Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler
Hardcover – Subterranean Press -June 2020 – 97 pages
Unexpected Stories is, by any measure, an unexpected gift. This slender but resonant volume contains two stories—recently unearthed and never before in print—by one of the most significant figures in modern science fiction: Octavia E. Butler.
“A Necessary Being” takes us into the heart of an alien culture with a rigid hierarchical system based on caste and skin coloration. With the arrival of visitors from a distant mountain tribe, the society known as the Rohkohn finds itself faced with the sudden prospect of profound social change. In the second story, “Childfinder,” the title character is a woman who uses her psychic abilities to track down children with similar nascent abilities—and protect them from the abuses of a predatory society.
These may be early stories, but they are the clear reflections of a powerful and original talent, and their belated publication is a major literary event. As novelist Nisi Shawl notes in her eloquent introduction, we may live in a fundamentally unfair world, but “sweet surprises” occasionally come our way. Unexpected Stories is one of those surprises. It is a book that Butler’s many admirers have been waiting for, whether they knew it or not.
The Subterranean Press edition of Unexpected Stories will be its first print edition, with a newly-commissioned introduction by Nisi Shawl, and an afterword by Butler’s longtime agent and literary executor, Merrilee Heifetz.