SF; various threads tie-in to a high-emergency; no technology, more survival
Geoffrey: SF is not just technology
Katina: SF to Butler associated with 14 yo white boys…what is SF? How did the book end up in the genre? (to be heard you have to go with the punches); she had to unwillingly associate with SF
Geoffrey: the movie culture distorts SF. Distinguishes SF with Science Fiction….about social futures.

(she really is planting the seeds, giving us a tangible experience)

SF Group Study Mention

Miranda: A short sociological study, nearly finished, observing online readers (July-December); Goodreads SF group (Annihilation & Sower); found us on Youtube;

SF, Continued

Marco: SF opens up the discussion; mentions Haraway’s use of SF; creating futures an interesting theme; Marco is Olamina. Just wants to read! Deep and receive the text, the author
The Road as an example
1:15:00 - John: learned that movie science fiction (AI/tech. Focus) skews the discussion
Katina: Kindred was SF; Butler categorized by past writings; compromised …;Olamina does not have limits of the black divides

John: the is a parable, simple story with a profound spiritual truth.
Geoffrey: history of Butler’s writings.
Katina: Afrofuturism of Butler, Black Panther…the stories are being told!
Jocelyne: hidden identities; difficult to be something other than the mainstream
SF fan; the emotional tones towards female. This is real SF because she stays with her identity (black, female) within SF philosophy; the depth of Lauren’s character and Butler’s strength

(note: Doug was intrigued by the discussion between John, Katina and Jocelyne pertaining to identity, reading preference, etc. so notes are limited!)

Lauren is Change? Will Talents follow the

1:41 -Dona: 1st SF novel, What is SF? A novel? God is change.

Ending left Dona questioning….will there be real change? Will she build a wall? Like father?

Dona: “This is now…this is real. This is the story of us.” (referencing parallels between Sower and living in the Middle East)

Marco: Don Quixote
Genre is ripe with examples to draw upon.
Geoffrey: SF was inspiration
Doug: exercise -insert SF (or chosen label) into Chapter 25’s opening quote:

Create no images of SF.
Accept the images
that SF has provided.
They are everywhere,
in everything.
SF is Change—

Katina (1:49) - the next thing must be different (refering to Olamina’s religion) or it wont be change.
Loves the science, the reality of this…

Closing statements and updates to schedule


For those interested in Mary’s adventures, here is a clip for a radio interview about the incident that happened and the work she normally does in the North. Redirecting...