L.A. Banks and Octavia Butler

This is a guest blog post that I wrote for Sumiko Saulson back in February for Black History month. You can check out Sumiko’s blog by clicking here.

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To celebrate Black History Month and Women in Horror month, Sumiko asked me to write a blog post on two writers that really don’t get the attention they deserve. I’m talking about L.A. Banks and Octavia Butler. Both of these authors have won several awards and had long careers, but their writing style is very different L.A Banks wrote primarily in the horror, dark fantasy and the romance genre,  while Octavia wrote primarily in the Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy.

The first author I want to talk about is Lesilie Ann Peterson who was born in Philadelphia in 1959 . She started writing in the Nineties and has written under several different names, such as L.A. Banks, Lesilie Esidale, Lesilie E. Banks and Alexis Grant. She has written 40 novels, 12 novellas, and has written several non fiction pieces for magazines. The first novel that she wrote was in 1996 and it was a romance novel called Sundance. She then went on to write 14 more romance novels. She has also written six crime novels and has written non fiction for the Chicken Soup For The Soul series of books.

What Lesilie is best known for is her Vampire Huntress Legend Series. There are 12 books in this series and they center around Damali Richards, spoken word artist, singer and vampire hunter. Damali leads a team of guardian protectors dedicated to exterminating vampires and demons. There are 12 guardian councils made up of the bravest and wisest men and women who are dedicated to fighting evil in all four corners of the earth.

One person is chosen from each of the guardian councils to form The Covenant. Only The Covenant can foretell the coming of The Neteru, an infant that would balance the swaying force of light every thousand years. L.A Banks has created her own mythology of vampires, hunters, demons, ghosts and goblins in her Vampire Huntress series. To find out more about this series check out vampirehuntress.com.

L.A. Banks has also written six novels in the Crimson Moon series which  tells the tale of Sasha Trudeau. Sasha leads a group of soldiers in the U.S. government that have been infected by the werewolf virus. This team investigates paranormal occurrences such as shadow wolves, unseelies and vampires. To find out more about L.A. Bank’s take on werewolves, check out her website at leslieesdailebanks.com.

A couple of the awards L.A. Banks has won include the 2008 Essence Literary Awards Storyteller of the Year and in 2009 she won the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Paranormal fiction. Reviewers have called her work on the Vampire Huntress series fresh and hip. While Fangoria magazine caled it far superior to Buffy the Vampire series. Sadly L.A. Banks died of late stage adrenal cancer on August 2nd 2011 leaving behind a daughter, hundreds of fans and several great books to remember her by.

butler2Another great African American author is Octavia Butler. She was born on June 22nd 1947 in Pasadena California and was raised in a strict Baptist household by her mother and grandmother. Octavia grew up in a lower middle class racially mixed neighborhood. She was a constant daydreamer, very shy and was diagnosed with dyslexia. At an early age she was drawn to Science Fiction and at the age of 10 she started to write to escape her boring life.

In 1969 and 1970 she attended two writer’s workshops that she says helped her writing. One was the Screenwriter’s Guild of America shop where she met Harlan Ellison and The Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop that was recommended to her by Harlan. The first story that she sold was in 1971 and was called Crossover which came out of the Clarion workshop and was bought by Harlan for his Last Dangerous Visions Anthology. Octavia thought she was on her way to becoming a writer but it would be five more years before she was able to sell another story.

Since then she has gone on to write twelve novels and several short stories. Her best known work was released in 1979 and called The Kindred. The story is about a woman named Edana who as she turns 26 gets pulled back in time to the year 1815 by a boy named Rufus who is the son of a slave owner. Rufus calls on Edana every time he feels his life is in danger and when Edana is there she has to live as a slave and also keep one of her direct descendants and fellow slave alive. Octavia said that with this book she was trying to get people to feel what slavery was like. Octavia also called the book a “grim fantasy”

Octavia Butler has written three different series of novels including the Patternist series, The Lilith’s Brood series and the Parable Series. Her last novel came out in 2005 and was called The Fledgling. It was about a girl named Shori who looks like she is 10 years old but is really a 53 year old vampire. While she does crave human blood she can walk in the daylight. Shori is part of a family of genetically engineered human/vampire hybrids and she is the lone survivor. Shori is on a mission to destroy the ones that destroyed her family and at the same time deal with the fact that she is different than everyone else.

Octavia has won several awards for her writing including the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant,a Nebula award, a Hugo award and she has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Octavia died in 2006 at the age of 58 after a stroke. Octavia is considered by many to be the best known African American Science Fiction writer and she went on to inspire many writers. Among them is Tananarive Due, her husband Steven Barnes  and pulitzer prize winner Junot Diaz who said Octavia has written nine perfect novels. Octavia’s works touch on many different social issues, to find out more about her work go to octaviabutler.net.

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