"A PIONEER, AN ICON… THE FIRST BLACK FEMALE SCIENCE FICTION WRITER TO REACH NATIONAL PROMINENCE”: FIRST EDITION OF CLAY'S ARK, INSCRIBED BY OCTAVIA BUTLER
BUTLER, Octavia E. Clay's Ark. New York: St. Martin's, 1984. Octavo, original black paper boards, original dust jacket. $1100.
First edition of a pivotal novel in Butler's extraordinary Patternist series—a work of "scintillating,… superior science fiction"—inscribed on the title page by her, "To J— Best Wishes Octavia e. Butler."
Butler, who died in 2006, stands as "a pioneer, an icon and one of America's best writers… the first Black female science fiction writer to reach national prominence, and the only writer in her genre to receive a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship" (Bates, "Octavia Butler"). In her Hugo and Nebula award-winning works, Butler used "the genre as a powerful means of speaking to a range of issues including race, gender and the environment" (Los Angeles Times). Clay's Ark, praised as "scintillating,… superior science fiction," begins with an interstellar spaceship that crashes on returning to Earth. The only survivor, "carrying a deadly alien parasite… [is] transformed by the parasite… stronger and faster than before and nearly invulnerable. But the alien unmercifully drives him to infect others," and their offspring defy boundaries (Kirkus). Unlike "plague" tales with an Us vs. Them battle to the death, it explores metaphors of difference to ask "how might the human-microbe muddle, engendered by infection, change one's understanding of subjectivity, will and ethics? What is lost, and what might be gained?" (Magnone, "Microbial Zoopoetics"). She reshaped science fiction by revealing "universal truths through a genre that has historically been delegated to the fantastic" (Hampton, "Octavia E. Butler, "247). First edition, first printing. Clay's Ark is widely seen as the final novel published in the Patternist series. It was issued following Patternmaster (1976), Mind of My Mind (1977), Survivor (1978) and Wild Seed (1980), yet is third in the series' internal chronology of: Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay's Ark, Survivor and Patternmaster. Neil Barron, who concedes Clay's Ark "explores similar themes," resists its overall inclusion in the series and compares it to Theodore Sturgeon's More than Human (1953) (Barron II:200). Traces of bookplate removal.
Minimal edge-wear to bright dust jacket. A lovely about-fine copy.