Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination


New Introduction by GLORIA STEINEM 

Parable of the Sower is a classic odyssey from Octavia Butler, telling the story of one woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. The time is 2025. The place is California, where small walled communities must protect themselves from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. When one small community is overrun, Lauren Olamina, an 18-year-old black woman with the hereditary trait of "hyperempathy"—which causes her to feel others’ pain as her own—sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown.

Don't miss the second book the Parable series, Parable of the Talents!

Octavia Butler Parable of the Sower


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“In her fine new novel, Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler accepts a more difficult challenge: poising her story on the brink of change, she tries to imagine a new social order at its moment of conception... As a novel, ‘The Parable of the Sower’ also succeeds on multiple levels. A gripping tale of survival and a poignant account of growing up sane in a disintegrating world, it is at bottom a subtle and disturbing exposition of the gospel according to Lauren: ‘The only lasting truth is Change. God is Change.'”

“Literate ... thoughtful. And a real gut-wrencher.”

“A powerful story of hope and faith in the midst of urban violence and decay ... Excellent science fiction and a parable of modern society.”

“A prophetic odyssey.”

“Simple, direct, and deeply felt.”

“Artfully conceived and elegantly written.”

“There isn't a page in this vivid and frightening story that fails to grip the reader.”

“I’d love to see Octavia E. Butler’s novel PARABLE OF THE SOWER read in more high school English classes. It’s a brilliant, endlessly rich dystopian novel that pairs well with '1984' or 'The Handmaid’s Tale,' and it’s also a fascinating exploration of how crises can fuel new religious and ideological movements.”

“I have found myself returning to Parable of the Sower and Butler's other writings many times over the years to help make sense of things, to find in her stories lessons to guide my own life… The novel offers a dystopian warning that if we, the human race, continue along our current path, then unimaginable horrors await us. But, in truth, such a narrow interpretation is a mistake. It misses the invitation to embrace the essential message of Butler's work, that the only constant life has ever offered us is change.”

“Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.”

“The scariest book I’ve ever read is Octavia E. Butler’s near-futuristic ‘Parable of the Sower.’ Much of Butler’s work is frightening because it feels so plausible and true, even when she’s writing about aliens or vampires. But this book’s dystopia of walled-off communities, useless government, unchecked violence and corporate slavery feels like the waiting headlines of tomorrow — and too many of our headlines today… But Butler forced me to grow stronger as I read. Despite the horror of its prescience, the stubborn optimism that burns at the core of ‘Parable of the Sower’ helps me face our true-life horrors. As Butler wrote, ‘The only lasting truth is Change.’”

“In the ongoing contest over which dystopian classic is most applicable to our time… for sheer peculiar prescience, Butler’s novel and its sequel may be unmatched... In the day to day of the Parable books, hyperempathy is a liability that makes moving through the world more complicated and, for tactical reasons, requires those who have it to behave more ruthlessly... In her lifetime, Butler insisted that the Parable series was not intended as an augur. ‘This was not a book about prophecy,’ she said, of 'Talents,' in remarks she delivered at M.I.T. ‘This was a cautionary tale, although people have told me it was prophecy. All I have to say to that is: I certainly hope not.’”


A writer who imagined the dark future we have chosen for ourselves in book after book, OCTAVIA E. BUTLER  (1947–2006) is recognized as among the bravest and smartest of late twentieth century fiction writers. Her work includes Parable of the SowerParable of the Talents, Fledgling, and the short story collection Bloodchild. A 1995 MacArthur Genius Award winner, Butler transcended the science fiction category even as she was awarded that community’s top prizes, including the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Not merely a prophet of dystopia, Butler also wrote of the ways human beings might subvert their dismal destiny. “I write about people who do extraordinary things,” Butler has said, “it just turns out that it was called science fiction.” Her novels and stories have reached readers of all ages, all races, and all religious and sexual persuasions. For years the only prominent African-American woman writing science fiction, Butler has encouraged many others to follow in her path. The Octavia E. Butler Scholarship was established in her memory in 2006, providing scholarships for young people of color to attend the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, where Butler herself began writing science fiction.