Read Parable of the Sower Online

Authors: Octavia E Butler

Parable of the Sower

BOOK: Parable of the Sower
6.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
The Works of Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Talents*
Parable of the Sower*
Adulthood Rites*
Wild Seed*
Mind of My Mind*
Clay’s Ark*
Bloodchild and Other Stories

* Available from Warner Aspect


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 1993 by Octavia E. Butler
Reading Group Guide copyright © 2000 by Octavia E. Butler and Warner Books.
All rights reserved.

This Warner Books Edition is published by arrangement with Seven Stories Press, New York, NY

Aspect® name and logo are registered trademarks of Warner Books.

Time Warner Book Group
1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Visit our Web site at

Printed in the United States of America

First Trade Printing: January 2000
10 9 8 7 6 5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Butler, Octavia E.
  Parable of the sower / Octavia E. Butler.—Warner Books ed.
    p. cm.
  Sequel: Parable of the talents.
  ISBN 0-446-67550-4
  1. Afro-Americans—California, Southern—Fiction. 2. Twenty-first century—Fiction. 3. California, Southern—Fiction. I. Title.
  PS3552.U827 P37 2000
  813'. 54-dc21


Cover design by Don Puckey
Cover illustration by John Blackford
Interior design by Charles Sutherland































A Conversation with Octavia E. Butler


❏ ❏ ❏

essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all.

by Lauren Oya Olamina



❏ ❏ ❏

All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

Is Change.


Is Change.


, J
20, 2024

dream last night. I guess I should have expected it. It comes to me when I struggle—when I twist on my own personal hook and try to pretend that nothing unusual is happening. It comes to me when I try to be my father’s daughter.

Today is our birthday—my fifteenth and my father’s fifty-fifth. Tomorrow, I’ll try to please him—him and the community and God. So last night, I dreamed a reminder that it’s all a lie. I think I need to write about the dream because this particular lie bothers me so much.

I’m learning to fly, to levitate myself. No one is teaching me. I’m just learning on my own, little by little, dream lesson by dream lesson. Not a very subtle image, but a persistent one. I’ve had many lessons, and I’m better at flying than I used to be. I trust my ability more now, but I’m still afraid. I can’t quite control my directions yet.

I lean forward toward the doorway. It’s a doorway like the one between my room and the hall. It seems to be a long way from me, but I lean toward it. Holding my body stiff and tense, I let go of whatever I’m grasping, whatever has kept me from rising or falling so far. And I lean into the air, straining upward, not moving upward, but not quite falling down either. Then I do begin to move, as though to slide on the air drifting a few feet above the floor, caught between terror and joy.

I drift toward the doorway. Cool, pale light glows from it. Then I slide a little to the right; and a little more. I can see that I’m going to miss the door and hit the wall beside it, but I can’t stop or turn. I drift away from the door, away from the cool glow into another light.

The wall before me is burning. Fire has sprung from nowhere, has eaten in through the wall, has begun to reach toward me, reach for me. The fire spreads. I drift into it. It blazes up around me. I thrash and scramble and try to swim back out of it, grabbing handfuls of air and fire, kicking, burning! Darkness.

Perhaps I awake a little. I do sometimes when the fire swallows me. That’s bad. When I wake up all the way, I can’t get back to sleep. I try, but I’ve never been able to.

This time I don’t wake up all the way. I fade into the second part of the dream—the part that’s ordinary and real, the part that did happen years ago when I was little, though at the time it didn’t seem to matter.


Darkness brightening.


Stars casting their cool, pale, glinting light.

“We couldn’t see
many stars when I was little,” my stepmother says to me. She speaks in Spanish, her own first language. She stands still and small, looking up at the broad sweep of the Milky Way. She and I have gone out after dark to take the washing down from the clothesline. The day has been hot, as usual, and we both like the cool darkness of early night. There’s no moon, but we can see very well. The sky is full of stars.

The neighborhood wall is a massive, looming presence nearby. I see it as a crouching animal, perhaps about to spring, more threatening than protective. But my stepmother is there, and she isn’t afraid. I stay close to her. I’m seven years old.

I look up at the stars and the deep, black sky. “Why couldn’t you see the stars?” I ask her. “Everyone can see them.” I speak in Spanish, too, as she’s taught me. It’s an intimacy somehow.

“City lights,” she says. “Lights, progress, growth, all those things we’re too hot and too poor to bother with anymore.” She pauses. “When I was your age, my mother told me that the stars—the few stars we could see—were windows into heaven. Windows for God to look through to keep an eye on us. I believed her for almost a year.” My stepmother hands me an armload of my youngest brother’s diapers. I take them, walk back toward the house where she has left her big wicker laundry basket, and pile the diapers atop the rest of the clothes. The basket is full. I look to see that my stepmother is not watching me, then let myself fall backward onto the soft mound of stiff, clean clothes. For a moment, the fall is like floating.

I lie there, looking up at the stars. I pick out some of the constellations and name the stars that make them up. I’ve learned them from an astronomy book that belonged to my father’s mother.

I see the sudden light streak of a meteor flashing westward across the sky. I stare after it, hoping to see another. Then my stepmother calls me and I go back to her.

“There are city lights now,” I say to her. “They don’t hide the stars.”

She shakes her head. “There aren’t anywhere near as many as there were. Kids today have no idea what a blaze of light cities used to be—and not that long ago.”

“I’d rather have the stars,” I say.

“The stars are free.” She shrugs. “I’d rather have the city lights back myself, the sooner the better. But we can afford the stars.”



❏ ❏ ❏

A gift of God

May sear unready fingers.


, J
21, 2024

ago, my fathers God stopped being my God. His church stopped being my church. And yet, today, because I’m a coward, I let myself be initiated into that church. I let my father baptize me in all three names of that God who isn’t mine any more.

My God has another name.

We got up early this morning because we had to go across town to church. Most Sundays, Dad holds church services in our front rooms. He’s a Baptist minister, and even though not all of the people who live within our neighborhood walls are Baptists, those who feel the need to go to church are glad to come to us. That way they don’t have to risk going outside where things are so dangerous and crazy. It’s bad enough that some people—my father for one—have to go out to work at least once a week. None of us goes out to school any more. Adults get nervous about kids going outside.

But today was special. For today, my father made arrangements with another minister—a friend of his who still had a real church building with a real baptistery.

Dad once had a church just a few blocks outside our wall. He began it before there were so many walls. But after it had been slept in by the homeless, robbed, and vandalized several times, someone poured gasoline in and around it and burned it down. Seven of the homeless people sleeping inside on that last night burned with it.

But somehow, Dad’s friend Reverend Robinson has managed to keep his church from being destroyed. We rode our bikes to it this morning—me, two of my brothers, four other neighborhood kids who were ready to be baptized, plus my father and some other neighborhood adults riding shotgun. All the adults were armed. That’s the rule. Go out in a bunch, and go armed.

The alternative was to be baptized in the bathtub at home. That would have been cheaper and safer and fine with me. I said so, but no one paid attention to me. To the adults, going outside to a real church was like stepping back into the good old days when there were churches all over the place and too many lights and gasoline was for fueling cars and trucks instead of for torching things. They never miss a chance to relive the good old days or to tell kids how great it’s going to be when the country gets back on its feet and good times come back.


To us kids—most of us—the trip was just an adventure, an excuse to go outside the wall. We would be baptized out of duty or as a kind of insurance, but most of us aren’t that much concerned with religion. I am, but then I have a different religion.

“Why take chances,” Silvia Dunn said to me a few days ago. “Maybe there’s something to all this religion stuff.” Her parents thought there was, so she was with us.

My brother Keith who was also with us didn’t share any of my beliefs. He just didn’t care. Dad wanted him to be baptized, so what the hell. There wasn’t much that Keith did care about. He liked to hang out with his friends and pretend to be grown up, dodge work and dodge school and dodge church. He’s only twelve, the oldest of my three brothers. I don’t like him much, but he’s my stepmother’s favorite. Three smart sons and one dumb one, and it’s the dumb one she loves best.

Keith looked around more than anyone as we rode. His ambition, if you could call it that, is to get out of the neighborhood and go to Los Angeles. He’s never too clear about what he’ll do there. He just wants to go to the big city and make big money. According to my father, the big city is a carcass covered with too many maggots. I think he’s right, though not all the maggots are in LA. They’re here, too.

But maggots tend not to be early-morning types. We rode past people stretched out, sleeping on the sidewalks, and a few just waking up, but they paid no attention to us. I saw at least three people who weren’t going to wake up again, ever. One of them was headless. I caught myself looking around for the head. After that, I tired not to look around at all.

A woman, young, naked, and filthy stumbled along past us. I got a look at her slack expression and realized that she was dazed or drunk or something.

BOOK: Parable of the Sower
6.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Born Under Punches by Martyn Waites
Milk-Blood by Mark Matthews
Then Came Heaven by LaVyrle Spencer
The High Divide by Lin Enger
The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs
The English Assassin by Michael Moorcock
Real Lace by Birmingham, Stephen;