Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler

PatternmasterWe continue our tribute to Octavia E. Butler with the first paperback edition of her first book, Patternmaster (1976). Patternmaster is set in a distant future in which humanity has substantially evolved, but people neglect the potential benefits of their new abilities in favor of using them to dominate and enslave one another. Butler went on to write four more novels set earlier in the history of this bleak "Patternist" world.

Incidentally, for all my Rodney Dangerfield gripes about how science fiction and fantasy get no respect from the mainstream, this book is an example of how SF publishers have greatly contributed to the problem with the ridiculous covers they put on their books. Here is a book by a talented young (at the time) African-American woman, whose elegant writing explores important issues of morality and race relations. What does the publisher put on the cover? Mutant baboon Rambo.

While the collector in me loves covers like these, since garish covers tend to enhance books' and magazines' value to collectors, the SF fan in me detests them (no offense to cover artist Clyde Caldwell, who sure draws a good mutant baboon Rambo). Thankfully, SF publishers have been toning down the cover art in recent years. If you check out Octavia Butler books in the bookstore today (which I encourage you to do), you will see much more appropriate cover art. Hopefully, this trend will give SF fans a fighting chance to win over converts from the mainstream. With luck, next week you will see an Octavia Butler book that has been very well received by mainstream readers.

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