|Octavia Butler was one of the few African-American writers to find both critical and popular acceptance in the science fiction field, and certainly the first African-American woman to do so. Introduced to fiction at an early age by her mother, Butler said that one of her first attempts at writing came at the age of 12, when she turned off the 1954 film DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS on the television, certain that she could write a better story. She kept writing while at Pasadena City College, ending up at the University of California at Los Angeles. She attended the influential Clarion Writers' Workshop, writing several stories that were published. Her first novel, and the first of what would eventually become the five-volume Patternist series, was published in 1976. The series--consisting of PATTERNMASTER, MIND OF MY MIND, SURVIVOR, the award winning WILD SEED, and CLAY'S ARK--is a complex study, spanning from the late 1600s to well into the future--of a society divided among warring groups variously affected by an alien virus and by powerful psychic gifts bred into them by a body-switching entity. Next came a standalone novel called KINDRED, in which a contemporary African-American woman travels in time to ensure that her ancestors (a slave and a slaveowner) produce her great-great-grandmother. The first volume of Butler's Xenogenesis series, DAWN, appeared in 1987, followed by ADULTHOOD RITES the next year, and IMAGO in 1989. This series presents a devastating view of a post-apocalyptic Earth populated by a few remaining humans, who must interbreed with the alien race who saved them from destruction. PARABLE OF THE SOWER, published in 1993, concerned a teenage visionary struggling to survive as America collapses. Butler's work frequently combined the mystical and spiritual with hard, unflinching looks at dystopic, alternate, and future societies created in the wake of slavery and segregation. She explored the notion of "alien-ness" on both individual and racial levels and the difficult moral choices that one must make simply to survive. In 1995, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Butler a fellowship in recognition of her body of work. Known as a "genius" grant, this award gives recipients a sum of money over a five-year span, along with complete health coverage, in order to allow them to work unencumbered by financial needs. That same year saw the publication of a short-story collection, BLOODCHILD AND OTHER STORIES, which contained the Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning title story, as well as "Speech Sounds," a Hugo Award winner. In 1998, PARABLE OF THE TALENTS, the sequel to PARABLE OF THE SOWER, was published to wide acclaim. Her final novel, FLEDGLING, published in 2005, involved a vampire who was genetically engineered to have dark skin and thus to endure the sun without harm. Octavia Butler died on February 25, 2006, from a head injury suffered as the result of a fall.