I grew up in St. Louis. I grew up where there is nothing but the talk of baseball season permeating every conversation from here to Chicago. I mean, Opening Day? Opening Day here? It’s an unofficial holiday. I tell myself every year that I will take my kids to Kiener Plaza to see the Pep Rally in person! Oh, you better believe it’s lit!
But this year, the taint of the coronavirus is everywhere. It is tangible. It is palpable, and it is apparent that people do not believe in washing their hands (micelling as it is known in microbiology)—it is treated like an urban myth; Which is hella disconcerting in a time where a section of the populace sneeze in their elbows still, halfway believe in vaccines and think a pandemic—a real life pandemic!—is not real.
It is like living in the damn Twilight Zone! If I wasn’t alive to see this, to record this, I would swear this is a novel. I would swear Rod Serling made this up. But—there is an author that did foresee something like this happening. No, not the Montel Williams show era psychic Ms. Sylivia Brown (although she did foretell the ‘virus out of the east’ in her book End of Days). It was Octavia Butler.
Here, lemme show you something: In her book The Parable Of The Sower (1993—20 years before the the Nazism light we’re seeing), Octavia Butler predicted this (taken from the New Yorker):
Octavia Butler’s tenth novel, “Parable of the Sower,” which was published in 1993, opens in Los Angeles in 2024. Global warming has brought drought and rising seawater. The middle class and working poor live in gated neighborhoods, where they fend off the homeless with guns and walls. Fresh water is scarce, as valuable as money. Pharmaceutical companies have created “smart drugs,” which boost mental performance, and “pyro,” a pill that gives those who take it sexual pleasure from arson. Fires are common. Police services are expensive, though few people trust the police. Public schools are being privatized, as are whole towns. In this atmosphere, a Presidential candidate named Christopher Donner is elected based on his promises to dismantle government programs and bring back jobs.
Sound familiar? I’m sure it does.
Octavia Butler wrote horror, speculative fiction, and what the lovingly hip call Afro-futurism. There is a power to her work, that in the time we live in now? I ascribe to, along with the Bible. I have been a fan of her work—and I am sad to say that I found her work way too late. I hadn’t even heard of Kindred until I was out of college. I had heard of her contemporary, Tananarive Due—but not her. When I discovered Octavia? It was over. Her power, her voice—and her imagination? Far beyond what I knew Black women wrote. Now, this is by no means my dive off the deep into all matters of conspiracy theories, 8 chan or 4 chan, or to run through the street screaming that the end is near. No, no I’m not that kinda chick, and social distancing is real. Plus I’m social distancing with the squad. But what I will say is this:
This is an apportion of writing that is prophetic. It is the ability to look at what is, what was and what could be. Not every writer is bent towards the happily ever after. If I were y’all, I would get to reading. Soon. We gotta see how this story ends—and the Simpson’s ain’t said how long, but Octavia Butler has a map and a lamp!
[image from The New Yorker, Amazon.com]